Monday, April 16, 2007

NHS negligence kills again

A mother of four died after a “gross failure” by NHS staff to provide basic medical attention on two separate occasions, an inquest has ruled. Alison Christian, 36, died in agony from a perforated duodenal ulcer after accident and emergency doctors and a nurse answering an out-of-hours phone line failed to detect the symptoms of peritonitis.

Had Ms Christian been correctly examined by the hospital doctor or been referred to a doctor by the out-of-hours service Primecare two days later, she would have survived, the inquest ruled. Instead, she was told to take laxatives.

Mitchell Bower, her partner of 21 years, with whom she had four sons, told the inquest that Ms Christian, of Sheffield, went to the city’s Northern General hospital, complaining of pains in her chest and shoulders, and was told that she had a chest infection. She returned the next day with abdominal pain but her abdomen was not examined, said Christopher Dorries, Coroner for South Yorkshire West. Her condition deteriorated and she called an out-of-hours NHS call centre. Mr Dorries said the outcome of the call should have been a visit by a doctor within the hour.

Ms Christian died after being admitted to hospital the next day. Mr Dorries found that her hospital discharge “without appropriate examination” and the failures of the deputising service “amounted to a gross failure to provide basic medical attention” to a person who obviously needed it. Ms Christian died from “natural causes contributed to by neglect”.


Stop pandering to Muslims

UK government initiatives to 'deal with' younger Muslims only leave them feeling more alienated from political life

Ruth Kelly, the UK secretary of state for communities and local government, has announced yet another scheme to help tackle extremism in Britain's Muslim communities - a 600,000 pound faith unit within the Charity Commission to help `moderate Muslims' strengthen governance and leadership in mosques. Mandarins at her department seem to generate a new project to tackle extremism every few months, each one looking strikingly similar to the last. In July 2005 we had the `Preventing Extremism Together Taskforce'; then in October 2005, the government called for a new imam national advisory council to train religious leaders to engage with younger Muslims. In February this year, it was announced that œ5million will be spent on funding projects in areas around the UK, to...well, engage with young Muslims.

Although these schemes are announced with great fanfare, they seem to vanish soon afterwards, only to be followed by yet another one. Part of the problem is impatience - the government wants quick results and is disappointed when its favoured religious allies are not delivering overnight success in the battle for hearts and minds. There is clearly frustration that mosques are not living up to their promise to deal with their young.

Of course, they are deluding themselves if they believe that `moderate' imams, with their old-fashioned, largely apolitical sermons, will have any greater success just because they speak English. It is precisely the promise of an otherworldly `radical' (albeit nihilistic) vision that attracts young people to Islamic extremism, rather than a strong adherence to Islam itself. The leader of the London bombers, Mohammed Sidique Khan, did not go to his local mosque but to another - the Tablighi Jamaat mosque in West Dewsbury - where he could get his extremist fix. Whilst a lukewarm, anglicised version of Islam, sponsored by the government, might pull in some young people, it may well compound the cynicism of those who see traditional mosque elders as tools for colonial rule.

Even less convincing is the aim of this new unit to get more women into mosques in the hope that they will diffuse radical views. Surveys show that of the regular six to seven per cent of Muslims who express support for acts of terrorism, over half of these are usually women. If the government looked at the website of MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Committee), the most vocal advocates of female prayer space in mosques, they will see that their views are not exactly simpatico. Some forms of contemporary Islamic feminism are perfectly compatible with radical views. That is certainly not an excuse to hold women back from mosques, just a caution to Ruth Kelly that Muslim girls are not necessarily the meek, mild-mannered types that will do her work for her.

Ultimately, the reliance on `the Muslim community' to manage the identity crisis amongst young Muslims is part of the problem. As long as mainstream political leaders view young Muslims as a troubled group outside of British society - to be outsourced to somebody else - the more they will find young people feel alienated from them. Like most people of their generation, young Muslims are confused about their identity and looking for a political vision to adhere to. Political parties need not fear this if they believe they have a political vision of their own to sell. But lacking confidence in their own ideas (if they have any at all), politicians have come to regard young Muslims as immovable; a group that is `at risk' and needs to be managed by carrots and sticks - give them jobs, give them youth centres, give them Arabic lessons. The message seems to be: `Let's send some nicer ones in to sort out the rotten few.'

Not only does this strategy usually backfire (the `nicer ones' turn out to whine just as much to the government, and struggle to guarantee their own grassroots support), it sends the message to young Muslims that `we can't deal with you'. In the eyes of mainstream politicians, places like West Dewsbury, Beeston and Keighley must seem like Mecca - only Muslims are allowed to enter. No wonder younger Muslims think that politicians are spineless and disinterested. They do not even dare to look them in the eye and tell them they have a better alternative in their own parties. Hysterical mullahs have managed to win some hearts and minds because there wasn't even a contest.

Paradoxically, being at the centre of attention with these endless schemes makes Muslims feel under even more pressure and scrutiny. Add to this the fears over counter-terrorism measures, and there is very little the government can do that will reverse the tide of distrust. Whilst the majority of Muslims will never be driven into the arms of extremists, they will be driven away from political life.

Although it seems counterintuitive, the way to `deal' with young Muslims may well be to stop `dealing' with them. The short-term, obsessive focus on them seems to be precisely the thing that alienates them even further. A long-term focus on politics elsewhere might at least remind them that Islamism is not the only game in town.


British police scam: "Motorists whose cars are stolen are being told they must pay the police at least 105 pounds if they want them to recover their vehicle when it is found and check it for forensic clues. The scheme - being implemented by forces across the country - has been attacked by angry motorists. Only car owners who agree to pay the fee, which in theory is to cover storage, are assured their cars will be "forensicated" - which means dusted down for fingerprints or swabbed for DNA. A police letter approved by the Home Office warns motorists who recover their own vehicles that the cars will not be checked for clues. It states: "[The police force will accept] no further responsibility and will be unable to take further action to identify the person who took it." Opposition MPs this weekend attacked the charges, which often cannot be recovered under car insurance policies, for penalising the victims of car crime. David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: "Taxpayers already pay twice for policing, through central taxation and council tax. "It's ludicrous to charge them a third time for the police to do their normal job when their cars have been stolen through no fault of their own."

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