Monday, June 09, 2008

British doctors' anger at socialist cruelty to very ill patients

THE medical establishment is in revolt against Labour’s policy of denying National Health Service treatment to patients who pay privately for cancer medicines. The outcry from eminent consultants and doctors’ leaders came as news emerged of two more patients whose NHS care was removed while they were dying of cancer.

Alan Johnson, the health secretary, faces opposition from the presidents of the Royal Society of Medicine and the Royal College of Surgeons, as well as British Medical Association consultants. Baroness Ilora Finlay, president of the Royal Society of Medicine, said the issue went to the heart of the purpose of the health service. “Can we justify spending billions of pounds on the relief of relatively minor conditions and deny patients with life-threatening disease the support of the NHS when they want to bridge the costs themselves?” she said.

Finlay’s intervention, in an article for The Sunday Times, comes after it emerged that a man dying of kidney cancer had to battle for NHS care because his family followed doctors’ advice to pay privately for a drug. John Burrell, a retired financial adviser from the Isle of Wight, died last month aged 63. His daughter, Kate Tasquier, said: “The consultant told my dad he would be billed for all of his treatment such as blood tests and scans. My dad was so worried.” Although she said the NHS eventually compromised on the fees, “he ended up being so scared that he was going to be billed for his care that he was scared to go into hospital and he delayed starting the treatment”.

It also emerged that Sandra Baker, a bowel cancer victim, died last year after being denied NHS treatment in her final months. When she paid 9,500 pounds privately for drugs, she was hit with an extra bill of 16,000 pounds for her treatment. Last week The Sunday Times revealed the case of Linda O’Boyle who died of cancer aged 64 after being denied NHS treatment because she paid for a drug.

Bernard Ribeiro, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, and the annual consultants’ conference of the British Medical Association have also attacked the government’s block on NHS patients paying for additional drugs.

While Johnson insists cancer patients should not be allowed to pay for superior drugs because this would create a two-tier NHS, opposition parties have edged closer to supporting co-payments. Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman who is developing a new party policy on the issue, said: “When a clinician recommends a proposed treatment as having therapeutic value to the patient, it seems cruel and perverse to withdraw all NHS treatment if the patient follows that advice.”

Doctors are concerned that more and more patients will become victims of the policy. Ribeiro said: “I would strongly oppose the denial of life-saving operations to patients based on decisions they had made about how they supplement their NHS care.”

Cancer specialists at one of the country’s largest hospitals have found a way around the ban. About 16 oncologists at University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust write prescriptions for their patients to receive private cancer drugs at home. Professor Nick James, one of the doctors, said: “There is no question of us turning away these patients. I believe that to do so is punitive and vindictive. We remain responsible for the NHS care of these patients.”


Candyfloss garbage men in Britain

And government supports it

Binmen have put two fingers up to common sense by issuing an astonishing warning to council-tax payers. 'If we can't pull your wheelie bin using just two fingers it is too heavy - and won't be emptied.' Bins that need three or more fingers, they claim, constitute a health and safety risk as they could fall from the lorry while being emptied. The edict from binmen is the latest salvo in a continuing battle between householders and bureaucracy.

It comes only days after the Daily Mail reported how widowed pensioner June Kay, 79, had been told to drag a 360-litre wheelie bin more than half a mile down a steep hill if she wanted it emptied.

The two-finger policy was discovered by Katie Shergold in the historic market town of Warminster, Wiltshire. She watched in disbelief as binmen stuck a 'too heavy to move' sticker on her bin of grass cuttings, just 6ft from their lorry. Yet 5ft 4in Mrs Shergold, 26, had wheeled the bin round to the front of her house without any difficulty.

She called West Wiltshire District Council, which confirmed the two-finger test rule. 'It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life,' said Miss Shergold, a health care assistant at Warminster Hospital. 'I work really long hours at the hospital to earn my money, but I have to part with more than 100 pounds each month in council tax. 'It's absolutely disgusting that we're being charged for this service but not receiving anything in return.'

West Wiltshire District Council denied there was an official 'two-finger' policy but admitted its binmen used the test - putting one index finger in each of the bin's handles - to check the weight. It said heavy bins posed a safety threat as they could break the collection truck's hydraulic lifting system, or topple off while they were being emptied, potentially injuring one of the collectors.

Mrs Shergold discovered the two-finger rule because she was at her home in a town centre cul-de-sac when the binmen arrived. She said: 'I was sitting in the living room and saw the binmen having a look at my green bin on the pavement, then tipping it back onto its wheels. 'The next thing I knew, they'd moved on to my neighbour's house and my green bin hadn't been emptied. 'I went outside to see what was going on and there was a sticker on it saying it was too heavy to move.

'I was astonished - I had been able to wheel it out there in the first place very easily. 'If I could move it by myself, these guys certainly could. 'These were big men and it was only 6ft from their lorry and contained nothing but grass, but they just left it there on the pavement. 'I phoned the council to tell them what had happened, but instead of apologising they told me it was normal for binmen to leave bins they couldn't pull with two fingers'.

Mrs Shergold said she eventually took the cuttings to a local tip to stop them rotting in the bin. But she said she and her husband Leigh, 31, were left disgusted by the binmen's attitude - and the response of the council - when they pay 130 pounds in council tax each month. She said: 'If I hadn't taken the grass cuttings to the tip myself they'd still be here outside our windows, stinking to high heaven.'

Nicole Smith, spokesman for West Wiltshire District Council, said: 'Focsa, our waste contractors, are unable to empty wheeled bins that are too heavy, due to the safety risk of the bin falling from the vehicle's lifting gear during emptying. 'If, at any time, a bin is considered by the operatives to be overloaded, a sticker will be placed on the lid letting the householder know that they have been unable to take the bin. 'If any resident has had a 'heavy' sticker left on the bin then they will be required to remove some of the contents for it to be emptied.'

The two-finger edict is the latest in a string of bizarre rulings that have exasperated householders across the country, especially with millions facing sharply rising council tax bills. Pensioner Mrs Kay, who pays more than 2,000 pounds a year in council tax at her home in Bolton by Bowland, Lancashire, now has to make a 25-minute round trip from the main road to drop off her rubbish.

In Plymouth, council officials want families to name somebody as the person in charge of their rubbish. They would then be the one to face 100 pound fines - and potentially a criminal record - if refuse is found in the wrong bins, or the bins are put out too soon or left in the wrong place.

Last month residents in Skipton, North Yorkshire, were told to empty their bins themselves - to reduce the risk of binmen getting injured. Craven District Council officials wrote to thousands of householders asking them to help 'take a lot of the strain out of the job'. The move followed a health and safety review.

Also last month, war veteran Lenny Woodward, 95, was told that binmen would no longer collect his rubbish because he had put a ketchup bottle in the wrong bin. And in April bus driver Gareth Corkhill, 26, from Whitehaven in Cumbria, was fined 210 and given a criminal record because the amount of rubbish in his wheelie bin meant the lid was open by a few inches.


The return of real men

The article below is satirical but perhaps it has to be. Excerpts:

Once, men were simply men. But then feminists decided they were chauvinist pigs who didn't spend enough time doing the dishes. So along came the guilt-ridden New Man, swiftly followed by sensitive, moisturising Metrosexual Man. Of course, women soon missed the whiff of testosterone and were calling for the return of Real Men. Now a new book, The Retrosexual Manual: How To Be A Real Man, has been published. David Thomas tip-toes through the unashamedly macho details. . . Remember, you have a number of qualities, almost all deriving from your testosterone, which women can't help but admire. For example:

1. Your mind is uncluttered. Consider the female brain, filled as it is with multiple anxieties about its owner's hair, figure, health, diet, clothes, shoes, emotions, digestive transit, sex life, competitive female friendships, multi-tasking duties as a worker/lover/ wife/mother/whatever. Instead, your mind is focused on the important things in life: sex, beer, football. Women secretly envy a mind like that.

2. You can make decisions on your own. You don't need to talk it over for hours with all your friends, or consult a horoscope, or worry about feng shui.

3. You have strong arms which come in handy whenever bottles need opening, cases need carrying, or a girl just feels like gazing at a strong, muscular limb.

4. You do not clutter up the bathroom. No woman wants a man who owns more beauty products than she does. A man who showers, shaves, then gets out of the way is ideal.

How to treat a lady

1. When on a date, you pay - even if she offers. Don't stand for any nonsense about going Dutch. And pay in cash - retrosexuals don't use credit cards.

2. You open doors for women, and you stand for pregnant women on a bus, train or Tube. You do this because you are a man, and you're proud of it.

3. You do not cook anything more sophisticated than Pot Noodles or baked beans. Cooking is her job. But when you have a Sunday roast - and you do, obviously - you carve with manly precision and flair.

4. Women like to talk, bless them. So don't try to stop her getting her feelings off her chest, however daft they might be. There's no need to actually listen, however. Nor does she expect, or even want you to express an opinion of your own. A nod of the head, roughly every 90 seconds, combined with a concerned frown, or a cheery laugh, where appropriate, is perfectly sufficient.

5. Of course, you want to have sex. Afterwards, however, it is important to avoid saying 'I love you' or 'I'm sorry, that's never happened before'.

6. She may be interested in commitment. You are not. It is vitally important that you never even acknowledge the possibility that you are in a relationship. The moment she uses a sentence that includes words such as 'wedding', 'children', or 'meet my parents', make your excuses and leave.

7. No woman ever comes between you and live TV football. Only a very special woman will come between you and the edited highlights on Match Of The Day.

8. There is no woman on Earth for whom you will go to see Sex And The City - The Movie.

Rules of the road

1. Never ask for directions, because you are never, ever lost. You're just taking a little longer than expected to get there.

2. Nor do you require sat-nav.

3. The correct speed for a retrosexual is 5 per cent above the stated limit - at all times.

4. The correct distance between you and the car in front is 3ft.

5. The correct answer to the question 'Should I let another driver cut in ahead of me at a junction?' is: 'Yes, if she's goodlooking.'

6. The only two occasions when it's acceptable to use a horn are: (i) to alert the driver in front when the traffic lights have turned green; (ii) to make a potentially attractive woman turn her face in your direction.

7. Never bother signalling left. Other motorists will always find out soon enough.

Home comforts

Beers in the fridge are all part of a real man's bachelor pad. A Retrosexual does not actually have a home, as such - not unless he has woken up one day to find that he has somehow got married. Of course, he has to have somewhere to live, but he demonstrates his inherent manliness by his absolute indifference to his physical surroundings. So, while he may be forced to acquire chairs, tables, a bed and something to lie on while watching the telly, he pays no attention at all to what they look like.

He may, on the other hand, devote considerable care to choosing his 42in widescreen plasma TV, his DVD recorder and his surround-sound homecinema system.

No Retrosexual ever watches any property based TV show. His notion of a Grand Design is a 6ft high pyramid of beer cans.

He does, however, have a number of possible decorative styles at his fingertips. These include:

MINIMALISM: Nothing in the place but a TV, a bed, a fridge and a pile of clothes on the floor.

MODERNISM: Same as minimalism, only with better TV, more gadgets (serious hi-fi, PC, video games, etc), and a large selection of power-tools.

SHABBY CHIC: In which random styles of furniture, all bought second-hand, are combined to give an eclectic, cluttered charm - or a pigsty, in other words.

The key is to tread a fine line between having such an untidy place that any women would run away, and being so clean and tidy that she questions your virility. If in doubt, do nothing. Bare walls, lightbulbs and an absence of girly soft furnishings (eg. cushions, tablecloths and even curtains) are safe options. And never, ever light any candles.


Breaking Faith With Britain


The rapid fragmentation of society, the emergence of isolated communities with only tenuous links to their wider context, and the impact of home-grown terrorism have all led even hard-bitten, pragmatist politicians to ask questions about "Britishness": what is at the core of British identity; how can it be reclaimed, passed on and owned by more and more people?

The answers to these questions cannot be only in terms of the "thin" values, such as respect, tolerance and good behaviour, which are usually served up by those scratching around for something to say. In fact, the answer can only be given after rigorous investigation into the history of nationhood and of the institutions, laws, customs and values which have arisen to sustain and to enhance it. In this connection, as with the rest of Europe, it cannot be gainsaid that the very idea of a unified people under God living in a "golden chain" of social harmony has everything to do with the arrival and flourishing of Christianity in these parts. It is impossible to imagine how else a rabble of mutually hostile tribes, fiefdoms and kingdoms could have become a nation conscious of its identity and able to make an impact on the world. In England, particularly, this consciousness goes back a long way and is reflected, for example, in a national network of care for the poor that was locally based in the parishes and was already in place in the 16th century.

In some ways, I am the least qualified to write about such matters. There have been, and are today, many eminent people in public and academic life who have a far greater claim to reflect on these issues than I have. Perhaps my only justification for even venturing into this field is to be found in Kipling when he wrote, "What should they know of England who only England know?" It may be, then, that to understand the precise relationship of the Christian faith to the public life of this nation, a perspective is helpful which is both rooted in the life of this country and able to look at it from the outside.

As I survey the field, what do I see? I find, first of all, "a descending theme" in terms of Christian influence. That is to say, I find that the systems of governance, of the rule of law, of the assumption of trust in common life all find their inspiration in Scripture; for example, in the Pauline doctrine of the godly magistrate and, ultimately, in the Christian doctrine of God the Holy Trinity, where you have both an ordered relationship and a mutuality of love. As Joan O'Donovan has pointed out, the notion of God's right, or God's justice, produced a network of divine, human and natural law which was the basis of a just ordering of society and also of a mutual sense of obligation "one towards another", as we say at Prayers for the Parliament.

Such a descending theme of influence continues to permeate society, but is especially focused in constitutional arrangements, such as the "Queen in Parliament under God", the Queen's Speech (which always ends with a prayer for Almighty God to bless the counsels of the assembled Parliament), daily prayers in Parliament, the presence of bishops in the House of Lords, the national flag, the national anthem - the list could go on. None of this should be seen as "icing on the cake" or as interesting and tourist-friendly vestigial elements left over from the Middle Ages. They have the purpose of weaving the awareness of God into the body politic of the nation.

In addition to this "descending theme", there is also what we might call the "ascending theme", which comes up from below to animate debate and policy-making in the institutions of state. Much of this has to do with our estimate of the human person and how that affects the business of making law and of governance. Such an estimate goes right back to the rediscovery of Aristotle by Europe - a rediscovery, incidentally, made possible by the work of largely Christian translators in the Islamic world. These translators made Aristotle, and much else besides, available to the Muslims, who used it, commented upon it and passed it on to Western Europe. One of the features of the rediscovery was a further appreciation of the human person as agent by Christian thinkers such as St Thomas Aquinas. They were driven to read the Bible in the light of Aristotle and this had several results which remain important for us today.

One was the discovery of conscience. If the individual is morally and spiritually responsible before God, then we have to think also of how conscience is formed by the Word of God and the Church's proclamation of it so that freedom can be exercised responsibly. Another result was the emergence of the idea that because human beings were moral agents, their consent was needed in the business of governance. It is not enough now simply to draw on notions of God's justice for patterns of government. We need also the consent of the governed who have been made in God's image (a term which comes into the foreground). This dual emphasis on conscience and consent led to people being seen as citizens rather than merely as subjects.

The Reformation also had a view about governance as well as the significance of the individual, which was to prove important for the future. The theme of natural rights was taken up by the Dominicans on the Continent in the context of defending the freedom and the possessions of the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas. From there, it influenced prominent thinkers of the moderate Enlightenment in this country, such as John Locke, who were attempting to rethink a Christian basis for society. This was also the context for the Evangelical revival in the 18th century. While the Evangelicals drew inspiration from the Bible for their humanitarian projects, such as the abolition of slavery, universal education and humane conditions of work for men, women and children, the Enlightenment provided them with the intellectual tools and the moral vision of natural rights so that they could argue their case in the public sphere. It was this Evangelical-Enlightenment consensus which brought about the huge social changes of the 19th and early 20th centuries and which came under sustained attack in the second half of the 20th century.

Sociologists of religion have been telling us that the process of secularisation has been a very long one and, indeed, they locate its origin precisely in the Enlightenment's rejection of heteronomous authority and its affirmation of autonomy. Historians, on the other hand, point out that faith flourished in industrial Britain in the 19th century and in the first part of the last century. Indeed, it is possible to say that it continued to prosper well into the 1950s. Was it long-term decline, then, or sudden demise? In fact, there are elements of truth in both approaches. It seems to be the case, however, that something momentous happened in the 1960s which has materially altered the scene: Christ-ianity began to be more and more marginal to the "public doctrine" by which the nation ordered itself, and this state of affairs has continued to the present day.

Many reasons have been given for this situation. Callum Brown has argued that it was the cultural revolution of the 1960s which brought Christianity's role in society to an abrupt and catastrophic end. He notes, particularly, the part played by women in upholding piety and in passing on the faith in the home. It was the loss of this faith and piety among women which caused the steep decline in Christian observance in all sections of society. Peter Mullen and others, similarly, have traced the situation to the student unrest of the 1960s which they claim was inspired by Marxism of one sort or another. The aim was to overturn what I have called the Evangelical-Enlightenment consensus so that revolution might be possible. One of the ingredients in their tactics was to encourage a social and sexual revolution so that a political one would, in due course, come about. Mullen points out that instead of the Churches resisting this phenomenon, liberal theologians and Church leaders all but capitulated to the intellectual and cultural forces of the time.

It is this situation that has created the moral and spiritual vacuum in which we now find ourselves.

Much more here

UK's trainee maths teachers are bottom of the class when it comes to basic sums

Many trainee maths teachers cannot do basic sums, say researchers. They struggle with reasoning and thinking logically, despite the fact that they will be responsible for passing on these skills to youngsters. Schools across the country are already having trouble recruiting and retaining high quality maths teachers.

The researchers from Plymouth University said it was alarming that so many trainees can get 'very basic' questions wrong. Their study compared English final-year maths teacher trainees with their counterparts in seven other countries. These were China, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Japan, Russia and Singapore. All these countries have good reputations for maths education.

The continuing research, which is funded by the Centre for British Teachers, found that only 21 per cent of English trainees correctly answered a question about the chance of picking different sweets out of a bag. This compared with 97 per cent of Russians, 63 per cent of Hungarians and 60 per cent of Chinese maths students. And a simple question about square roots flummoxed half the English trainees but was answered correctly by more than 90 per cent of their Russian, Chinese and Hungarian colleagues.

The English candidates were weak on algebra questions, but they performed well on shape and space questions about trigonometry and geometry and data handling questions covering statistical techniques. Singapore and Japan have yet to provide results.

Professor David Burghes, director of the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching at Plymouth University, said he was worried by the results, which are being analysed further. He said: 'We are far behind other countries and the international average in terms of logic and rigour. 'That worries me because it almost feels like we have gone for numeracy rather than mathematics in our schools, particularly primaries - and I think mathematics counts.'

The research comes as a report from the Reform think-tank claimed that GCSE maths has become little more than a 'tick box test' in comparison with the old O-level. It called for a major shake-up of the exam system and a reversal of a trend towards splitting exams into bite-size modules.

A National Audit Office report yesterday highlighted the problem of young people leaving school without good skills in literacy and maths. In 2006-07, 45 per cent of pupils leaving school had not gained Level 2 maths (GCSE grades A*-C) and 40 per cent had not achieved Level 2 English.


British socialists don't care about the troops: "A former head of the SAS has quit the army after criticising the government for risking soldiers' lives by failing to fund troops and equipment. Brigadier Ed Butler, one of Britain's most experienced and decorated special forces soldiers, is the most senior of three key commanders to have resigned in the past year amid widespread anger over lack of funding. News of his resignation comes in the same week that General Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the army, called for better treatment for the forces and more money to be spent on defence.... Butler was highly critical of John Reid, then defence secretary, for keeping troop numbers low and of the failure of the Treasury under Gordon Brown to fund equipment. Lieutenant Colonel Rick Williams MC, another commanding officer of the SAS, resigned last July after being criticised by senior officers for spending too much time on the front line with his men".

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