Wednesday, July 08, 2009

British oldsters' coffee morning banned for health and safety reasons

A group of pensioners have been banned from holding a coffee morning at a public library for health and safety reasons in case they spill hot drinks on children. This thin excuse to mess other people around just shows how power-hungry British bureaucrats are. They are little men desperate to find some way of making themselves significant

The seven members of the coffee morning for over 50s have met at Eye Library in Eye, near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, every Tuesday for the last four years without incident. But council officials have now axed the meetings claiming that toddlers from a nearby nursery who use the library at the same time could be injured if hot coffee spilt on them.

Now members, who used to pay 20p each to the library to cover costs, have arranged to meet at each other's homes instead. Derek Taylor, one member of the coffee club, condemned the "laughable" move and claimed they had usually finished their drinks by the time the toddlers arrived for their half hour visit.

Mr Taylor, of Eye, said: "It is just laughable really. It is health and safety gone through the roof. Nearly four years ago we set up a coffee morning at Eye Library after the librarian at the time came up with the idea, and since then about seven of us have been going there every Tuesday.

"About three weeks ago a toddlers group started coming up on the Tuesday as well, and then this week when we went, we were told that we would not be allowed any tea or coffee because of health and safety reasons because there is a risk we could spill hot tea on the children.

"However, we understand that is not the case at all, because we have always finished our drinks before the children even arrive, and that it is the case that the librarian doesn't want to wash up extra cups. "It is very disappointing, we all thoroughly enjoy the weekly meeting, it is a chance for us all to catch up and have a chat."

Retired office worker Patricia Owen, 70, and her husband Ray, 69, from Eye Green, near Eye, have also been attending the coffee mornings since they were launched. Mrs Owen said: "We are being told we can't have a hot drink. Health and safety is a silly excuse. We have now made alternative arrangements and plan to have our coffee mornings at each other's homes."

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) called for sensible risk assessments to be made. A spokesman said: "This would seem to be a disproportionate reaction to risk. I'm sure a sensible compromise could be found that does not leave these pensioners on the streets."

A spokesman for Peterborough City Council, who run the library, said: "Eye Library is a small library and there were concerns about hot drinks being served to the group when there were small children sitting very close by. "However, we do not want to spoil anyone's fun, and will be speaking to both groups to see if we can be more flexible about the timings so that the nursery group are not in the library at the time the coffee morning is meeting."


Health and safety fears are making Britain a safe place for extremely stupid people

By Boris Johnson

Another triumph of the Royal Society for the Extremely Stupid. They are now the most powerful lobbying force in the land. You can see the results of their campaigns on park benches, on street corners, on station platforms – and now their hectoring signage is sprouting on desolate beaches and once unspoilt stretches of moorland. They are more energetic than the RSPCA. They are more effective than the birdwatchers, the child‑protectors and the petrolheads put together. Indeed, for manic dedication they are only rivalled by Fathers4Justice. Ladies and gentlemen, let's have a big hand for this year's winner of the prize for the Most Successful Special Interest Group. I give you – the Royal Society for the Extremely Stupid.

It was some years ago that my daughter and I first became aware of their achievements. We were exploring the magical cliff-top castle of Tintagel and we came across a sign on the edge of the cliff. It was expensively hand‑painted and about 1ft high. It said: "Edge of cliff". As a statement of the plonkingly obvious, it could have been bettered only if there had been another sign with a vertical arrow saying "Sky". We laughed so much we almost fell off.

Since then, the Royal Society for the Extremely Stupid has been going from strength to strength. It has adorned the back of peanut packets with signs saying "May contain nuts"; it has embossed every plastic coffee sipper-lid with the information that the contents may be hot; and now, according to a wonderful pamphlet issued by the Manifesto Club, its activities are reaching a climax. I could direct you to a lovely pebble beach in Sussex, where visitors are warned with a hideous bright yellow sign and a pictogram of a man falling over that there is an "uneven surface". Another pictogram, complete with another tumbling idiot, warns that the beach may have a "slippery surface". Cor! I can just about see the case for warning railway passengers that if they run on a marble station concourse, and that concourse is wet, then they may be at risk of slipping.

But we are talking about a beach in Sussex. How dur-brained do you have to be to fail to grasp that pebble beaches are uneven and may be slippery? You might as well post a sign at the gates of the Vatican saying: "Caution: Pope at work". Or I could show you a park bench in London boasting an exclamation mark in a fluorescent yellow triangle and the warning, "May become wet". You don't say! A bench in London may become wet, the public is told. I wonder whether we are doing enough to alert people to this fact, that it is raining in London on average 6 per cent of the time. Perhaps we should have a giant sign at Heathrow saying: "Welcome to Britain – danger of moderate precipitation".

Then there is the deranged yellow sign in a Tooting cemetery warning visitors not to fall into open or sunken graves, and that disintegrating gravestones and other memorials may prove lethal to the bystander. But the all-time triumph of the Royal Society for the Extremely Stupid – the sign that clinched it for them at this year's awards – was a big road sign that went up in Swansea. The English version said that this was a residential area and there was no entry for heavy goods vehicles. But it was the Welsh translation that represented a masterpiece of Extremely Stupid lobbying. This read: "Nid wyf yn y swyddfa ar hyn o bryd. Anfonwch unrhyw waith i'w gyfielthu." It was a few months before someone had the nerve to point out that this gnomic message meant: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated."

In that magnificent story – of how Swansea council managed to put up a Welsh out-of-office autoreply, in the belief that it was something to do with heavy goods vehicles – there is much to be learnt about modern Britain. But I single out that incident today because it so perfectly illustrates the unthinking way in which we erect street furniture. We pollute our landscape with signs and clutter of all kind, when they may have nil semiotic value and do nothing for "elf and safety".

People often ask me why there are so many traffic lights, and why they seem to spend such an unconscionable time on red. The answer is that there has indeed been a huge expansion of traffic lights in the past 10 years, and each one generally represents the culmination of some campaign.

Typically, there will have been an accident, and local campaigners will get together with families of the victims to demand a solution. In these circumstances, it is very difficult for local politicians to resist. On the contrary, the overwhelming temptation will be to "do something". And though a plausible case can be made for each intervention, the cumulative effect can be counterproductive.

Again, we have been going through a long period in which lobbyists have demanded that pedestrians be segregated from the streets with big steel railings; and though this may seem sensible in some ways, the railings produce perverse results. They add greatly to the hassle of getting around on foot. They make the streets less permeable to pedestrians – and by doing their bit to discourage walking, they may even be encouraging a fatal rise in obesity.

In any case, they are certainly a serious health hazard for cyclists, who are in danger of being crushed or scraped against them by vehicles. The same point can be made about some of the forest of black-poled signs that we allow to sprout in our paths, overloading us with non‑information and creating a new collision risk to those who use the streets.

Of course, there is a balance to be struck, and the interests of the blind must be protected; but people are increasingly frustrated with pointless street clutter, and are ready to go back to common sense. That is why many London boroughs are now actively looking at removing traffic lights, and that is why we in City Hall are pursuing urban-realm projects to end the bossing and restore freedom of movement.

In the meantime, if you have any more examples of the work of the Royal Society for the Extremely Stupid, I am all ears.


Britain in battle for its soul, says Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen

Britain is facing a “battle for the soul of the nation”, an archbishop warned yesterday at the inaugural meeting of a group that threatens to split the Church of England. The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, called for a spiritual renewal of Church and State in his keynote speech to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in London. Dr Jensen, arguably the most powerful evangelical in the Anglican Communion and a driving force behind the conservative revival, said: “In this country, the Christian foundations have been shaken. In this and the next generation there will be fought what may amount to the last battle for the soul of the nation.

“It will be an ideological war, a war of ideas. But great issues will hang upon the outcome: the fate of a culture and the eternal fate of souls.” He warned: “The culture of the West has adopted and promulgated anti-Christian belief and practice.

“It confronts every Christian with the choice of submission or harassment. It pretends to be the true heir of the Christian faith, and that the entire structure of Christian thought can disappear into the receding past. The conflict is over the authority of Jesus Christ. The fact that sexual ethics is where the contest is sharpest should not divert us from this basic truth.”

Members of the fellowship said their agenda was to reform the Church of England from within and to bring the increasingly liberal Anglicans in the West back to their biblical Protestant roots. They are opposed to blessing gay civil partnerships, ordaining gay clergy and, in particular, the ordination of women bishops.

Many Anglicans believe the fellowship’s agenda is backward-looking and would alienate moderate believers. Delegates meeting in Westminster Central Hall took comfort from messages of support sent by the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. In her letter, the Queen sent “good wishes to all concerned for a successful and memorable event”. Dr Williams said: “I shall be glad to hold all of you in my prayers for the occasion.” Even the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, gave his backing to the new group, despite being an advocate of women bishops.

Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner, accused the Queen of “a serious error of judgment”. He said: “It is very alarming to see the Queen endorse a homophobic grouping within the Church of England.”

Bishop Greg Venables, primate of the Southern Cone in South America, told delegates: “Schism is not the point of what is happening. Schism is when you separate over secondary issues. This is about essential theology. That is where the divisions are coming. It is not schism, it is real separation.”

Leaders of the fellowship told The Times that they believed disestablishment was both inevitable and necessary if the Anglican Church was to remain true to its biblical heritage.


Diary of despair of old lady who died in 'zoo' NHS hospital after 'catalogue of blunders by staff'

A horrifying journal of the neglect a great-grandmother suffered in hospital has been published by her family. Betty Dunn, 79, was admitted with a routine stomach problem but died six weeks later after a string of medical errors. During this time her relatives compiled the diary detailing her ordeal in a ward they grimly nicknamed the 'zoo'. The dossier tells how Mrs Dunn was:

* Given medication containing penicillin - despite warnings that she was allergic to it;

* Forced to sleep on a bare mattress;

* Made to wait 40 minutes for a bedpan;

* Treated by staff who could barely speak English;

* Made to eat a food substitute against medical advice.

At one stage, the mother- of-four's children became so desperate that they called the police for help but were told nothing could be done. In a final insult, the news that Mrs Dunn was dying was broken to her daughters in a busy corridor in front of other visitors.

The wartime Land Girl was being treated on a mixed-sex ward divided into bays at Tameside Hospital, in Ashton-under-Lyne, near Manchester. Labour had pledged to scrap this type of patient accommodation.

'The ward where mum was treated was like a zoo, and we called it that afterwards,' said her daughter, Liz Degnen, 49, today. "It was manic and chaotic with people running around like headless chickens. 'It doesn't matter if you're 79, 29, or 109, the way the hospital treated her was disgraceful. Every aspect of her care was just terrible. The staff did their best but there were not enough of them to cope. It's a scandal that hospitals can operate like this in this day and age.'

Mrs Dunn, a former dinner lady from Gamesley, near Glossop in Derbyshire, was admitted to Tameside on January 4 with complications from a stomach bug. 'On the night she was admitted for treatment mum was waving and blowing kisses and saying "See you, love",' said Mrs Degnen, a teaching assistant. 'Yet when we left for a few hours we came back to find her slumped across a bedside trolley. Her eyes were at the back of her head, rolling about.'

Her children responded by keeping a round-the- clock vigil and documenting the care she was given. They noted that one nurse even refused to change a faulty drip because she was about to go off duty. A few days later came the mix-up over the penicillin. 'At this point we were in tears,' one of the sisters wrote in the diary.

'Mum had yet again missed another dose, this was the final straw.' Mrs Degnen said yesterday: 'We didn't feel like they were listening to us. They were making blunder after blunder in our face. 'We could see there were other patients not being cared for. We tried to communicate with the staff but some of them couldn't even speak English'

Mrs Dunn's condition appeared to stabilise but on January 21 her family were told she had contracted C. diff. They had nursed her themselves without being offered protective gloves or aprons to guard against such infections. She recovered sufficiently however to be transferred to a local hospital only to deteriorate again and be moved back to Tameside. Five days later she died from complications caused by the hospital bug.

The hospital insists doctors were right to prescribe antibiotics containing penicillin as it was felt that the benefits would outweigh any minor side-effects. A spokesman said: 'We acknowledged and apologised for the shortcomings in Mrs Dunn's care. We would reiterate the apology here.' Staff have been sent for retraining or are having their performance monitored.

In 2006, a coroner condemned the hospital after four elderly patients died in agony following what he called 'despicable and absolutely chaotic' treatment.


British man died of heart attack while cowardly paramedic stood outside and conducted a "risk assessment"

An open door frightened him!

A grandfather died of a heart attack while an emergency paramedic stood outside his home for 16 minutes, making a risk assessment. The family of Roy Adams, 60, claimed yesterday that he might have survived if the paramedic had entered immediately. London Ambulance Service said that it had begun an investigation into the circumstances of the delay.

Mr Adams, a chauffeur for the Metropolitan Police, dialled 999 complaining of breathing problems and chest pains just after midnight on June 29. He was told by the operator to leave his front door open so an ambulance crew could get to him quickly.

However, a paramedic who arrived six minutes later and saw the door open feared that the property was being burgled. He stayed on the doorstep carrying out a “risk assessment exercise” before calling police for support. When he entered the property, 16 minutes after arriving, he found Mr Adams in the front room of his home in Morden, South London. Mr Adams was not breathing and was dead when he reached hospital.

His daughter, Sarah Adams, 23, said: “It makes me feel sick to think that the paramedic waited outside for 16 minutes. They thought he was having a heart attack but didn’t go in. He was told to leave the door open, so I can’t understand how it was a surprise for the medic. The delay might have made all the difference. “I don’t understand what health and safety worries meant this man couldn’t help my dad. He was dying.”

Ms Adams said that the family was planning to sue the ambulance service. “No one has apologised to us for what has happened,” she said. “I would at least expect a letter or something like that — but I still want to take them to court.”

A spokesman for London Ambulance Service said that two “single responders” had been sent to the address in cars, an ambulance crew and a duty officer. “The first member of our staff to arrive carried out a full on-scene risk assessment and requested police assistance due to safety concerns,” the spokesman said. “He then took the decision to enter the property alone, while maintaining telephone contact with our control room. “We are looking into the incident and are in the process of contacting Mr Adams’s family to discuss things further.”

Concerns have been raised about the increasing use of solo paramedics as two-person crews were split up before the introduction of new government targets in April last year. Under the new targets, three quarters of the most serious emergencies have to be met within eight minutes of a 999 call being answered.

Ben Bradshaw, then a junior health minister, denied in December 2007 that “single responders” would put patients at risk. He said they could help to free resources and that emergency calls would be responded to more quickly.

Miss Adams added: “Why would you stand outside carrying out this risk assessment when you know an old man is inside with a serious medical emergency? My dad had been instructed to put the doors on the latch by the operator. Vital minutes were wasted. He might well have survived if the medic had gone in and treated him as soon as he arrived.”

The ambulance service spokesman described the risk assessment as a “mental checklist” which included considering the safety of the scene, types of risk and whether extra help or equipment was required. “We have a duty of care to treat patients but we also have to look after our staff,” he said. “In this case the medic conducted the assessment, had safety concerns and decided to call for back-up.”


Vegetarian diet could cut risk of cancer by 45 per cent

And pigs could fly. More guesswork based on just a statistical association. It could be (for instance) that it is mainly fussy middle class people who are the vegetarians and middle class people are healthier anyhow. Or maybe vegetarians live more cautious and hence safer lives, thus exposing themselves to fewer dangerous substances etc. Speculation could go on and on but what's the point? NO causative inferences have been established and none are possible from evidence such as this

Eating a vegetarian diet can almost halve the risk of developing cancer, research suggests. A study of more than 61,000 individuals aged between 20 and 89 found those who did not eat meat reduced overall incidence of the disease by 12 per cent. But the most striking difference was in cancers of the blood, including leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma with 45 per cent fewer cases among the vegetarians. Tumours of the stomach and bladder were also significantly less frequent in this group.

Professor Tim Key, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, said: 'Over a lifetime about one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer. So if 33 people in every hundred get cancer this would come down to about 29 with everyone following a vegetarian diet, which is 12 per cent lower.' However, Mr Key said the findings were not yet strong enough to advise the public to make dramatic changes to the way they eat as long as they are following an 'average balanced diet'.

Although it is widely recommended we eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day to reduce their risk of cancer and other diseases, there is little evidence looking specifically at a vegetarian diet.

Mr Key, whose findings are published in the British Journal of Cancer, added: 'More research is needed to substantiate these results and to look for reasons for the differences.' His team followed the participants, just over half of whom were meat eaters, for more than 12 years during which time 3,350 were diagnosed with cancer. They looked at the rates of cancer among the vegetarians, and then compared them with those of the meat eaters.

Mr Key said: 'Our study looking at cancer risk in vegetarians found the likelihood of people developing some cancers is lower among vegetarians than among people who eat meat. 'In terms of what explains this we have to look at what other research is going on. For stomach cancer there is already quite a lot of evidence that high intake of food such as processed meat may increase risk. 'Obviously, vegetarians who are not eating meat would not have that risk factor. It could be something about being a vegetarian that is protective, or alternatively it could be something about meat actually increasing the risk.'

Su Taylor, of the Vegetarian Society, said: 'This latest research adds to a growing body of evidence that vegetarians are less likely to get cancer. 'It could be they are simply more likely to stick to the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, thereby eating more roughage, or it could be more complicated than this.'


Coverup of bullying at a British government grade school

Dinner lady faces dismissal for telling parents about attack on daughter

A dinner lady is facing the sack for breaching “pupil confidentiality” after she blew the whistle on school bullies. Chloe David, seven, was tied up and whipped with a skipping rope by fellow pupils at Great Tey Primary School in Essex. Her parents, Scott and Claire David, received a letter from the school which said only that Chloe had been hurt by some other children. It did not mention that she had been tied up.

Carol Hill, who serves food at the school, told Mr and Mrs David the full story of their daughter’s ordeal. “She had eight knots around her wrists and had been whipped across the legs with a skipping rope,” she said. “I took her into the school, along with the four boys who had been seen with her. Two admitted it,” she told the Colchester Gazette.

But Mrs Hill, 60, has now been suspended while the school investigates if she is guilty of gross misconduct for discussing a pupil outside of school. Mrs Hill saw Chloe’s mother shortly after the incident. “As I was talking to her I said I was really sorry about what had happened and then it became clear she did not know the whole story. “I had to tell her because she then realised there was more to it.”

Mrs David said she was angry she had not been invited to school to discuss what had happened, especially as the parents of those accused had been called in for a meeting. “The headteacher had written a note saying Chloe had been hurt by some other children and she was sure she would tell me all about it, but I should have been told the full story,” Mrs David said.

Chloe and her brother Cameron, five, have been taken out of the school by her parents. “I could not send her back, as I can only think about her being tied up,” Mrs David said. Her husband has informed police about the incident.

The school says that Mrs Hill should not have discussed a pupil outside school. Debbie Crabb, headteacher at the school, confirmed that an incident took place during the school lunchtime. “The matter is being dealt with internally in accordance with our behavioural policy and all the relevant parties have been informed. “It would not be appropriate to discuss this in any further detail.”


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