Sunday, January 11, 2009


I am taking a break from Gaza today. I am sure Israelis wish they could do the same

Although we never normally think of him that way, Dickens may be the second most influential Leftist after Marx. His storytelling ability enthralls us to this day and is for almost all of us the only picture we have of the 19th century -- and a dismal picture it is. Dickens portrayed the worst of his times, not the average or the typical but we tend to accept his verbal pictures as typical. And the the situations that Dickens described were so bad that the word "Dickensian" has come to mean oppressive, uncaring and inhuman. His novels were, however, political propaganda. Surprisingly, England in the Victorian era had a social welfare system that was both fairly comprehensive and independent of the government.

Even in the modern era of universal government welfare payments we can still find people living in "Dickensian" conditions -- for one obvious instance, the Australian Aborigines. All systems have some weaknesses and concentrating on the worst cases tells us nothing about how well the system works as a whole. A modern-day Dickens could equally well describe terrible situations caused by the actions of heartless government employees. See SOCIALIZED MEDICINE for just some examples of that. So let us now look briefly at what history tells us about the Victorian system rather than at what the novels of Dickens tell us about it:

There were two main sources of social security in Victorian England: The parish and the Friendly Societies. The parish system is the one Dickens concentrated on but it was in fact the Friendly Societies that were more important. We still have many of the Friendly Societies with us to this day. Most Australians will have heard of Manchester Unity, The Oddfellows, The Druids and various other societies. These days just about all they provide is health insurance but in the Victorian era their functions were much broader. They also provided unemployment insurance, widows benefits, funeral benefits and various social functions. In the Victorian era a skilled worker would normally join a Friendly Society associated with his work, his town or his religion. If no other Society suited him he could join the Oddfellows. When he joined, he signed up to pay a weekly subscription to the society out of his wages. In return the Society covered him for most of the problems of daily life. If he got sick he went for free to the Society's doctor or a doctor that the Society had an agreement with. If he got really sick he could be admitted for free to a hospital run or approved by the Society. If he became unemployed he would receive a weekly payment from the Society to keep him going. If he died, his widow would be looked after. So ordinary workers in the Victorian era in fact had quite a high level of social welfare benefits -- all privately provided without any involvement by the government.

Some people, however, fell outside the Friendly Society system by reason of being too poor or too foolish to join. For these there was the parish system of poorhouses and workhouses. This was a system whereby the local parish of the Church of England gave charity to the poor so that nobody need be without shelter or food. It provided only the most basic food and shelter and did nothing to make poverty comfortable but it did make sure that everybody was provided for in some way. It was in that system that Oliver Twist was portrayed by Dickens as asking for "more please", implying that the people in it were not well fed. About that, though, we read:
Doctors writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) say they have uncovered the gruel truth behind the Victorian workhouse. Charles Dickens, they contend, was exaggerating when he portrayed Oliver Twist and other orphans driven to the brink of starvation by a miserly diet of watery porridge. In fact, the food provided under 1834 Poor Law Act, which set up workhouses for the destitute poor in mid-19th-century Britain, was dreary but there was plenty of it and the diet was nutritious enough for children of Oliver's age, their paper says.

In Oliver Twist, Dickens wrote, the orphans were given "three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week and half a roll on Sunday." On feast days, according to the novel, the inmates received an extra two and a quarter ounces (64 grams) of bread.

Four medical experts, with skills ranging from nutrition to paediatrics and the history of medicine, say such a diet would have killed or crippled the children, inflicting anaemia, scurvy, rickets and other diseases linked to vitamin deficiency. They took a closer look at the actual historical record, sifting through contemporary documents and even replicating the gruel that workhouse children most likely had.

One important source for their research was a treatise by a physician, Jonathan Pereira. He wrote it in 1843, five years after Dickens completed "Oliver Twist" and ignited a furious debate about the workhouses. Pereira found that the local boards of the guardians of the poor had a choice of six "workhouse dietaries", one of which they could choose according to the circumstances of each establishment. On the basis of Pereira's figures, using a recipe for water gruel taken from a 17th-century English cook book, the authors calculate Oliver would have had around three pints (1.76 litres) of gruel per day, comprising 3.75 ounces (106 grams) of top-quality oatmeal from Berwick, Scotland. Far from being thin, the gruel would have been "substantial," the authors say.

This would not have been the only source of food. Pereira details "considerable amounts" of beef and mutton that were delivered to individual London workhouses. "The diet described by Dickens would not have supported health and growth in a nine-year-old child, but the published workhouse diets would have generally met that need," the BMJ paper says. "Given the limited number of food staples used, the workhouse diet was certainly dreary but it was adequate."

The authors add a caveat, saying that this assumption is made on the basis that inmates actually received the quantity and quality of food prescribed, but Pereira's book suggests this was generally the case.

Such a system was sometimes no doubt heartless and could be abused and it was episodes of heartlessness and abuse that Dickens portrayed -- and which he moved his middle-class readers to "improve". Attempting to improve the Victorian system, however destroyed it. As one commentator acerbically observes:
In effect, the bourgeoisie declared war on their underlings, and tried to improve them out of existence. Their weapons in this war were 'a national system of education, a state system of welfare, public housing schemes and, later on, a state system of hospitals, a comprehensive system of National Insurance and much else besides.' These might not all sound like unmitigated evils to LRB readers, but Mount does a spirited job of pointing to the ways in which all of these structures were imposed on top of previously existing working-class vehicles for self-help. In one of the most original sections of Mind the Gap, he evokes a thriving culture of schools, Sunday schools, reading rooms, Nonconformist religion, collective insurance and trade unions. 'It is not too much to say that the lower classes in Britain between 1800 and 1940 had created a remarkable civilisation of their own which it is hard to parallel in human history: narrow-minded perhaps, prudish certainly, occasionally pharisaical, but steadfast, industrious, honourable, idealistic, peaceable and purposeful.'

And then this civilisation was dismantled. To take only one of a number of Mount's examples, the extensive culture of privately run working-class schools was destroyed by the board-schools founded by the 1870 Education Act, which were not free, but were effectively subsidised to a point where they put their private competitors out of business. All of this was part of a process in which 'the working classes are firmly tagged as the patients, never the agents.'

So any system can be abused and can fail and there is no doubt that the present system of government welfare that we have is also often heartless and is also often abused. The main difference between then and now is that the present system is more generous. Our unemployed get more spent on them. Our society today is however much richer than the England of Victorian times so the more generous provisions of the present era would probably have occurred under any system.

Child labour
The plight of child labourers in Victorian Britain is not usually considered to have been a happy one. Writers such as Charles Dickens painted a grim picture of the hardships suffered by young people in the mills, factories and workhouses of the Industrial Revolution. But an official report into the treatment of working children in the 1840s, made available online yesterday for the first time, suggests the situation was not so bad after all.

The frank accounts emerged in interviews with dozens of youngsters conducted for the Children's Employment Commission. The commission was set up by Lord Ashley in 1840 to support his campaign for reducing the working hours of women and children.

Surprisingly, a number of the children interviewed did not complain about their lot -- even though they were questioned away from their workplace and the scrutinising eyes of their employers.

Sub-commissioner Frederick Roper noted in his 1841 investigation of pre-independence Dublin's pin-making establishments: "Notwithstanding their evident poverty ... there is in their countenances an appearance of good health and much cheerfulness."

A report on workers at a factory in Belfast found a 14-year-old boy who earned four shillings a week "would rather be doing something better ... but does not dislike his current employment". The report concluded: "I find all in this factory able to read, and nearly all to write. They are orderly, appear to be well-behaved, and to be very contented."


So once again we see that the Dickensian portrayal of something is at least questionable.

Happy people?

It is notable that contented, successful people (Podsnap, Gradgrind) are portrayed most unfavourably by Dickens. This too is Leftist. As noted conservative historian Russell Kirk quoted Bagehot as saying: "Conservatism is enjoyment". The converse is however more familiar: Leftists are miserable sods always complaining about something. They have a pervasive hatred of the world around them. And that, presumably, is why Dickens and many other literary figures are Leftist. Just as newspapers do well on accounts of disasters, so tales of suffering, unhappiness and escape from oppression sell novels. As Bagehot also said: "All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality - the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape." Conservatives, of course are not so driven. They see plenty to criticize in the world but are generally content just to get on with their own lives rather than constantly striving to tear down "the system". (More brilliant Bagehot quotes here)

Let me say just a few words about Mr Podsnap (in "Our Mutual Friend"). Read how Dickens describes him here. It is a classic piece of Leftist poison, where Mr Podsnap's contentment with himself and the world about him is completely transmogrified. Podsnap can literally do nothing right. Even his patriotism is portrayed as ignorant -- something that anticipated modern Leftism. And Podsnap's success in business seems to be just somehow accidental -- with no suggestion that Podsnap may work hard and intelligently at what he does. The Leftists of academe whom I know so well think exactly that way about business to this day. And even Mr Podsnap's furniture is ridiculed. And there is of course no suggestion that solid citizens like Mr Podsnap keep the world on an even keel. Leftists don't want the world kept on an even keel. Their ideal is revolution -- with all the hate-driven indifference to human life that that normally entails.

So let us not get a false picture of the evil capitalistic 19th century from Dickens's brilliant propaganda. The 19th century was in fact second only to the 20th century for the improvements it brought to the lives of ordinary English people.

I mentioned recently a minor Australian Leftist blog that seems to have a devotion to listing my "sins". If they ever read the present post they will no doubt add breathlessly to the list that I criticize the great Dickens. Horror! How imbecilic I must be to challenge such a conventional hero!

Leftists tend to think of themselves as iconoclastic (even though they have said little that is original since Marx) but they put up very effective mental barriers against real iconoclasm (such as my critique of Dickens). They just see real iconoclasm as too far beyond the pale to contemplate. That is certainly the commonest reaction I get from Leftists when I point out that Hitler was a socialist. Their low level of intellectual curiosity makes them very conventional thinkers. Only the simplest of propositions (e.g. Bush = Hitler) get past their mental portals.

Badly behaved schoolchildren 'more likely to suffer health problems in adulthood'

I have no doubt that good discipline in schools improves subsequent behaviour and life experiences generally but this study does not show it. The people examined below were schooled at a time when there was good discipline so the results are almost certainly yet another demonstration of the wide-ranging effects of IQ. It is known that low IQ people are less healthy and low IQ kids are also more likely to have problems at school. Once again high IQ is shown to be a sign of general biological good function

Badly behaved schoolchildren are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, teen pregnancy or to experience divorce, as their classmates, a 40-year study has found. Dr Ian Colman, from the University of Alberta's School of Public Health in Canada, said: "Adolescents who engaged in (disruptive) behaviour had poorer mental health, less successful family lives, and poorer social and economic outcomes in adulthood. "Given the long term costs to society, and the distressing impact on the adolescents themselves, our results might have considerable implications for public health policy."

The study looked at more than 3,500 British people born in the 1940s who were aged between 13 and 15 at the start of the study. Dr Colman's team found that teenagers who were deemed to be badly behaved at school "experienced multiple impairments that persist throughout adult life". Severe behavioural problems in schools affect about 7 per cent of nine to 15-year-olds.

Participants were rated by their teachers as having severe, mild or no problems with their conduct and were followed up between the ages of 36 and 53, when researchers asked them about their mental health and social and economic status.

Unlike previous studies, the findings, published online by the British Medical Journal, show most of the participants who were badly behaved while they were at school did not go on to develop alcohol problems as they got older.


Surge in measles blamed on MMR vaccine scare

This is a terrible condemnation of the fraud who started the scare. As soon as some kid dies of measles Andrew Wakefield should be charged with murder

The resurgence of measles in Britain is expected to be confirmed by Health Protection Agency figures showing up to 1,200 cases in 2008. There were 1,049 cases of measles, caused by a paramyxovirus, left, in England and Wales by the end of October, almost ten times the 1996 total. A slump in vaccination is blamed on unfounded fears about side-effects of the MMR jab for measles, mumps and rubella. In England one child in four has not had two doses, leaving take-up well below the level needed to prevent an epidemic. Figures to November 30 will be released today.


EU email laws breach privacy

We read:
"From March, ISPs will have to keep data about emails sent and received in the UK for a year in an EU-wide bid to tackle terrorism. They would have to be able to provide the timing and number of communications from individuals, but not their content. It follows a ruling last October that telecoms companies should keep records of phone calls and text messages for 12 months About 57 billion text messages were sent in Britain last year, while an estimated three billion emails are sent every day.

Parliament approved the powers, described as a vital tool against terrorism, last July under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The law is being implemented as part an EC directive, and the Government will reportedly have to pay the ISPs more than o25 million to ensure it is obeyed.

Dr Richard Clayton, a security researcher at the University of Cambridge's computer lab said the costs of the regulation could have been better spent. He told the BBC: "There's going to be a record of every single email which arrived addressed to you and all the emails you sent out via your ISP. "That of course includes all the spam. "There are much better things to do to spend our billions on than snooping on everybody in the country just on the off chance that they're a criminal."

The Earl of Northesk, a Conservative peer on the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, said it meant anyone's movements could be traced 24 hours a day. He told the broadcaster: "This degree of storage is equivalent to having access to every second, every minute, every hour of your life. "People have to worry about the scale, the virtuality of your life being exposed to round about 500 public authorities. "Under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, privacy is a fundamental right, it is important to protect the principle of privacy because once you've lost it it's very difficult to recover."

The Home Office said the data would be useful for combating crime. A spokesman said: "Communications data is crucial for the police to be able to investigate and identify criminal suspects by examining their contacts, establish relationships between conspirators and place them in a specific location at a certain time. "The data retained is not the content of emails but only the email addresses and times they were sent. "Implementing the EC Directive will enable UK law enforcement agencies to benefit fully from historical communications data in increasingly complex criminal and terrorist investigations and will enhance our national security."


Forget freedom of speech in your own home. I have no real idea why, but I get heaps of email from Muslim sources. I delete them all immediately but the Brits would no doubt have me fingered as a terrorist sympathizer on the basis of what is described above. That could give me a torrid time if ever I landed at a British airport.

British Private schools urged to accept bigger classes to keep fees down

An eminently sensible suggestion. The desirability of small classes is a shibboleth in modern education but the evidence says that they just encourage the hiring of incompetent teachers. See here

Private schools should consider increasing class sizes to keep fees down as the credit crisis bites, the head of the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) has said. Smaller class sizes have long been the selling point of independent schools, and are frequently cited by parents as the main reason for educating their children privately. Typical class sizes in prep schools range from 8 to 16, while secondary schools belonging to the Independent Schools Council boast a pupil-teacher ratio of 10-1, against an average of 26 and 21 pupils per teacher in state primary and secondary schools.

David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, whose members educate 130,000 children aged 3 to 13, said the sector's obsession with keeping class sizes small represented a "self-inflicted wound". "We need to abandon ship on the idea of small classes and focus instead on the quality of teaching and learning. The answer is quality, quality, quality. Small classes are not the answer. Many of our schools could transform their situation by increasing class size. "There is no magic number. You can have schools that are too small. Eight or ten children to a class can be too small. It's too intensive," he told The Times. "For the children it can be like having an intensive tutorial all the time."

John Tranmer, headmaster of the Froebelian School in Leeds and chairman designate of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, said that, at 24, the average class size at his school was well above the average for the independent sector. But the school was nevertheless among the top 100 in the country (out of more than 20,000) in the performance tables for 11-year-olds. "There are some schools that still think that trading on class size is the key thing. They are missing the point," he said.

What mattered more was to attract the best teachers. Rather than have two classes of 12, each with a fully qualified teacher, schools should consider merging the two classes under a single teacher and a classroom assistant. "You save on staffing costs, but the teaching quality is the same," he said. "It's all about the quality of staff and the effective use of teaching assistants - they are of incredible support to teachers." Mr Tranmer, who used to teach in a school in Surrey with classes of eight pupils, said that the social dynamics in such small classes could be very difficult to manage.

The IAPS's change in position on class sizes is unlikely to be universally welcomed by many parents, who remain firmly attached to the notion of small classes.

On the wider issue of how private schools would weather the recession, Mr Hanson said that while some parents would struggle to pay school fees, the most vulnerable schools were likely to be very small, family-owned institutions that did not have the backing of a professional association such as the IAPS. Within the association's 560 member schools, he predicted that at least three schools may be forced to merge to save costs. In other cases, schools were achieving savings by forming informal federations to do bulk ordering on equipment or by sharing specialist teachers.


Half-empty government schools in Britain

No mystery why in most cases. Demographic changes are part of the story but low standards and bureaucratic inertia also figure

Tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money are being wasted each year on nearly 800,000 "empty desks" in schools. According to government figures, nearly one in seven primary schools and one in 10 secondaries are at least a quarter empty, their pupil rolls slashed by falling local birth rates or parents choosing better schools further away. Areas with the most surplus school places range from rural counties such as Kent and Norfolk to inner-city areas such as Knowsley on Merseyside.

With government spending on schools likely to be reined in after the recession, pressure is likely to grow for a "cull" of empty places in primary schools in sparsely populated areas and in unpopular comprehensives. "Many areas are going to be facing some very difficult decisions as primary school numbers continue to fall," said David Laws, the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, who obtained the figures in a Commons written answer. They cover the period 2001-7. "With this number of secondary school surplus places, it is also clear many parents are rejecting their most local school."

Alan Smithers, education professor at Buckingham University, said politicians were reluctant to reduce surplus school places, despite the expense of keeping them open. "The corollary of parental choice is supposed to be that parents move their children away from poorly performing schools and that those schools eventually go out of business, raising standards across the system," said Smithers. "At the same time local communities are very attached to their schools and politicians are after their votes." The area with the highest proportion of empty secondary school places is Hackney, east London, where 22% are surplus to requirements. In Wakefield, West Yorkshire, 21% of primary places are unfilled.

Another badly affected area is Kent, where the number of primary schools at least a quarter empty nearly doubled from 44 to 80 between 2004 and 2007. In the past year, the council has closed about five schools and amalgamated others.

Those whose pupil rolls have been falling include Cranbrook Church of England primary school near Tunbridge Wells, the register has dwindled from about 400 six years ago to just 215 today. Peter Wibroe, 52, the headteacher, said: "In times of financial uncertainty I believe people will be less inclined than ever to have children, or move to areas like this with their families and boost the intake at small schools. "We have had to adapt very quickly. When I started two years ago, there were 10 classes. Now we have just eight." [i.e. In a private school, changes have been made which eliminate "empty desks"]

Local authorities contacted over the figures said they were keen to avert school closures wherever possible. Some pointed out that it was advisable to retain surplus places because pupil numbers were set to begin rising again after years of decline.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said funding announced in November's pre-budget report by Alistair Darling, the chancellor, for building new schools could be used to reduce surplus places, for example by removing temporary accommodation in cabins. She added: "Closing schools is a drastic last resort."


British police can't object to gipsy camp...because it's "racist" to do so

Police have been told they cannot object to a planned gipsy camp in a picturesque village - because to do so would be 'racist'. Council chiefs have ruled that the local force's professional opinion 'breaches the Race Relations Act'. The decision meant that councillors considering the planning application were not told how officers had been called to another local camp 109 times in just two years.

The row centres on the tiny village of Bletsoe (population 281) in North Bedfordshire. Early last year residents learned that the owner of a farm on the edge of the village had applied for permission to build four 'gipsy and traveller' pitches on his land. They formed an association to combat the plans and were delighted when Bedfordshire police joined them by writing a letter of objection to the council.

The police's hard-hitting letter detailed their dealings with three other gipsy sites in the county. Over a two-year period to January 2008, officers visited the three sites a total of 210 times. One site was visited 109 times. The police were called out to deal with reports of fights, arson, assaults, stolen vehicles, violent disorder, anti-social behaviour, theft, child abduction and use of weapons. Chief Superintendent Andy Street wrote: 'The numbers, and nature, of incidents are not atypical for traveller sites. The likelihood of such sites causing problems for those living in close proximity is highly probable.'

However, Bedford Borough Council refused to take the letter into consideration when deciding whether to approve the site. Officials claimed that including it in the summary given to councillors would leave the authority open to a prosecution for racial discrimination. So they returned the letter to the police and refused to let councillors see it. As a result, the police were forced to withdraw their objection.

Bletsoe resident Colin Deas, 72, a retired businessman who grew up in the village, said: 'It seems to me that there are some things you simply cannot say if you are talking about travellers. 'I am sure that the police would be allowed to say there was fear of increased crime if they were talking about a new housing estate. So what's the difference?' Bedford's act of censorship is the latest illustration of how politically- correct councils appear to be appointing themselves as our 'thought police'.

Only last week the Mail revealed how nearby Mid-Bedfordshire council labelled more than 3,000 local residents of the village of Stotfold as racists when they objected to a gipsy site. They had simply expressed worries that the site could increase traffic, cause property prices to fall or increase noise levels.

Although councillors rejected the Bletsoe traveller camp plans last year, the landowner has now appealed and the case will be heard again next month. A spokesman for Bedford council said: 'The police objection was treated very seriously. 'Legal advice indicated that the objection was not a material planning consideration and should not be reported to committee. In the light of such clear advice it was considered appropriate to return the correspondence to the police.'


More fraudulent official statistics from the acolytes of Stalin in socialist Britain

True scale of juvenile offending masked with "creative maths"

The true scale of juvenile offending is being masked with "creative maths" by the Government, it's own former head of youth offending has warned. Rod Morgan, the former chairman of the Youth Justice Board, said up to 20,000 fines handed to youngsters are "inextricably" excluded from official statistics. He accused ministers of a "smoke and mirrors" exercise to portray a positive image that the number of children entering the justice system had fallen.

It comes as the Conservatives pledge to strip the control of crime statistics from the Home Office in a radical shake-up, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. Writing in this newspaper, Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said ministers and officials would also lose the ability to see the figures in advance in a bid to end accusations of political influence and boost public confidence.

In another blow over the Government's reputation on handling statistics, Mr Morgan said a boast that it has hit a target of cutting the number of juveniles entering the justice system for the first time failed to include thousands of youngsters handed fines.

In November, the Youth Justice Board, which oversees the management of youth offenders for the Government, announced there had been a 10.2 per cent cut in such number since 2005/06 - twice the target of five per cent - down to 87,367. But Mr Morgan said the figure excluded juveniles handed an out-of-court fixed penalty - of which there were up to 20,000 in 2007/08. Conversely the fines figure was included in the larger statistics of Offences Brought to Justice, including both juveniles and adults, which presents a picture of more people being punished for their crimes. He said were the figures added in to the first time statistics, the "trumpeted" 10 per cent reduction would be "wholly or largely wiped out".

Mr Morgan, who chaired the YJB between 2004 and 2007, accused the Government of "creative maths", adding: "It does no credit to our criminal justice statistics to perpetrate smoke and mirror exercises of this nature."

The Home Office faced intense criticism in an ongoing row with the UK Statistics Authority this week, which accused it of making "unsubstantiated" claims and "inappropriate" conclusions over knife crime figures released last year. It has led to the watchdog announcing official figures on childhood obesity, NHS waiting times and house prices will now also be investigated. Control over crime figures would be removed from the department and handed to the Office for National Statistics, under a Tory Government.

He said: "Labour have proved themselves serial manipulators of official statistics. Their obsession with covering up, rather than facing up to, problems has meant serious violent crime has only got worse. "A new approach is required. We propose two radical reforms of crime statistics. "We will remove responsibility for compiling and publishing recorded crime statistics and the British Crime Survey from the Home Office and place it with the Office for National Statistics. "We will abolish pre-release access that Ministers, officials and special advisors have to crime statistics, so that they will no longer get more advance notice of the contents of statistical publications than the public, the press or Opposition MPs."

Mr Grieve also revealed that a claim by Gordon Brown last summer that CCTV in Newcastle had cut crime by 60 per cent was based on a study from 1995.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "The First Time Entrants data shows the numbers of young people entering the formal criminal justice system. "Penalty notices for disorder can be issued when there is no admission of guilt for minor offences - therefore receiving one does not make a young person a 'First Time Entrant' to the criminal justice system. "The distinct nature of penalty notices for disorder is to prevent young people from being criminalised too early - yet being a serious enough measure to deter them from offending. "Penalty notices for disorder offer an opportunity to provide swift justice to avoid drawing a young person further than necessary into the Criminal Justice System for low level offences and anti-social Behaviour."


NHS not equipped to handle triplets

Multiple births are often of low birthweight and premature but that still seems to come as a surprise to the NHS. It essentially took the whole of England's medical resources to handle this lot. Reminscent of the Canadian lady recently who was having quads. Nowhere in Canada could she be accomodated so she was transferred to a small American city in Montana that "just happened" to have four humidicribs available. See here

A couple have been making a marathon journey to visit their premature triplets in three separate hospitals. The children, two girls and a boy, were born on December 6, 14 weeks early, at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth. Martha, Evie and Harry were born to Sam and Andrew Paciuszko, who live in Truro, but Martha needed an operation on her stomach and was sent to a specialist hospital in Bristol. A shortage of incubation units meant that Harry was transferred to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske, near the couple's home, while Evie was kept at Derriford.

This week Harry and Evie have been reunited in Truro, but they are still waiting to hear when Martha can be moved. All three are doing well and their mother and father have been allowed to pick them up for the first time. Mrs Paciuszko, 31, said: "Over Christmas the only available neonatal beds were in Liverpool so we were lucky that our three babies were in three hospitals in the West Country. Speaking of their 400-mile round trips to visit the children, she said: "We have been very lucky with our families and friends ferrying us about. After a Caesarean I cannot drive, so we have been extremely lucky. "I would not wish this on anyone. Every day we take two steps forward and one backwards but we are heading in the right direction."

The new mother had been receiving fertility treatment but it was still a surprise when three babies arrived at once. She said: "Andrew and I took the gamble but never really thought we would have more than twins. We are very grateful and happy with our three bundles of joy and miracles but that will be our lot. They will be our first and last children."

The babies were delivered by Caesarean section within four minutes of each other, Harry arriving first, weighing 1lb 12oz, then Martha at 2lb 2oz and finally Evie at 1lb 13oz. Mrs Paciuszko said: "They were all put in Tesco freezer bags to keep them warm and then in a Bubble Wrap covering. The Bubble Wrap was later replaced with woolly blankets. I thought they would be put in medical bags but they were Tesco bags - I suppose every little helps, as the advert says."

Mr Paciuszko, a 37-year-old postman, has remained in Bristol with Martha for much of the time. Julian Eason, the clinical director for neonatal services at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said that the triplets had been moved to different units because they needed specialist care, not because of a lack of resources. "The triplets were born 14 weeks early at Derriford Hospital, all requiring intensive care treatment," he said. "The most premature and sickest will be looked after in Plymouth. We are delighted to reunite Evie with Harry in Treliske Hospital to be closer to mum and home. Hopefully, Martha will be able to return soon." The neonatal intensive care unit at Derriford Hospital had its busiest year on record in 2008 with more than 850 admissions.


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