Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Socialists retreat: Patients on NHS to be freed to use top-up drugs

Patients who pay for "top-up" drugs will no longer be denied free NHS treatment, the Government will announce next week. In a major reversal of policy, the Department of Health will review the present rules, which ministers regard as unfair and a penalty for people fighting life-threatening illnesses such as cancer.

It will announce an end to the "co-payments" system, in which those who buy drugs that the NHS has deemed too expensive are made to pay for the rest of their care. The move comes after it was disclosed that a patient who paid for a drug to treat bowel cancer died after being denied free NHS treatment. Linda O'Boyle, 64, from Essex, was told that her decision meant she was considered a private patient.

Ministers have been defending the policy for months, claiming that to scrap it would lead to a "two-tier" NHS in which the wealthy have access to better health care. But in recent weeks they are understood to have been persuaded that the NHS already contains "top ups", particularly in dentistry and in some hospitals, where patients can pay for private rooms. They also believe that the change will apply to a very small number of patients each year.

The Government is also desperate to back a popular policy in the face of recent setbacks. The announcement on the changes is expected to be made on Wednesday.


British State schools consider a return to the higher standards of the past

A new rival to the [middle school] GCSE exam designed along the lines of the traditional O-level may soon win backing from exam watchdogs and be taken up by hundreds of state schools.

Ofqual, the agency set up by the Government to regulate and accredit examinations, is studying plans for a new Cambridge International Certificate (CIC) which could be offered to high-performing pupils as an alternative to GCSEs. Pupils could start studying for the CIC, which would reduce coursework content and rely more heavily on end-of-course examinations, from September 2009, it was predicted yesterday.

Figures indicate that about 250 of the top fee-paying schools have dropped the GCSE. Martin Stephen, headmaster of St Paul's in London and a former chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents elite private schools including Eton and Winchester, has described the exam as "in crisis". Private schools have opted for the International GCSE - designed by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), which is linked to the Oxford, Cambridge and Royal Society of Art exam board - for use overseas in countries wanting to retain an old-style O-level exam. But it cannot be used in state schools as it does not have national accreditation so ministers will not fund its use by any institution in the state sector.

Privately, CIE officials have been told they will never be given the green light for the International GCSE to be used in state schools, because it does not meet the published GCSE criteria to be based on the requirements of the national curriculum. However, the CIE was told that if it came up with another name which distinguished it from the GCSE, it could obtain accreditation, leading to ministers funding its use in the state sector. CIE said it had submitted "several syllabuses" to Ofqual.

A spokeswoman for Ofqual said that it would take at least two months for it to consider whether to approve the examination. If it did, ministers would then decide if state schools that wanted to use it would receive government funding.


British health and safety zealots tell youngster her 2ft paddling pool needs a lifeguard

And they're not backing down

For nearly a quarter of a century, Lourdes Maxwell has celebrated the arrival of summer by putting a paddling pool in the garden. This year, however, her two grandchildren and the children of her neighbours may have to find another way to cool off in the heat. Miss Maxwell's local council has decided that the pool - which is only 2ft deep - needs a lifeguard. The 47-year-old divorced mother of three has also been told she must have insurance before she can inflate the toy outside her house in Portsmouth.

The health and safety edict came after she wrote to the city council asking for permission to put a bigger pool in the communal garden outside her home. Not only was she told it was too dangerous, but the council told her to empty the existing pool.

After her MP intervened, the local authority softened its stance, saying Miss Maxwell could have a pool if she paid for insurance and ensured supervisors were on constant watch. Residents near the communal gardens already have to obey a raft of rules governing their use. They are even supposed to ask the council for permission before having a barbecue.

Miss Maxwell, who is a full-time carer to her son Aiden, said yesterday: "It is absolutely pathetic. "I have had a paddling pool outside the front of my flat every summer for 24 years, ever since Aiden turned one year old. "Neighbours' children would come and enjoy the pool and I would give them ice lollies. It was always a very social occasion."

She added: "Now suddenly I'm not allowed. "I asked around for insurance and they just laughed at me. No one offers insurance for paddling pools. "I'm always there to supervise but they're trying to tell me I need lifeguards for a kiddies' pool as well - it's crazy."

Nigel Selley, Portsmouth Council's neighbourhood manager, defended the ruling yesterday. He said: "We did not have sufficient assurances that the risks associated with providing such a facility would be well-managed. "We have since spoken to Ms Maxwell and she is aware of our concerns for child safety and the risks associated with drowning." Steven Wylie, the councillor in charge of housing, added: "I want to encourage people to enjoy the communal gardens. "We want to help where we can to ensure that it is a fun and safe place for everyone to use."


A queer "wedding" in Britain: "The Church of England has said two gay priests may have broken its rules, after a newspaper report that they exchanged vows and rings in Britain's first ever church "wedding" ceremony for a same-sex couple. The Sunday Telegraph said clerics Peter Cowell and David Lord married at one of England's oldest churches - Saint Bartholomew the Great in London - last month, using one of the church's most traditional wedding rites. The couple had registered their legal civil partnership status before the ceremony. The Church of England does not allow same-sex ceremonies in church, although some blessings have been carried out. A Church of England spokesman said they had "no reason" to believe that the ceremony did not take place but added: "What we seem to have here is a fairly serious breach of the rules by an individual or groups of individuals." News of the ceremony could not come at a worse time for the worldwide Anglican communion, which risks a damaging split because of member churches' diverging attitudes towards homosexuality, particularly amongst clergy."

500 clergy set to desert Church over 'betrayal' on women bishops: "More than 500 clergy could leave the Church of England in response to proposals to consecrate women bishops that will be debated at the General Synod next month. Bishops voted narrowly to approve the consecration of women, without enshrining the legal safeguards sought by traditionalists. Instead, dioceses that appoint a woman bishop will merely be asked to sign a voluntary code of practice to ensure that Anglo-Catholics who oppose the move are not discriminated against or forced to act against their conscience. The Times has learnt that some traditionalists are seeking legal advice on whether it will be possible to sue the Church for constructive dismissal under employment law, should the synod vote in favour of the plans. They are angry that they were promised safeguards when the synod voted to ordain women priests in 1992 and believe that they have been betrayed."

1 comment:

JolietJake said...

I would also like to ask the gay priests if they have a lifeguard for the font.