Tuesday, April 10, 2007

NHS radiotherapy machines 'lie idle'

State of the art radiotherapy machines are lying idle in NHS hospitals, a BBC investigation has found. A report by the Royal College of Radiologists, commissioned by Five Live, found 10% of machines in the 60 UK centres were not being used. The total cost of the machines is £150m, with some of the funding coming from lottery money. The college said the survey findings were "no surprise". The government acknowledged there were problems.

The survey found Maidstone Hospital had two brand new machines that did not work for a year. The manufacturer, Varian, said this was happening across the country, with some hospitals taking 18 months to switch their machines on. This delay is vital as the machines only have a 10-year life. It also found that over 60% of the machines were not using new software that allows doctors to focus on the tumours and not damage healthy tissue. Ipswich Hospital uses this new software IMRT on all its head and neck cancer cases.

Dot West, has been treated using IMRT and says it had a dramatic effect. She said: "I feel very lucky to have this treatment and I think it should be more widespread." "If I have this treatment there is far less chance of me losing my right eye and also further brain damage."

The findings of the investigation came as no surprise to the Royal College of Radiologists. The college's vice president Michael Williams said services have improved, but that they still are not up to scratch. "The present radiotherapy service is inadequate. People are reluctant to admit how bad the situation is because they say it's a lot better than it was," he said.

The Department of Health acknowledges there are problems with radiotherapy waiting times and ministers are currently studying recommendations from the national radiotherapy advisory group on the future development of radiotherapy.


Britishness lessons 'fuel racism'

As one of the many Indian refugees from Africa, one might have thought that the lady below would see Britain as different in important ways but she does not appear to. Perhaps she should relocate to Africa or India to check her impressions. She did however get a standing ovation for her speech so it would appear that she is just a typical teacher -- with the blind Leftism that so often implies

The first ethnic minority president of the National Union of Teachers has said ministers fuel racism by ordering schools to teach "British values". London assistant head teacher Baljeet Ghale told the union's annual conference Britain did not have a monopoly on free speech and tolerance. The move only fuelled the "shadow of racism" behind some notions of Britishness, she said. A government spokesman dismissed her claims as "nonsense".

Ms Ghale, who came to England from Kenya at the age of eight, also criticised Labour's record on other education issues.

In January, the government published a report it had commissioned from Sir Keith Ajegbo in the wake of the London bombings, into how "citizenship" and "diversity" were being taught in schools. It said more could be done to ensure children "explore, discuss and debate their identities".

At the NUT conference, in Harrogate, Ms Ghale said Education Secretary Alan Johnson had described the "values we hold very dear in Britain" as "free speech, tolerance, respect for the rule of law". "Well, in what way, I'd like to know, are these values that are not held by the peoples of other countries?" she said. [Judging by what they DO, many countries do NOT follow such values]

It was another example of government making policy without talking to those it would most affect. She wanted an education system that valued diversity and accepted her right to support Tottenham Hotspur - but France in the European Cup, Brazil in the World Cup, Kenya in the Olympics and India in cricket but England in the Ashes. She went on: "I certainly don't pass Tebbit's cricket test but none of my affiliations make me a less valuable person or less committed to being part of this society, but they do make me a global citizen."

For some people, racism lay behind notions of what it meant to be British, she said. The government's move was not about integration, participation or national pride but failure to assimilate or who should be here in the first place. "To demand that people conform to an imposed view of Britishness only fuels that racism," Ms Ghale said.

A spokesman for the Department of Education and Skills said: "It is nonsense to suggest that learning British values in citizenship classes - based on a major independent review by respected former headteacher Sir Keith Ajegbo - has anything to do with racism. "On the contrary, teenagers learning about shared British history is one of the essential building blocks of community cohesion. "Sir Keith's report in January concluded that all children should be taught core British values such as tolerance, freedom of speech and justice and included a series of recommendations aimed at improving community cohesion and helping children understand both diversity and identity."

In her wider attack on Labour's record, the NUT president gave examples of failures in the school rebuilding programme, such as a new roof on part of a school being removed because the supplier had not been paid. She said the money being spent on academies should be spread more widely around the system and she highlighted the smaller class sizes enjoyed by pupils in Cuba.

She called for the end of national testing and league tables and accused the government of having a negative and low expectation of pupils. "If the current government was marked with an Ofsted grading it would be given a notice to improve," she said. Its leadership and management was inadequate and change was required.


Illegal immigration into Britain via France

Do-gooders are once again the main facilitators

The leader of the people smuggling gang waved dismissively at the charred wreckage of his woodland camp, torched during a raid by the Calais border police. Sher, a tubby Afghan in his late twenties and one of the most notorious of the gangsters who smuggle stowaways into Britain, told an undercover reporter: "We were raided by the police and they burnt the camp down. But we set up a new one the following day." He and his helpers had already handed out blankets, quilts and pillows to the 70 or so young Afghans who had paid him the going rate of 300 to 1,000 euros. Makeshift tents, lashed together from bin-liners, were once again standing in the woodland.

Thanks to Secours Catholique (Catholic Aid), a charity, there had not even been an interruption to the free food supplies. Stacks of tinned rice, tuna, meat, fresh bread, cakes, tea, milk and sugar were waiting for collection as usual at 7pm at the edge of the forest.

The police, said Sher, are "ferocious". He added: "They hassle us too much." But although he resents their interference in his lucrative trade, it is a distraction that he and his fellow gang leaders have learnt to cope with. Within minutes of the reporter entering the camp, he and four others were chased by the police. As the group sat by the metal fence that borders the motorway, a police car arrived on the hard shoulder and chased the group back into the scrub-land. This was the second time the reporter had been chased by police in a week.

Sher's camp, or "the jungle" as he and his fellow Afghans call it, lies about nine miles south of Calais in woodland near the picturesque village of Nielles-las-Ardres. Half a dozen or so similar camps house about 500 illegal immigrants - or "clandestines", as the locals call them - on the periphery of Calais. They are all within striking distance of the A26 motorway, L'Autoroute des Anglais. It ends at the Calais ferry port, carrying an endless flow of juggernauts towards Britain.

The present-day images are a worrying echo of the old Sangatte refugee camp, when immigrants swarmed over wire fencing to clamber aboard UK-bound freight trains. The welfare facilities on the Calais dockside, near the railway station, act as a magnet for the new wave. Up to 200 gather there for lunch and dinner, and tea and croissants are provided in the morning. Most are Afghans but some are from Eritrea and Sudan, and there are a few Iranians and Palestinians.

Secours Catholique, the main charity helping the migrants, also provides clothes and blankets and gives people lifts to nearby facilities where they can shower and shave. Although the French police arrest immigrants who they see on the streets of Calais, the charities and the government have brokered a deal whereby the dockside has become a "tolerance zone" during the day, with no arrests. The smugglers take full advantage of this to tout for business.

Things look as if they can only get better for the smuggling gangs. A new welfare centre, dubbed Sangatte Two, is to be built conveniently close to the Calais ferry port in a disused football stadium. It will offer food, clothing, toilet facilities, immigration advice and medical care for about 300 migrants at a time.

Talk to the Home Office in Britain and it paints a very different picture. John Reid's aides say that since the closure of Sangatte, the number of people caught trying to enter Britain through Kent has dropped from 10,000 in 2002 to 1,526 in 2006. However, the Sunday Times investigation suggests that the Home Office, which three years ago spectacularly underestimated how many legal migrants would come here from Poland, has again miscalculated. The 500 illegal immigrants reckon to spend between two to three weeks at Calais, implying that up to 200 get to Britain every week. With the addition of those stowing away at Dunkirk, St Omer and Brussels, an estimate of 10,000 arrivals in the UK looks cautious.

Sher runs his gang with the help of three fellow Afghans, each of whom is an illegal immigrant. They have associates in British cities who can collect money in advance from the relatives of would-be immigrants to Britain. The undercover reporter, posing as an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh desperate to go to London, was told the tariff by Jameel Asmol, a member of the gang. If the money is paid in the UK, then the rate is 1,000 euros. If the would-be immigrant gives cash in hand to the gang, he can pay as little as 300. If the would-be immigrant wants a guaranteed entry into Britain, he has to pay the smugglers 4,400. In this case, the immigrant would be smuggled into the UK with the connivance of a truck driver, said Asmol.

The camp is close to a motorway truck-stop where some drivers stop to sleep. As night approached, the reporter watched five people being taken by the gang to be hidden inside lorries. All except one headed to the motorway empty-handed; the last one to leave took a carrier bag full of clothes. The bravest stowaways get into Britain by holding onto one of the axles of the truck. Bosh, one of the gang, explained: "In a long lorry, there are three axles at the back but one of them is not used and is pulled up. We get you to cling on throughout the whole journey."

The gang plays a wary game of cat-and-mouse with the police. Sher told the reporter that the previous night, police suddenly stormed the truck stop as five immigrants were about to clamber into the lorries. The five were arrested but the gang leaders managed to get away.

The reporter watched as the migrants lit a fire at their makeshift camp, heating metal bars until they became red hot before rubbing their thumbs and index fingers over the metal. One explained that this was to thwart the police who take the finger-prints of every illegal immigrant they arrest.

Those stowaways who do get into the trucks are often caught in Calais. Gamma ray detectors spot movements inside the container and there are also heart beat detectors and CO2 probes for human breath. As part of the tariff charged by the gangs, they promise the would-be immigrants that no matter how many times they get caught, they will be put back in lorries until they reach Britain....

Asmol explained that it was common for relatives in Britain to pay for immigrants in Calais. Within minutes he gave a mobile phone number for his associate Rahulla, who was based in Birmingham....

The charities refuse to accept that their assistance may contribute to the build-up of migrants. Jacky Verhaegen, head of migrant welfare for Secours Catholique, said: "These migrants don't leave Afghanistan because they heard that the soup we provide is good. They come here to go to England. We have to help these people because they are poor."

The new welfare centre, to be paid for by the French authorities, will open this autumn. Critics of "Sangatte Two" accuse the French of reneging on the spirit of the deal struck in 2002 between Nicolas Sarkozy, now a candidate for the French presidency, and David Blunkett, then home secretary. This made it clear that no such centre would be built again in Calais.

Blunkett said this weekend: "Given the much tougher border controls and surveillance put in place since closure, it is amazing that local, as well as national, French politicians do not appear to have sufficiently recognised the danger of conflict that sucha centre will present."

Unlike the original Sangatte facility, the new centre will have no overnight accommodation, say its creators. A spokesman for Jacky Henin, mayor of Calais, said: "For three years we have asked the French, the European and British governments to do something but no one has done anything." He blamed Britain for the presence of illegal immigrants. "Why do the British government give work to migrants? Why is it possible to get jobs in Britain without identity cards?" he said.

More here


No respect for freedom of choice there: Green Fascism

THE Greens have called for the abolition of Catholic schools in Scotland. The party, who hope to win at least 10 seats at Holyrood, have included moves for Catholic schools to be integrated into a secular state system in their manifesto. Green leader Robin Harper claimed that having separate schools "tends to divide communities". He said: "Catholic children, for most of their time in primary and secondary, do not mix with other children. "And children who are non-Catholics do not, because the Catholics are educated separately, tend to mix so much with them. "Why have this totally artificial divide, that one group of children, simply because of their religion, should be brought up in different schools to everybody else? "They will get their religious upbringing at home, reinforced by their parents. They will get their religious upbringing in their churches, reinforced by the churches. "State education should be secular."

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: "It is unfortunate that the Greens want to trample on the rights of Catholic parents and the thousands of other parents who aren't Catholics but choose a Catholic education for their kids. "This is an outrageous proposal."


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