Saturday, July 26, 2008

Qualified British GPs forced to drive taxis due to lack of work as doctors

Socialist Britain sure knows how to manage its health workforce. This amid frequent claims of a doctor shortage and long waits to see a doctor

One fully qualified GP is driving a taxi because he cannot find enough work as a doctor despite Government pledges to increase access to primary care and extend surgery opening hours. Next week 2,500 doctors will qualify as GPs and the vast majority have not found full time jobs and will have to live 'hand to mouth', the British Medical Association has warned.

It costs the taxpayer around $500,000 to train each graduate to junior doctor level and many are considering travelling abroad or working in another speciality even though there is predicted to be shortage of GPs.

Dr Alex Smallwood, chairman of the GP trainees sub-committee at the British Medical Association said the problem was rife and was a 'huge betrayal' of junior doctors who had been encouraged into general practice. He said: "Doctors will be stacking shelves, cleaning and driving taxis to make ends meet. If they can't get work as a doctor they have got to do something."

Dr Smallwood said the general perception of GPs earning anything from $200,000 to $500,000 was nowhere near reality for many. He said there are huge numbers of under-employed GPs who can only get one and half or two days work a week. Under the new GP contract there is little incentive for a partner in a practice to take on another partner to expand the practice or replace one who leaves. Instead, in order to maintain their own income and that of the practice, the partners take on a salaried doctor on around $100,000 to $120,000 full time, but most are employed only part-time and earn significantly less. Other practices are based in such old premises that they physically do not have the room for more doctors. The problem is risking the future of general practice as the best and brightest candidates either enter other specialisms or leave to work as a GP abroad, he said.

Some areas of the country are worse than others, with virtually no partnerships on offer in London whereas the situation is not so bad in poorer areas in the North of England.

Dr Smallwood said: "I can't say it is greed but there is an element of being unfair to younger colleagues. There is a certain amount of protectionism from some doctors. "There are vast numbers of people who can't get full time work and it is not just about getting a partnership it is about getting any job. There is a panic." He said the trend of taking on salaried part-time GPs will affect patient care as it will mean they are less likely to see the same doctor with whom they can build up a trusting relationship. Dr Smallwood said it is vital that a scheme where the upfront costs of taking on a partner are paid is reinstated.


The evil British police again

Grandmother arrested on race charges after telling rowdy Asian students to 'go home'

After being woken for the third time in one night by a group of drunken and noisy students, Jo Calvert-Mindell was at her wits' end. The former policewoman got dressed, went outside and shouted at them: 'Why can't you go back to where you come from and make some noise there? I bet your families and neighbours wouldn't put up with it. 'You don't care about us and do just as you like. What gives you the right to frighten my elderly neighbours, cause damage and keep us awake at night?'

She also reported the incident to police, who came and dispersed the eight students. The 51-year-old grandmother was astonished when four months later she was arrested and accused of being a racist. It turned out that two Asians in the group had complained to the police. In April, Miss Calvert-Mindell, who has never been in trouble with the police before, was charged with using racially aggravated threatening words or behaviour under section 5 of the Public Order Act. In May, she appeared at Folkestone Magistrates' Court in Kent, where she denied the charge.

The case hung over her until the Crown Prosecution Service decided to drop it last week, admitting there was little chance of conviction. Now she is filing a complaint about the way the police treated her.

Yesterday, Miss Calvert-Mindell, a Liberal Democrat councillor and community volunteer, said: 'The last thing I am is a racist. 'I have a totally inclusive attitude to different races and cultures - I don't care if you are black, white, green or a Martian. 'Their colour had nothing to do with it - it was their behaviour. 'I think there is something very wrong in our society when a resident can't go out and try and prevent crime and disorder and encourage the defendants to go back home and that they can then play the race card to completely absolve themselves of responsibility for that behaviour. 'The authorities today are so sensitive to being criticised for being racist that any claims of racism just raises their antennae, instead of using common sense.'

The incident that led to her court appearance happened in the early hours of November 8 last year on the Hales Place estate in Canterbury. Miss Calvert-Mindell, who has a daughter and three grandchildren, was woken three times by students from the nearby University of Kent, who were shouting drunkenly and kicking bins. Fed up after months of sleeplessness caused by noisy students she put her clothes on and went down to tell them to be quiet.

She said that when she shouted at the students 'all I meant was that they would not do that at their family homes wherever they had come from in England.' But one of the students said she was being racist. Two Asians in the group later complained to police.

Assistant district crown prosecutor Carol Chastney said: 'Following a review we decided to discontinue the proceedings against the defendant as there was no longer sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.' Kent Police refused to apologise. Superintendent Chris Hogben said: 'An allegation was made that was fully investigated. A case was presented to the CPS and the decision was made to prosecute. 'If Miss Calvert-Mindell would like to discuss our response and the conduct of officers I would urge her to contact me direct.'


British photography paranoia reaches new peak (1)

No photos of even EMPTY pools!

A council has apologised to two women after a worker ordered them to stop photographing a deserted paddling pool over fears about child protection. Southampton City Council said it was trying to safeguard youngsters on the city's common but added staff would now be advised to use more discretion. Betty Robinson, 82, and Brenda Bennett, 69, were taking pictures when they were ordered to stop by a female worker. Mrs Robinson said: "It's pathetic, bureaucracy gone mad."

"I said is it because we might be paedophiles? There were no children in the pool but she pointed to a man and boys in the distance and said we could come back later at 6pm when the park was closed. "We are just a couple of old ladies who wouldn't hurt children and we are certainly not paedophiles."

Mike Harris, head of leisure and culture at Southampton City Council, said in a statement: "I'm sorry if we have caused any offence on this occasion. "We have to walk a fine line between protecting the children who use this popular paddling pool and the interests of the community as a whole. "A lot of people are more concerned about the safety of their children these days so it is appropriate that our staff are aware of who is taking photos."


British photography paranoia reaches new peak (2)

Must not photograph offenders -- is "assault"

A householder who took photographs of hooded teenagers as evidence of their anti-social behaviour says he was told he was breaking the law after they called the police. David Green, 64, and his neighbours had been plagued by the youths from a nearby comprehensive school for months, and was advised by their headmaster to identify them so action could be taken.

But when Mr Green left his $2 million London flat to take photographs of the gang, who were aged around 17, he said one threatened to kill him while another called the police on his mobile. And he claimed that a Police Community Support Officer sent to the scene promptly issued a warning that taking pictures of youths without permission was illegal, and could lead to a charge of assault.

Last night Mr Green, a television cameraman, said he was appalled that the legal system's first priority seemed not to be stopping frightening anti-social behaviour by aggressive youths, but protecting them from being photographed by the concerned public. Mr Green, a father-of-two, lives with his programme-maker wife Judy in a penthouse flat close to Waterloo station. He said: 'We've had problems with this group shouting abuse and throwing stones for months, and were asked to identify them. 'When I went to take photographs of eight of them throwing cans of Coke around, six of them ran away, one threatened to kill me, and another one started phoning the police.

'A couple of hours later, a Police Community Support Officer told me I had been accused of assault, though no such thing occurred, and told me I was not allowed to take photographs of teenagers on the street. 'I think it's wrong that when teenagers are running riot and the police are called, it's about me, and I'm treated like a criminal. 'In South London we all know how many stabbings there have been, and I think the police should be busy catching the real bad people.'

Mr Green said he handed his pictures to a deputy headmaster at the nearby Nautical School, and was promised the matter would be investigated. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the force had no record of the incident.



When the political wind changes direction, it can leave a Prime Minister looking very silly - almost as if what mothers used to warn their children about not pulling faces was actually true.

Thus Gordon Brown's last Budget, which removed the concession of a 10p in the pound tax rate for millions of the least well paid, was thought perfectly acceptable at the time, including by the vast majority of Labour MPs, who had cheered the then Chancellor in the House of Commons. Now - as its measures are just about to come into force - it is almost universally excoriated: how could Gordon have been so insensitive?

The reason for this near-180 degree shift in sentiment is not hard to find. Food prices have risen sharply since Brown's final Budget - and so, even more, has the price of heating a home. These are items which form a very significant percentage of the domestic budgets of the least well-off, so they now feel understandably furious to be faced with a government-imposed drop in take-home pay.

This bitter atmosphere lends particular piquancy to a long-arranged meeting later this week between the Business Secretary, John Hutton, and the country's six largest suppliers of energy - the so-called "fuel poverty summit". The Government is understandably concerned about further imminent increases in electricity bills, especially against the background of consumer groups such as energywatch loudly protesting that "an increase in utility bills of 25 per cent will consign another million households to fuel poverty".

Up until now, it has been possible to blame such increases in costs on the rise in the wholesale price of the main raw materials - oil and gas. Now, however, rather as in the style of Gordon Brown's tax changes, it is the Government which is becoming an active agent in the imposition of ever-higher costs on the consumer.

As part of an EU directive designed to combat climate change, Britain is committed to generating 20 per cent of its energy by 2020 through "renewables" - a tenfold increase in the current figure. Yet even the prevailing historically high prices of oil and gas provide domestic heating at between a half and a fifth of the cost of similar amounts of energy from renewables.

By chance, I spoke about this last week to the head of E.ON UK, the British arm of Europe's biggest supplier of wind power. Paul Golby explained to me that, because it was very hard to envisage much of a contribution from renewables for energy used by transport, this means that we would need to generate about 45 per cent of our domestic electricity bills from such sources - principally wind power - in order to conform with the EU directive known as the Renewables Obligation.

According to Mr Golby, meeting such a commitment will involve an increase in electricity generating costs of about œ10bn per year; this is equivalent to almost œ400 per household - or, in the roughest terms, an increase of about 40 per cent in annual electricity bills. Try selling that to the British public; and, of course, the Government hasn't.

As Mr Golby told me, with understandably diplomatic understatement: "The politicians have not been entirely honest about the cost of our renewables commitment, and so the public don't really know what's coming their way."

I told Mr Golby that I thought he was being somewhat naive if he genuinely expected any government to volunteer to the public that it was responsible for a swingeing increase in energy bills, especially if it thought it could get away with blaming the increase on anyone else - such as Mr Golby and his colleagues.

So far, the likes of E.ON - perhaps because they also stand to make what amount to large heavily-subsidised revenues from wind-power - have been very careful not to blame the Government. I forecast that this gentlemanly conduct will not last. Soon each side will be blaming the other, in a desperate attempt to avoid the full force of the public's anger.

The British public might become even more furious when it learns that one reason for the extra cost of wind power is that its inherent variability means that we will still need to retain our entire existing network of conventional power stations as back-up. That is because it is not a good idea for us to endure what happened two months ago in Texas, America's biggest wind-power producing state: a sudden drop in wind combined with a fall in temperatures led to what was described as "an electric emergency" - customers in west Texas were deprived of power for 90 minutes.

One thing is clear; the British public does need educating about this: even one of The Independent's most intelligent commentators wrote here last week that "The mini-windmill on David Cameron's new house is an economical way for an individual household to generate electricity, even contribute to the national grid". Well, that's if you consider it economical to spend thousands of pounds on a roof-top turbine that produces - even according to its supporters - no more than 1 megawatt hour per year, worth œ40 unsubsidised on the wholesale electricity market. As a contribution to reducing CO2 emissions it's about as cost-effective and meaningful as cycling to the House of Commons while having your chauffeur-driven car follow you with your briefcase, suit and black lace-up shoes.

If a serious economic downturn does hit this country, then such extravagant gestures, far from attracting praise, might begin to seem Nero-like in their irrelevance to an economy threatened by the flames of recession. Some Ipsos-Mori polling data published last week by the Financial Times showed that over the 12 months to January 2008, the proportion of those in Britain declaring "the environment" to be their biggest concern fell from almost 20 per cent to just 8 per cent.

On a more long-term sweep, it was fascinating - though perhaps not surprising - to see that concern about the environment rose and fell in direct inverse proportion to concern about the domestic economy.

The headline on the FT's article was: "Greens fear voters will turn selfish in difficult times". That's one way of looking at it; but I don't think any mainstream politician will risk calling the electorate "selfish" if the public rise up against a state-imposed increase of up to 40 per cent in the cost of their domestic electricity bills.

In fact, after his taxing experience of the past few weeks, I imagine that Gordon Brown will be wondering just how to get out of the Government's commitment to do exactly that, as part of the EU Renewables Obligation. He'll be in company, of course - the company of every other European leader. The only uncertainty is whether they'll admit it - even to each other, in private.


Deprived white boys inspired by action stories, British regulator says

Goody-goody feminist pap useless

White boys from deprived backgrounds need action-packed stories about danger or sport to inspire them in lessons, Ofsted, the education regulator, said yesterday. They do worse at school than any other group, which has increased concerns that white, working-class boys are becoming an educational underclass.

Advice on how schools should engage with such pupils was published yesterday by Ofsted after it looked at 20 schools where white boys from low income families had done comparatively well. It recommended rigorous monitoring but also teaching boys how to communicate and express emotions. They needed active involvement in lessons, explicit targets to work towards and approachable teachers, the report said. "In the most successful literacy activities, teachers took care to choose texts that interested the boys," Ofsted said. "These tended to focus on action-packed narratives which emphasised sporting prowess, courageous activities in the face of danger and situations where characters had to overcome challenges."

The report said schools that successfully raised the attainment of white boys from poor backgrounds shared features including developing boys' organisational skills, emphasising the importance of perseverance, a curriculum structured around individual needs and listening to pupils' views.

Emotional support was also important, with one school appointing teaching assistants who kept a "mood watch" on the most vulnerable pupils. Another school had success with boys after asking a group that was being rewarded with cakes for doing well why it was predominantly made up of girls. One girl said: "It's not that boys are not clever. They mostly are, but they need quick results. You just have to be showing them the cakes."


Passport checks between UK and Ireland restored

Travellers between Britain and the Republic of Ireland face passport checks for the first time since the 1920s, amid fears that the free travel arrangements between the countries could be exploited by terrorists and smugglers. The Common Travel Area (CTA) was set up in 1925 after Ireland gained independence and had survived intact during the three decades of the Troubles. But London and Dublin announced yesterday that border controls would be introduced on air and sea routes to prevent Islamist terrorists, illegal immigrants and smugglers using them as easy routes between Britain and Ireland.

Full immigration controls will be brought in for foreign travellers, while British and Irish nationals will have to prove their identities, either by showing a passport or a driving licence. And while there are no plans for full immigration controls on the meandering frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic, immigration officials will step up spot-checks on vehicles moving crossing the border.

The new controls will be phased in over the next six years. They are being brought in as Britain overhauls its system of immigration checks, including the introduction of its e-Borders programme screening all new arrivals to the UK. The plans do not cover travel between Northern Ireland and the mainland UK, which is still being examined by the Home Office with a view to announcing proposals by the end of the year

Details of the plans were set out in a Home Office consultation paper yesterday. It suggested that British and Irish residents travelling between the two countries will be separated into separate queues from foreign passengers. Airlines and ferry operators could face fines if they allow passengers on board without the relevant documents.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, and Dermot Ahern, the Irish Justice Minister, said in a joint statement: "It is crucial our two countries work closely together to ensure our borders are stronger than ever." But they added that both governments fully recognised the "particular circumstances of Northern Ireland" and insisted there are "no plans to introduce fixed controls on either side of the Irish land border for immigration or other purposes".

They added: "We will tackle the challenges we face head-on through the use of state-of-the-art border technology, joint sea and port operations and the continued exchange of intelligence. We are both introducing electronic border management systems so we can count people in and out of the country and identify those people who may be of interest to our law enforcement authorities."

The CTA also includes the Crown Dependencies, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which will also face the new checks.

The Home Office said the CTA was an "important component of the special relationship" between the two countries, but that the arrangements were "out of date". It said the moves had been prompted by worries over security, illegal immigration and smuggling, but added there were no specific events that had led to toughening the checks.

Its consultation paper said London and Dublin would work more closely on a range of initiatives to "reduce the risk of abuse of the CTA arrangement". It added: "These include a number of intelligence-led operations and further co-operation on data sharing to protect the integrity of our border controls." Nearly 16 million passengers travelled between Ireland and the UK, and the Crown Dependencies, in 2006.


Confused British minister

Says people should not be told that it is their fault for being fat -- which is fair enough. Geneticists would say the same. But he then goes on to warn people (falsely) that fat will shorten their lives. So it appears that he DOES expect people to take responsibility for their own fatness and reduce it

Alan Johnson sparked a political row over obesity last night by accusing David Cameron of holding “Victorian” views that blamed people for being fat. The Health Secretary called for a national movement to tackle obesity after complaints that ministers had not done enough to reduce the nation’s growing waistlines. This month the Conservative leader suggested in Glasgow that the obese should take more responsibility for their lifestyles, attacking the notion that some people were “at risk” of obesity through no fault of their own.

In a speech in London to the Fabian Society, Mr Johnson said that “hectoring and lecturing” the public would not work. “Vilifying the extremely fat does not make people change their behaviour and the healthy eating message has to be delivered more intelligently,” he said. “It’s easy for politicians to stand on the sidelines accusing the impoverished, the fat and the excluded of only having themselves to blame. But before we evoke the Victorian notion of the deserving and undeserving poor . . . we should take a moment to consider how complex these issues really are.”

Instead, parents should be told that children could have their lives cut short by 11 years because of dangerous levels of fat in their arteries or around their organs, he said. Mr Johnson argued that obesity was not just an issue for Government and that everyone, from individuals to big supermarkets, should do all they could to help people to lead healthier lives. The Health Secretary said that the Government had rejected both the “nanny state” approach and the “neglectful state”, which “wags the finger in the direction of the most vulnerable families in the vague hope that they will do as they are told.”

“The Conservative Party have apparently chosen this approach,” he added. The Government was criticised last month for slow progress in tackling obesity, as well as alcohol abuse. Despite England having the most obesity among adults in Western Europe, a government strategy on the issue was published only this year, the Healthcare Commission and the Audit Commission noted.


Huge downer for British Labour Party: "British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's worst nightmare was realised today as one of Labour's safest seats was lost in a key by-election. Labour's disastrous run of electoral setbacks continued when the Scottish National Party 's John Mason achieved the enormous 22 per cent swing required to topple the longtime stronghold of Glasgow East. The nationalists overturned a Labour majority of 13,507, triumphing by 365 votes, after polling a total of 11,277 to Labour's 10,912. While Mr Brown is not under immediate threat, it was the worst possible result as he prepares for a summer holiday and tries to chart a plan for his own and Labour's recovery. The result will intensify doubts among Labour MPs about Mr Brown's ability to win a general election and could spell trouble at Labour's conference in the autumn when a weakened Prime Minister will have trouble getting his way on a range of policy issues."

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