Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Regulation-mad Britain

Even Mussolini was more permissive than this

A baker has been forced to rename her novelty pig tarts - because they don't contain any pork. Val Temple, who runs Sgt Bun Bakery, Weymouth, says officers from Dorset's trading standards department also told her she must swap the name of robin tarts as they are not made from robins. And she claims she was instructed to rename her paradise slice because ... it's not from paradise.

Mrs Temple has made the novelty cakes in the shape of pigs and robins as a treat for her customers for years. She said: "It's a joke. "The officers came in and said they had had a complaint [From a Muslim?] and I must change the names because they didn't contain pork, robin or paradise. "It's an insult to the public. Of course they don't contain pig, robin or paradise.

"The trading standards officers have been coming into this shop for 26 years and now the name has been picked up. "It's absolutely ridiculous. Are they going to start banning Christmas cake because it doesn't have Jesus in it? "You could apply it to everything. It's so silly. "And as for the paradise slice, that recipe is 120 years old and it's always been known as Paradise Slice. "They said they were going to come back in and check, so I've changed the names now. "But people are still coming in and calling them by their proper names." Mrs Temple said she had swapped the name of her animal-inspired tarts to novelty tarts with jam and fondant and the paradise slice to almond, fruit and nut slice.

Ivan Hancock, the county's trading standards manager, said: "The fact is that piece of food needs to be properly described so that the consumer can tell what it is. "There's nothing wrong with using other names but it must be accompanied by the true name of the food. "Consumers have the right to know what is in food."

But Mrs Temple, who runs the bakers with her husband Ian, denied she was told this. She said: "The way they came in and said the names had to be changed didn't give me the impression you could keep the names. "I'm sure other places haven't been told they should list all the ingredients. It's ridiculous having a long list of ingredients - of course customers are not going to think I put robin and pork in a cake."


NHS dentists in trouble

Crazy rules

Dentists may have to pay back millions of pounds to the NHS because they have failed to reach their targets in the first year of a new contract. Some dentists face repayments of tens of thousands of pounds, and in a few cases more than 100,000 pounds. The impact on dental practices will be even greater because their income next year will be reduced, and it is feared that the problems may lead to even more dentists leaving the NHS.

The problem is the latest to hit the troubled NHS dental contract, which rewards dentists for the “units of dental activity” (UDAs) that they complete. Many dentists – nobody yet knows how many – have failed to achieve the UDA targets that were set by primary care trusts, and for which they have already been paid. One dentist said that the contract had turned him into “a UDA factory”, working flat-out to achieve the targets. Others said that the only way to reach the targets was to take on quick jobs such as extracting teeth, rather than root-canal surgery to save the tooth, which earns the same UDA score.

A survey by the British Dental Association (BDA) found that 61 per cent of practices expected to miss their targets. There are about 20,000 NHS dentists, so as many as 12,000 could face financial penalties. In practice the number is likely to be smaller, because as long as a dentist achieves 96 per cent or more of the target, the money owing can be paid off in the next year.

The BDA fgures are backed by a smaller survey by Denplan, a company that provides dental payment plans. This found that 53 per cent of the 122 dentists that it approached expected to miss their targets by enough for their PCTs to insist on “clawing back” money, and that they would receive a smaller contract next year. Another 13 per cent said that they expected to be asked to return money, but to be given the same contract. At least one dentist who spoke to Denplan said that he had been served a “notice of intent” by his PCT to reclaim 100,000 pounds for underdelivered UDAs. The dentist was still in negotiations with the PCT over the amount.

Susie Sanderson, chairman of the BDA executive board, said that the final figures would not be collated until the end of June. “It throws a real threat on the viability of many practices,” she said. “Dentists own their practices and have to invest very heavily in them. They need a high standard of equipment, and good training for their staff. They’ve invested the money in the practice, and they are pretty resentful.” Stephen Gates, managing director of Denplan, said: “Many dentists are beginning to think very carefully about their future. They have looked at the contract and said, ‘We can’t run a business on this basis’.”

David McBride, a dentist in Norfolk, said that he knew dentists who had not managed well under the new system. “Perhaps I shouldn’t say this,” he said, “but I think if you haven’t done the work, you shouldn’t be paid for it.” He agreed, however, that the UDA system was defective. “If a patient comes in and needs more than two crowns, it costs me more to do the work than I get paid,” he said. “So there is a temptation not to do things that need doing. There is a huge potential for supervised neglect.”

The BDA has told the Government that alternative ways of monitoring dental contracts must be found. “UDAs are fundamentally unfit for purpose,” Lester Ellman, chairman of the BDA general dental practice committee, said in a letter to the chief dental officer for England, Barry Cockroft.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “Practices have up to two months after the end of the year to finish reporting courses of treatment, so PCTs and practices will not yet know the final position. But if a practice has not carried out the agreed level of patient care, the PCT will have to discuss why this has happened and, if appropriate, adjust the amount paid to the practice to reflect the level of service delivered."



The April 21, 2007 issue of "The Economist" had an interesting article entitled "Dengue Fever: A deadly scourge"

The article starts with "Millions at risk as a new outbreak of dengue fever sweeps Latin America" "There is no vaccine. There is also no good way to treat it""just fluids and the hope that the fever will break. At first it seems like a case of severe flu, but then the fever rises, accompanied by headaches, excruciating joint pain, nausea and rashes. In its most serious form, known as dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF), it involves internal and external bleeding and can result in death.

Fuelled by climate change, dengue fever is on the rise again throughout the developing world, particularly in Latin America. Mexico identified 27,000 cases of dengue fever last year, more than four times the number in 2001. In El Salvador, whose population is not much more than 6% of Mexico's, the number soared to 22,000 last year, a 20-fold increase on five years earlier. Uruguay recently reported its first case in 90 years. In Brazil, 135,000 cases were diagnosed in the first three months of this year, a rise of about a third over the same period last year. Paraguay, the country worst affected in relation to population size, has reported more than 25,000 cases so far this year, six times the total for the whole of last year""and even this is probably an underestimate."

However, buried in this text is the remarkable claim that this disease is "Fuelled by climate change, dengue fever is on the rise again throughout the developing world, particularly in Latin America."

What is the scientific evidence for this statement that the dengue fever is "fuelled by climate change"? I value reading the Economist but the insertion of such scientifically unsubstantiated claims detracts significantly from the journalistic integrity and accuracy of this magazine. It makes one wonder if other science articles in the Economist, in areas outside of my expertise, are similarly biased.


Official British immigration figures 'are false'

Councils say the government's statistics are seriously underestimating the total influx and they need more money to cope

Councils are so concerned that official figures are failing to record the true number of migrants entering their area that they are to start their own polling to gauge the scale of the influx. This is a serious embarrassment to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which has tried to play down concerns that its estimates for the number of people entering the UK are badly flawed.

Although the office plans to improve its methods for tracking immigration, critics say the new way of counting migrants was equally problematic. The critics point out that, under the new calculations, the number entering London supposedly decreased by 60,000 between 2002 and 2005 - the most up-to-date records available - though most experts say they actually increased. Councils in and around the capital claim the rise in immigrants is placing greater pressure on services and is starting to have an impact on their finances.

'We are so concerned that these official statistics still do not properly count those coming in to the UK that we will be commissioning our own independent polls,' said Colin Barrow, deputy leader at Westminster council. 'This will give a more accurate picture of the situation on the streets in central London.' Other councils echoed Westminster's concerns, saying they had experienced significant increases in immigration which appeared to be at odds with official estimates. 'Our electoral register has gone up by 23,000 over the past few years yet they're saying it's gone down,' said Sir Robin Wales, mayor of Newham, east London. 'It's ludicrous. We've nothing against migration - it is great for the economy and great for Newham. However, it needs to be properly funded. We would be willing to pay for a census just to rectify these figures. It would cost us a lot of money, but these inaccurate figures are costing us even more.'

The office estimates that Slough has received 1,100 extra migrants since 2002. But the local council estimates that at least 10,000 Polish people alone have arrived to work in the town since 2004. 'The migrants that come to Slough are hard working and bring great benefit to the local economy but the council remains severely underfunded because of these poor statistics,' said Andrew Blake-Herbert, strategic director of finance and property at Slough Council.

The ONS has previously acknowledged problems in the way it counts migrants. In May 2006, Karen Dunnell, National Statistician there, wrote to four government departments stating: 'There is now broad agreement that available estimates of migrant numbers are inadequate for managing the economy, policies and services.' And earlier this month the Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, said the ONS needed to improve its figures on which key local financing decisions are based.

Critics say the office's figures are also at odds with those collated by the government. Migration figures released by the ONS earlier this month suggested that approximately 56,000 Poles entered the UK in 2005, although the Department for Work and Pensions has issued figures suggesting that over 170,000 Polish citizens applied for National Insurance numbers in the same year. Stung by criticism, the ONS will use details from the quarterly Labour Force Survey, which selects households at random to provide a population snapshot, rather than relying on interviewing people entering ports and airports.

But councils are not convinced. 'The government's new figures suggest we have fewer migrants than three years ago,' said Councillor Mark Loveday, cabinet member for strategy at Hammersmith and Fulham council. National Insurance registrations by people from countries which recently joined the European Union 'are up by more than 550 per cent and that's before other migrants are counted'. An ONS spokesman said its method for counting people at ports of entry ensured a reflective snapshot of population flows in and out of the UK. [I guess the illegals who enter in the backs of trucks don't exist]


Fleeing France: "This Wednesday Marine Fretel, an intelligent, well-educated young French woman, will board a train to London. She has let her Paris flat, packed a large suitcase and said goodbye to family and friends. She does not expect to return. Fretel is one of the "Eurostar generation" of French professionals fleeing to London and other cities abroad in the hope of better careers in a land of opportunity. The farewell parties held each week in Paris are multiplying, and although the government puts a brave face on the exodus, this rush for the exit is an embarrassing symptom of chronic French woes as the country prepares to pick its new president. A dearth of jobs in France, the world's fifth largest economy, has turned London, less than three hours from Paris by Eurostar, into an eldorado for young professionals such as Fretel. Friends in London have told her that the British capital, unlike the one she is leaving behind, is a "city of dreams".... An estimated 300,000 French citizens live in Britain, which has the third largest expatriate community after Switzerland and America."

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