Wednesday, March 11, 2009

British ambulance bureaucracy kills woman

Ambulance staff were unable to save a mother-of-two who died from a heart attack after a simple trip to the dentist went tragically wrong, an inquest was told. They were not qualified to give Marian Carrick, 46, a shot of adrenaline which could have saved her life after she suffered a severe reaction to a antibiotic Amoxicillin pill. Her neighbour, Charles Gallimore a former GP with 40 years experience, begged them to give her the drug but they refused.

It was only 30 minutes later that a second ambulance arrived at her home in Wing, Rutland, with a qualified paramedic on board who administered the drug. By then it was too late and Mrs Carrick was later pronounced dead at hospital.

The tragedy happened on the the same day she had collected the medicine from her dentist in Uppingham, Rutland, an inquest in Loughborough, Leics, was told. Pathologist Dr Angus McGregor said Mrs Carrick had taken Amoxicillin before with no ill effects but on this occasion suffered a severe reaction. He said: "The cause of death was a severe anaphylactic reaction, a severe allergic reaction. "That can lead to shock. That can lead to massive circulatory failure, and the heart and circulation fails." Mrs Carrick's medical records showed no evidence of previous allergy to any drugs.

East Midlands Ambulance Service arrived to find former doctor Mr Gallimore with Mrs Carrick and he advised them to give her adrenaline to restart her heart. But the ambulance technicians, who are qualified just below the level of full paramedics, were not permitted to administer adrenaline. Her brother Steve Jones told the inquest he thought the technicians should have used adrenaline earlier to try to save his sister. He said: "There was half an hour between the first and second ambulance. "For half an hour, they carried on with giving cardio-vascular therapy, but never thought to give her adrenaline when there was a doctor of 40 years' experience begging them to do it. "The technicians weren't qualified to deal with the situation."

Dr Colin Reid, a consultant in emergency medicine for the University Hospitals of Leicester said: "This would have been a difficult situation for the attending crew. "They would have had no way of knowing if Mr Gallimore was medically trained. "They acted appropriately and professionally, and provided the best medical care they could."


More State-funded boarding schools for Britain?

Academy [charter] schools could become boarding schools if the Conservatives won power at the next election. Michael Gove, the Shadow Schools Secretary, said that he would explore setting up state-funded residential academies "so that children in the greatest need can secure a placement that offers them the very highest standards of education and care".

There are currently only 35 state boarding schools in Britain offering free education and low-cost care for pupils, but no academy yet provides residential care.

Mr Balls announced plans for the 100th academy yesterday. The schools remain in the state sector but are independent of local councils and accept sponsorship from private companies or charities. Mr Gove told the charity Barnardo's that a study had found that 85 per cent of vulnerable children placed in state boarding schools were doing as well as, or better than, their peers.


Many British children turned away at the school gates

This week thousands of children were denied places in their first choice secondary school. Here, a teacher argues that the British education system is as crisis-ridden as British banks

The parent sobbed openly at the reception of the secondary school where I teach: "But it's not fair! You have to let her in!" Our secretary had to ask our caretakers to escort her off the premises. But she wasn't surprised. Every year, she gets hundreds of calls from panic-stricken parents wanting to know why their child didn't get into our over-subscribed comprehensive. Every year, she says the same thing: read the instructions in the admissions booklet very, very carefully. There's no way she can explain such a complex process over the phone. If she did, she'd never go home.

I teach in a very popular, co-educational comprehensive in outer London which gains some of the best results in the country. In common with many similar institutions, every year, over 400 applicants don't get an offer of a place. Much as we would like to take them, we have only one place for every three children applying. This year was no different: there were hundreds of bitterly disappointed families.

It's little consolation, but they might comfort themselves with the knowledge that they are not alone. On National Offer Day earlier this week, where parents discovered whether their child had been successful in applying for a place at secondary school, one fifth of parents didn't get their child into the school of their choice. In counties such as Kent, nearly a third of parents failed to get their preferred school.

It's no wonder thousands of parents are furious. A report from the London School of Economics published this week suggests that the whole system is in a state of chaos, with schools flagrantly flouting the rules - asking parents for personal information including marital status, occupation and even children's hobbies - and parents themselves being bamboozled by the arcane bureaucracy involved.

As a parent, teacher and writer who has researched this subject for years, I can only concur with the LSE's report. The central problem is that there is no consistency in the system: the rules or "admissions criteria" by which schools admit their pupils differ from school to school. There are a host of different rules when applying to grammar schools, academies, faith-schools, specialist schools and plain-old bog standard comprehensives.

If you're applying to a faith school, you usually have to prove you've attended church regularly for a number of years, live within the parish and have a glowing reference from your local vicar or priest. If you're going for a specialist school, you'll get preferential treatment if you can prove your child has an "aptitude" in that specialism. For example, schools that specialise in sports will often need to see references from coaches and team leaders. For grammar schools, you'll need to pay for a private tutor so that your child will excel in the 11-plus exam. And if you're going for a good local comp, you might have to consider selling your house and moving closer to the school - or lying about your address, which increasingly parents are doing.

But even moving near a good school can backfire. Take Katie, who moved house so she could be near the only popular school in her area, a faith-based school which specialised in languages. She thought she had everything covered - the attendance at church, the vicar's references, the proof that her son has an aptitude for languages - only to find that in the year of her application her local authority switched to a lottery system: all the schools were allocated randomly. As a result, her application failed. She is now faced with the absurd prospect of having to drive her son miles away to a sink school, despite the fact that she lives next door to an excellent one. All her hard work was for nothing. "This Government has ruined my family's life," she told me, trying to hold back the tears.

Time and again, conscientious parents who have fought so hard to get their children into good schools have had their best laid plans smashed by idiotic Labour legislation.

But it isn't only the school admissions system that the Government has broken. It's the exam system as well. Since they arrived in 1997, Labour apparatchiks have done nothing but interfere with exams. Each new initiative has made things worse. The Sats exams for seven, 11 and 14-year-olds have been mired in controversy from the start, with claims from parents and teachers that they are irrelevant and put pupils under unnecessary pressure. The situation was so bad last summer, when swathes of Sats papers were lost and thousands denied their results, that the Children's Secretary, Ed Balls, abandoned Sats for 14-year-olds and indicated that he was even considering scrapping the exam for all ages - a ghastly admission of defeat.

Even more seriously, A-levels and GCSEs have lost their credibility. The Government trumpets that the number of pupils gaining five A*-C grades at GCSE has risen from 44 per cent to 65 per cent since 1995, but any teacher knows this supposed improvement is nonsense. Recent research by Durham and Cambridge universities shows that the exams have become so dumbed down that these statistics are meaningless and that far from fostering real learning, the exam system has made our children less intelligent than they were in the 1970s, when far less was spent on education.

Meanwhile, the world education rankings run by the respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - the only really trustworthy league table there is - shows Britain slipping from fourth to 14th for reading and from eighth to 24th for Maths. Put simply, most children from Europe and the Far East outperform our pupils every time - even in English.

Our exam system has become such a joke that many schools are giving up on it. Just this week, one of our top independent schools, Manchester Grammar, decided to abandon GCSEs, on the grounds that they were too easy, and to replace them with the International GCSE (IGCSE). In a letter to parents, the head poured scorn on the new GCSEs that the Government is introducing this September, observing that they threaten teachers' abilities to do their jobs well: they are stuffed full of easy questions and coursework.

Quite why the Government is bringing back coursework when its own investigations have uncovered widespread cheating and plagiarism appears a mystery until you realise that coursework significantly boosts results. In other words, the revamp of GCSEs is a cynical ploy to manipulate the statistics. But as any experienced teacher knows, coursework has a corrupting effect upon pupils because it makes them believe they can cheat their way to the top.

A real educational apartheid is developing between the independent schools who are abandoning the government's testing regime and the rest of us in the state sector who are lumbered with it. Clearly, children who take the wrong GCSEs haven't a hope of getting into the top universities because they haven't had the opportunity to gain respected qualifications.

One of the consequences of the Government decimating our exam system is that the process by which students apply for university has become farcical. The fact of the matter is that our best universities have lost faith in GCSEs and A-levels and have introduced their own tests. As a result, students have to fill in a barrage of forms, write a personal statement and take numerous A-level exams before gaining a place, and are also compelled to take exams set by the suspicious universities - particularly for popular courses such as medicine.

To make matters worse, the university admissions procedure is so haphazard that there is no uniformity over when the universities make their offers. So students are required to accept or reject an offer before they've heard back from all the places to which they have applied. Having been tested to the point of extinction, these poor students are frequently forced to sign up for inferior courses, even though they may have gained places on better ones. As with school admissions, one suspects this is a cynical ploy to make sure that the inferior universities are filled with students.

Our education system is failing on all counts: it is shockingly unfair, riddled with incompetence and corruption, and benefits no one but the bureaucrats. But while the pen-pushers enjoy enormous power and over-inflated wages, parents can see no end to their misery. Too many parents have watched helplessly as their children's education has gone down the drain: too many children have endured mediocre schools, taken too many worthless GCSEs, and saddled themselves with crippling debts to gain worthless degrees that lead nowhere but the dole queue.

Despite the phoney propaganda the Government peddles, Labour's incessant meddling, monstrous dumbing down and moronic self-righteousness have consigned our schools to the scrap heap. It pains me to say it, but our education system is as crisis-ridden as our banks.


UK migrant total is 'three times the world average'

The proportion of people living in Britain who were born overseas is more than three times the international average, it emerged last night. Eleven per cent of British residents were born abroad, against the global figure of 3 per cent.

The campaign group Migrationwatch UK said the findings dispelled the Government's 'misleading' claims that very high levels of immigration to Britain had been consistent with world trends. It said Labour had been using the claims as a 'smokescreen' to disguise policy failures, such as its inability to get a grip on the asylum system. Chairman Sir Andrew Green said: 'The Government seems to make a habit of blaming current ills on "global forces", but our analysis shows this problem is almost entirely home grown. It could, and should, have been more competently managed, so preventing the rising tide of resentment among the public.'

A report by the group shows the percentage of the world population who are international migrants rose from 2.5 per cent in 1960 to 3 per cent in 2005 - the most recent global figure. In Britain, it went from 4.5 per cent in 1961 to 9.3 per cent in 2005. According to the Office for National Statistics, it now stands at 11 per cent - one in nine of the population and the equivalent of 6.49million people born overseas living here.

Sir Andrew said the Government was to blame for outofcontrol migration for a number of reasons. These included the policy, adopted by Labour in 1997, of trebling the number of work permits handed out every year to a record of 150,000 last year. Overall, net migration - or the number of people arriving compared to those leaving each year - has trebled from 107,000 to 317,000 in that time.

He highlighted the loss of embarkation controls, which count migrants in and out of the country, and Labour's decision in 1997 to axe the Primary Purpose Rule - a requirement for people seeking to enter by getting wed to show that the marriage was not a ruse to get into the country. Immigration by spouses has increased by more than 50 per cent since then.

Sir Andrew also said control of the asylum system was lost for several years, 'so contributing considerably to net immigration', and that the Government had failed to predict the influx from Eastern Europe. Ministers did not impose any restrictions on citizens of the Eastern Bloc states, unlike most of our EU neighbours.

Sir Andrew added: 'The Government has held public opinion in contempt for years. 'Despite having dismantled border controls, they deliberately encouraged immigration, partly to make the economic growth figures look better.'

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: 'We've always said that we would run our immigration system for the benefit of the UK. 'We have put in place the biggest shake-up of immigration in over a generation, including the introduction of the points-based system. 'This means only foreign workers we need - and no more - can come here. 'The number of Eastern Europeans coming here to work is falling and research suggests many have gone home.'


Naps cause diabetes?

This is brain-dead. All that they have found is that people with less energy nap more

Taking a regular afternoon nap is raising your risk of getting diabetes, say scientists. The danger of developing the illness, which can lead to strokes, blindness and kidney failure, increases by around a quarter among those who nap at least once a week. Experts said the raised risk could be simply down to the fact that those who took forty winks were less likely to be physically active.

Some 2.25million Britons have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity. The research, being presented at a conference in Glasgow this week organised by charity Diabetes UK, examined the napping habits of 16,480 older people in China. More than two thirds of the group (68 per cent) took a nap at least once a week. Even when other factors were taken into account, such as the person's weight, the study found napping was linked with an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Overall, those who napped at least once a week had a 26 per cent greater risk of developing the illness compared with those who never took a nap.

The experts, led by a team from Birmingham University, said several factors may be behind the link, including the fact that those who nap are also probably taking less exercise anyway. In addition napping during the day may disrupt night-time sleep - those who sleep for just a few hours a night are known to have a greater chance of developing Type 2. Waking up from a short sleep also activates hormones and mechanisms in the body that stop insulin working effectively, the researchers said. Insulin controls levels of blood sugar.

Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK, said: 'This research could be another step towards explaining the possible link between disturbed sleep patterns and Type 2 diabetes.' He added that being overweight remained a much greater risk factor than sleep issues.


Old-fashioned expression used to describe dangerous people gets British Conservative into trouble

We read:
"A Tory councillor could be charged with committing race crimes after he claimed gypsies would 'stick a knife in you as soon as look at you'. Robert Fraser also appeared to say that Romany gypsies made Irish travellers 'look like complete amateurs' when it came to fighting. The 59-year-old made the controversial remarks at a public meeting to discuss proposals to build a traveller site near a village in his constituency.

Unbeknownst to Cllr Fraser, his speech was filmed and later posted on the internet, where it has been seen by hundreds of viewers. In the video Cllr Fraser is asked by a member of the audience about crime levels. He replied: 'The Romanians - they'll stick a knife in you as soon as look at you. 'There might be some good ones....

He also told the audience: 'By gosh, some of these European ones, they make the Irish look like complete amateurs and I would dread, I would dread, to see them in Groby.' Hundreds of local residents attended the meeting two months ago to discuss the proposed travellers' site near the picturesque village of Groby, Leicestershire.

Now Leicestershire Police are examining the footage to decide whether his comments constitute inciting racial hatred.


"Roma" or "Romani" is the name Gypsies use for themselves. Many but not all live in Romania, where they are a despised minority. Despite claims to the contrary, I think it is clear that the councillor had in mind the Romanian Gypsies rather than Romanians generally. And it is certainly true that the Gypsy lifestyle is heavily dependant on crime, theft in particular.

'Stick a knife in you as soon as look at you' is an old-fashioned way of describing dangerous people rather than being intended literally. And some Gypsy activities -- such as stealing little children -- are undoubtedly dangerous. I would certainly not want one of their encampments anywhere near me.

"Gypsy" is a corruption of "Egyptian" but the Roma in fact appear to have originated in North India. They are generally of swarthy appearance.

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