Friday, January 23, 2009

Dreamy NHS constitution sets out responsibilities for patients and staff

Any attempt to enforce it would be amusing -- and futile

A written constitution for the NHS - a bill of rights and responsibilities for patients and staff - will be officially signed by Gordon Brown and ministers at Downing Street today. A draft version has already been put out to consultation and the Government has tabled legislation to compel the health service to adhere to the final document. The constitution will effectively become a bill of rights for patients and was introduced by ministers as a major reform - comparable to Mr Brown giving the Bank of England control of interest rates when he was chancellor. The constitution sets out responsibilities linked to people's entitlement to free NHS care, including that they should take some personal responsibility for their own health.

But doctors and campaign groups say that the draft consisted of "optimistic pledges" that would not make any difference to patient care.

Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, said yesterday that measures to tackle obesity would be included in the document but that it would not threaten to withhold treatment from those who were overweight through over-eating. It would not involve "broccoli police" to check up on people's eating habits. The constitution was intended to be "one concise, clear document that told people what their rights were, what their responsibilities were and what was expected of the staff," he said.

"We never intended this to change the way the NHS works, which is, if you have a health problem we will deal with it. "We have got a section in there on personal responsibilities but it's not something that's backed up by law and [therefore] you'll not have the broccoli police come round if you are having a fry-up. "It was never meant to be something that changed the health service and made it less acceptable to people and made it more problematic. "There are other ways of talking about the dangers of alcohol or getting your nutrition right than stating it in a constitution."

But Katherine Murphy, director of the Patients Association, said "We do not expect this document to make any difference to the care patients are receiving. The time for words like safety, quality, choice and, in this case, constitution to have the meaning they have elsewhere in life is long overdue."

National Voices, an association of charities and patients groups, said that the document had "huge potential". "We need a service that listens and responds to the needs of the people it serves."


Thalidomide 'offers new hope for prostate cancer patients'

It's good for leprosy too

Treating prostate cancer patients with thalidomide and hormone-blocking drugs in alternate doses can delay the recurrence of the cancer after surgery, a study has found. The findings will help up to one third of the 31,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer each year where the disease has spread outside the prostate gland.

Increasingly, oncologists in the UK are prescribing drugs after surgery to reduce levels of the male hormone testosterone, thereby stopping the cancer growing. In the latest U.S. study 159 men in two groups were given hormone-blockers for six months after surgery, followed by either thalidomide or a dummy drug (placebo). The average time until the cancer showed signs of recurring was 15 to 17 months for thalidomide patients compared with just 6.6 to 9.6 months for placebo patients.

Originally prescribed for pregnant women suffering morning sickness, thalidomide was withdrawn in the UK in 1961 after it was shown to cause stunted or missing limbs in babies. But researchers in several countries have now started cautiously using the drug's growth-restricting properties to slow the development of tumours, although care is taken to ensure it is never used on women who could become pregnant.


How British bureaucracy crushed British fishermen

A draconian quota sytem forces fishermen to throw countless millions of saleable fish dead back into the sea

Until recently, Newlyn in Cornwall was the largest fishing port left in England. Last week a banner headline over two pages of Fishing News read "Newlyn reels under 188,000 pounds penalties - port's netting fleet decimated". What has left the town stunned, wondering how long its fishing industry can survive, is the latest step in a court case which has left 14 local residents, several in their 70s and 80s, facing heavy fines and the threat of imprisonment, forcing most to sever family links with fishing that go back generations. When the final step comes in May, involving the trawler firm Stevenson's, the town's largest employer, it is feared this could wipe out Newlyn as a fishing port, Nothing better summed up the poignancy of this case than the sight of 82-year old Doreen Hicks weeping in the dock after being given a criminal record, fines and costs of 3,500, on threat of imprisonment, just because she was named as a part-owner of her family's fishing boat.

As much as any episode I have come across in 20 years of reporting on the destruction of Britain's fishing industry, this case has shown how there are two different ways of looking at this long-drawn-out tragedy. From one point of view, the facts were clearcut. The 14 defendants, fishermen and their families who happened to have a part-share in six elderly fishing boats, were accused of selling œ140,000-worth of hake and other fish back in 2002 which they had illegally mis-recorded as other species because they didn't have the required EU quota. After a six year investigation by officials of the Marine Fisheries Agency (MFA) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the 14 last year pleaded guilty.

Having delayed sentencing for nearly a year, with a ban on press reporting of the case, Judge Phillip Wassell, claiming that plenty of hake quota had been available at the time, showed no sympathy for what he called "a deliberate, complex and well-organised series of deceptions". He imposed fines and costs on the defendants totalling 188,000, with prison sentences for non-payment.

An MFA spokesman, echoing the judge's claim that plenty of quota was available, exulted at the punishment of this "environmental and financial crime". Also supporting the judge and officials was Charles Clover in The Daily Telegraph who, under the headline "Fishing pirates of Newlyn caught in law's net", described the defendants as "the self-serving fiddlers of Newlyn who conspired to wipe out our marine resources for private gain".

Among those facing fines and possible imprisonment were 83-year old Mrs Hicks, Donald Turtle, 82, and his wife Joan, 71, as part-owners of boats skippered by their sons. Judge Wassell conceded they might not have known about the "conspiracy", but they deserved punishment for having "benefited" from the crime.

From the fishermen's point of view the story looks rather different. Hake were abundant around Cornwall in 2002, but EU quotas were so tiny that the fishermen could catch their entire month's allowance in a single haul, making it virtually impossible to earn a living. This was why they logged their over-quota catches as different species. Although Judge Wassell claimed that quota had been available, the court had heard no evidence on this (the fishermen themselves were not permitted to speak in their own defence). But the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation, responsible for individual quota allocations, insists that virtually no extra quota was available in 2002. It was so dismayed by the judge's comments that it has asked for a transcript of his judgment.

In response to accusations that the men acted solely out of "greed", Mrs Turtle says: "It was need, not greed - most weeks our men come home having earned less than the minimum wage."

Ironically, since 2002, the Newlyn fishermen, working with government scientists, have convinced both Defra and Brussels that Cornish hake stocks had been so underestimated that fishing for hake is now "unrestricted". But of those six Newlyn boats, only two are still in full-time fishing. One skipper, John Turtle, now working on a North Sea supply vessel, says: "Defra has broken the back of the Newlyn fleet. I haven't got any fight left in me to return to fishing."

Another skipper, Shaun Williams, now working as a lorry driver, says: "I wanted to leave a good industry for my son to join, but that industry is now very, very sick and struggling to survive."

The final blow for Newlyn could come in May, when Stevenson's comes up for sentencing, after its records have been trawled through under the Proceeds of Crime Act, designed to seize the assets of terrorists and international drug dealers. Last year this was used by the MFA to wipe out three small fishing businesses in the Thames Estuary, when fishermen were forced to sell boats and homes to pay punitive fines.

The quota system being enforced in this ever more draconian fashion is the one which every year forces fishermen to throw countless millions of saleable fish dead back into the sea. Even the EU's fisheries commissioner, Joe Borg, calls it "immoral". But what is even more startling about the disaster created by the Common Fisheries Policy has been the uniquely ruthless zeal with which Britain's officials have set out to enforce its "immoral" rules on our own fishermen - with the enthusiastic support of judges (and even some journalists) who seem quite unable to recognise the human tragedy involved.

Another British industry which may soon disappear, thanks to our masters in Brussels, is production of that remarkably useful metal aluminium. Although we rank only 19th in the world production league, our two main plants, in Anglesey and Northumberland, are as efficient as any of their competitors. But aluminium relies heavily on constant supplies of electricity.

The Holyhead plant, Wales's largest electricity user, is supplied at a discount price by the nearby Wylfa nuclear power station, state-owned through the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). If the NDA was privately owned, it says it would be happy to carry on selling power to its largest customer at a discount. But under EU state-aid rules this is now "against the law". So it was announced last week that Holyhead is to close next September, with the loss of 500 jobs.

The Northumberland plant at Lynemouth uses its own coal-fired power station to produce even more aluminium than Anglesey. But Brussels has ruled that, because it fails to comply with the EU's Large Combustion Plants directive, it too will have to close, losing 600 more jobs and almost all that remains of our aluminium production.

As ever more of British industry disappears, with Lord Mandelson predicting that even the City of London will emerge from the slump much reduced, it seems we shall soon have to live on air. Then, when Brussels discovers that air contains carbon dioxide, calling for yet more regulation, will even that be beyond our reach?


From mad to worse

Prof. Brignell comments on the above

Christopher Booker reports yet another case of hapless toilers, who have had their livelihoods taken from them by bureaucratic theft, and then been turned into criminals for trying to carry on their forefathers' trade of centuries. What they did was perfectly reasonable to an unbiased observer. They caught hake, which were plentiful, and sold them for food. Remarkably, in fact, it is not even a crime any more. They were forced by poverty into trying to disguise the fact that they were carrying out what has always been perfectly legitimate trade. And what about that judge? The judiciary sit on their large stipends and more than comfortable pensions, telling people on the breadline, who have had their livings taken by legitimised theft, that they are acting out of greed. And can it really be true that the fishermen themselves "were not permitted to speak in their own defence." Is this what has become of British justice, to say nothing of natural justice?

It is a crime against nature and humanity to throw fresh fish back into the sea dead. The EU not only forces fishermen into this crime, but makes it a crime not to commit it. Many, including the man in charge of the policy, have called it immoral; barely an adequate word. It is not just a few fish, but tons. It must cut those fishermen to their very souls to betray the memories of their ancestors, who fought and died against the elements to scratch a living and feed their countrymen. Now their inheritance is being destroyed by cold-hearted officials who are motivated by nothing more than bureaucratic convenience and political infighting. Uniquely in the UK, however, each ill-considered directive from the EU is rigidly interpreted with total disregard for the human and economic consequences.

In Sorry, wrong number (2001) your bending author wrote that MAFF had been out of control for years. How did the politicians get over this? They changed its name to DEFRA; but the leopard does not change its spots. It was MAFF/DEFRA who launched the slaughter of the innocents, in which 8 million animals endured appalling and unnecessary death. DEFRA has a mission to destroy: if it can rely on the EU for weaponry, so much the better. French bureaucrats would never willingly take part in activities that would destroy their own industries, but to DEFRA that is what they were put on earth for.

On 11th December 2008 Neil Parish MEP reported:
Britain fined 74.5 million pounds for Labour's incompetence

Single Farm Payment delays result in massive fine

Brussels , 11th December 2008 -- The European Commission has fined Britain 74.5million pounds for the Single Farm Payments fiasco that caused misery to farmers across the country when it was introduced in 2005. The Rural Payments Agency was dogged by late payments and administrative error in 2005, when Britain failed to meet the EU's statutory deadline for getting subsidy cheques to farmers.

Conservative chairman of the European Parliament's agriculture committee, Neil Parish MEP, said: "Once again our government's incompetence has caused British farmers and the British taxpayer to lose out. "When at Defra, Margaret Beckett introduced a hybrid system for making payments that everybody told her would lead to this calamity, yet she went ahead anyway. "Beckett's legacy of blunders is still being felt in the countryside today, yet she still sits around the Cabinet table. That shows the level of contempt this government has for the countryside."

The sufferers we not only the farmers who were forced into bankruptcy, or even suicide, but many apparently unconnected victims. These bureaucrats do not have the competence or determination simply to pass on a subsidy, yet they have the persistence to pursue a tiny group of fishermen for six years. Their crime was to do what their forefathers have done without interference for centuries.

It was the Thatcher reforms that left the UK with all its eggs dangerously in one basket, the financial one. Those eggs have now hatched into chickens, which have come home to roost. The small remainder of manufacturing industry is now slowly being crushed by EU directives. Booker's second example is the residual aluminium smelting business, which is in the process of being sacrificed to the global warming religion, as are so many others.

Meanwhile DEFRA has quietly bypassed our pusillanimous Parliament, giving itself the right to impose 100 pound bin taxes on religious grounds. The bureaucracy has become a juggernaut, rolling along supported by implacable authority, insouciance and incompetence, crushing any small individual or group who get in the way. Can there be any outcome other than economic and cultural disaster?


A small victory against authoritarian government in Britain

The tax was announced without any parliamentary scrutiny but "No taxation without co-operation" seems to have done the trick

Ministers have killed off their plans for pay-as-you-throw bin taxes in the face of hostility from town halls. They abandoned the charges - which could have cost middle-class families about 100 pounds a year - after local authorities refused to carry out trial runs. Not one council volunteered to take part in the the tests of the tax, which were supposed to begin this spring, officials at the Environment Department admitted.

Pay-as-you-throw was designed to encourage recycling and cut the amount of rubbish householders leave out in their wheelie bins. Bin taxes, based on schemes operated in Holland and some other European countries, would have meant limits on the amount of unrecycled rubbish a household could leave out for the binmen without paying extra. But local authorities feared a backlash from voters and had deep concerns that administering the taxes would prove both expensive and unworkable.

The Daily Mail highlighted the plans for bin taxes and their likely impact on families in its Great Bin Revolt campaign, which rallied opinion against fortnightly collections. The failure ends more than two years of controversy over bin taxes.


Bigoted British church? Everything is OK in the C of E (you can even be an atheist bishop) -- except opposition to immigration, apparently

The Church of England is to be asked to ban clergy from joining the British National Party (BNP). The general synod - the Church's parliament - will be urged to adopt a similar policy to other bodies which forbid BNP membership, like the police. The move comes after the leaked publication of the names of 12,000 BNP members in November. The list contained five "Reverends" but the Church said none was a licensed or serving clergy member.

The Association of Chief Police Officers policy states that no member of the police service may be a member of an organisation whose constitution, aims or objectives contradict the general duty to promote equality. It specifically mentions the BNP as one such organisation.

At the meeting of the synod next month one of its members, Vasantha Gnanadoss - who works for the Metropolitan Police - will submit a private members motion calling for a similar policy to apply to all clergy, candidates for ordination and lay persons speaking on behalf of the Church. She said the policy would make it more difficult for organisations like the BNP to exploit the claim that there are members of the Anglican clergy that support them. "Of specific relevance to this motion are some of the tactics adopted by the BNP, which in recent years has sought to identify itself as Christian and sometimes specifically with the Church of England, in order to further its agenda," she said. [Who said the C of E was Christian? The episcopate seems mostly atheist]

William Fittall, secretary general of the general synod, said it was already Church of England policy that people should not enter ordained ministry if they held racist views. He added, however, that it would be harder for the Church to enact a formal policy aimed at the BNP. "Not long ago the synod passed the Clergy Discipline Measure, which specifically said you could not discipline a member of the clergy for political views or membership of a political party," he said.

A BNP spokesman said the party was aware of the efforts of Ms Gnanadoss and denied it was racist. "There are members of the general synod who are sympathetic towards us," he said. "This is a disgraceful way to politicise the Church. The Church has got far more important things we feel to worry about... rather than a vindictive campaign against a perfectly legitimate political party".


How arthritis sufferers are let down by NHS targets

Thousands of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are being let down by 'unacceptably wide variations' in care by GPs and hospitals, says a report. It claims the postcode lottery is being made worse by Government targets that are causing delays in appointments to see specialists and receive treatment. Patients already diagnosed with the disease are having to wait longer to be seen - or the NHS ends up paying more than double to treat them as a 'new' patient, says the report from the independent King's Fund think-tank.

Around 420,000 Britons have rheumatoid arthritis, with more women than men affected. It causes pain, swelling and inflammation in the joints and also puts sufferers at higher risk from strokes and heart attacks. The report shows:

Geographical variations in the standards of care for sufferers;

Knock-on effects of the Government's 18-week referral target;

Poor understanding and lack of support among GPs;

Haphazard management of flareups which can cause pain and joint damage unless treated urgently;

Some patients having to wait years for a diagnosis.

The report, commissioned by the Rheumatology Futures Project Group, analysed the views of more than 900 patients and 500 medical professionals and NHS staff. Some patients said they received 'no support' from specialist teams supposed to be co-ordinating their care and were just 'left on the sidelines'. The time between seeing a GP and seeing a specialist ranged from less than six months to more than three years.

But rheumatology experts are most concerned that the Government's 18-week target for referring new patients to specialists is having 'knock-on effects' for existing patients. This can leave those with long-term disease unable to get follow-up appointments because clinics are under pressure to reserve slots for new patients.

Professor David Scott, chief medical adviser of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, said: 'Some GPs end up re-referring existing patients as "new patients" which costs their primary care trusts almost 250 pounds in payment by results instead of 99 as a follow-up appointment.' Professor Scott said he was not talking about his own trust but the experiences of many specialists nationwide. He said: 'Some patients are taking longer to get back to hospital than if they were a new patient, or under the old system. 'One problem is that rheumatoid arthritis is perceived to be a disease of old people and it's not. It can affect patients of any age but they struggle to get the care they need.'

Ailsa Bosworth, joint chairman of the Rheumatology Futures Project Group, said: 'Much needs to be done to raise awareness of the seriousness of this condition with the general public and to address the lack of clinical knowledge about rheumatoid arthritis in primary care.'


UK: Atheist ads "not breaking code"

All sorts of speech are restricted in Britain but atheist speech is OK apparently:
"An atheist UK bus campaign which uses the slogan `There's probably no God' does not breach the advertising code, a watchdog has ruled. The Advertising Standards Authority said it had assessed 326 complaints. Some claimed the wording was offensive to people who followed a religion.

But the body concluded the adverts were unlikely to mislead or cause widespread offence and closed the case. The 140,000 pound ad campaign was launched by the British Humanist Association."


At that rate it would be OK if I financed ads on British buses saying: "There's probably no such thing as healthy homosexuality". Ya think?

Jail for British animal rights extremists who waged six-year blackmail campaign: "Seven animal rights extremists who waged a campaign of blackmail and intimidation, seeking to close down Huntingdon Life Sciences, were jailed yesterday. The ringleaders, Gregg Avery, 41, his wife Natasha, 39, and Avery's ex-wife Heather Nicholson, 41, were described as "veteran, fanatical animal rights activists" likely to return to extremism on release. Sentencing the members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty to up to 11 years in prison, Mr Justice Butterfield called for a change in the law to allow blackmailers to be detained indefinitely. He said the campaign group was a "vehicle used to terrorise ordinary decent traders carrying out perfectly lawful businesses" with the sole aim of closing down Huntingdon Life Sciences and its Cambridgeshire laboratory. Hundreds of people whose employers did business with the firm received hoax bombs, sanitary towels allegedly contaminated with the HIV virus and letters threatening violence against their children, and were visited by vandals. Their neighbours were sent letters warning that they lived close to a paedophile, and victims were told the persecution would continue until their company severed links with Huntingdon Life Sciences. More than 270 businesses gave in."

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