Sunday, 4 October 2015

Commons Debate on "No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt" petition

An epetition calling for a vote of No-confidence in Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was debated in Parliament on 14th September.

The governments response can be read here

Video of the debate can be seen here and the Hansard record here

Below are some extracts (from the Hansard record) that particularly caught BFTF's attention. Incidentally, the Handsard record, and indeed the official response, are more informative than much of the fuss and bluster reporting of the issue in the mainstream media.


Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab):
“…the Petitions Committee does not have the power to initiate a vote of no confidence, and so we decided that the debate should be on the issue underlying the petition, which was the contracts and conditions of NHS staff.”

"NHS staff have been badly treated by this Government. Since 2010 pay increases have been deliberately kept low and last year we saw some staff being told that they could not have even a 1% increase if they were due to get an increment as well. …Indeed, in the previous Parliament the NHS was told to make £20 billion of what the Government call efficiency savings but the rest of us call cuts. That is due to rise to £30 billion by the end of this Parliament…Ministers criticise spending on agency staff, but the Government’s first act on coming into office in 2010 was to cut nurse training places by over 3,000 a year."

Maria Caulfield (Lewes) (Con):
"I declare an interest as a former NHS nurse—in fact, I still work as a nurse…one of the single biggest factors in demoralising nurses and leading many skilled nurses to leave the practice was the last Labour Government’s change to the skill mix. That was crucial, because we were forced to cut our budgets, particularly on the wards, and junior nurses were left in charge of wards, instead of experienced senior staff nurses and sisters..."

Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab):
"I am afraid that I do not agree with the hon. Lady. What has demoralised most of the nurses I see is the cuts they have to cope with day in, day out, as well as the shortage of sometimes even basic equipment … "

"What, exactly, is the Secretary of State trying to do? If he is trying to bring about a seven-day fully elective service, he needs to say so. As far as I am aware, no major health system in the world has managed to do that. If he is not trying to do that, he needs to tell us clearly—perhaps the Minister will do so when he winds up—which services he thinks should operate at the weekend."

"The Secretary of State also needs to recognise that, to have the service he proposes, he needs not only more doctors, consultants and nurses on the wards, but back-up staff. Doctors operate by leading teams. If they do not have the ancillary staff—the people to do the MRI scans, the radiology and the lab tests—they cannot operate properly. We need to hear how the Secretary of State will implement his proposals. Will he recruit more staff, or will he worsen the terms and conditions of staff who are already not well paid, to introduce weekend working?...As an example, if an operating theatre does not have a full complement of staff, there is no one to send out with the patient who is in recovery, and a doctor must go with them. That slows the turnaround time for theatres, and staff are told that their turnaround time is not good enough..."


"If the Minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), will stop chuntering from behind the Minister, I will wind up my remarks."

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con):
"It may help the House if I comment quickly on the background. I thank Professor Freemantle and his team for their excellent updating of the data following the last analysis of data in 2009-10. He and his colleagues carried out the exercise again based on data from 2013-14, and it may help if I put some of that in context. What he shows is that 1.8% of NHS patients will die within 30 days of admission. It is important that we look not only at the data relating to what happens within a few days, which he has also analysed, but at the longer-term data. He shows a very real effect: if someone is admitted to hospital on a Friday, there is a 2% increase in the risk that they will die within 30 days; if they are admitted on a Saturday, the increase is 10%; if they are admitted on a Sunday, the increase is 15%; and if they are admitted on a Monday, the increase is 5%. Those are relative, not absolute, statistics and are on a background rate of 1.8%, so it is important that we do not alarm people unduly with those data. However, they mean, very importantly, that around 11,000 more people die if they are admitted between a Friday and a Monday, relative to what we would expect had they been admitted on a Wednesday."

"That is extremely important, and the Secretary of State is absolutely right to take that very seriously, but we need to look at it in its wider context. Is it simply because a different group of people are being admitted in the middle of the week than are being admitted at weekends? Is it because they are a sicker group of people? Both of those are true, which is why it was important that Professor Freemantle made adjustments for those kinds of data. He showed that even if we take account of the fact that there genuinely are sicker people coming into our hospitals at the weekend, the effect was still present, but it was reduced. There was a 7% increase on a Saturday and a 10% increase on a Sunday, so it was still important. As for people admitted to hospital for routine procedures, it was shown that the nearer it gets to the weekend, the more their chances of mortality increase."

"To go back to my earlier point, the Secretary of State is absolutely right to take this issue seriously. This is not just an effect in Britain; it is observed internationally, but it matters. Yes, those people are sicker, and yes, a different group of people is coming in, but there is also the issue of what we should do about it. We must not give the impression that all those 11,000 deaths are preventable. We have to be very careful not to rush into action that leads to a levelling down, rather than a levelling up. We want to bring the data up as far as we can, but when hospitals have done a deep analysis of the deaths that have occurred within 30 days of people being admitted at weekends, it is sometimes very difficult to say what could have happened differently."

"We need to look at this issue, but it is not just about consultant presence. Senior supervision at weekends is undoubtedly part of it and is very important, but other issues are at stake. Is there access to diagnostic tests? We need to look beyond this being just about consultants; it is about nursing staff, too. We have to be careful not to shift resources into trying to sort out one part of the issue—consultant presence—because if that means a continuation of a worrying trend of shifting resources out of primary care, we could inadvertently end up with a sicker group of people coming into hospitals at weekends. In other words, we have to be very careful about the balance and potential unintended consequences of what we do."

"However, there is another aspect, which is more difficult. When resources are very restricted, should we prioritise access to primary care out of hours for people who would prefer to be seen at the weekend than mid-week…. I speak as someone who, before I came to this House, was a clinician in rural Dartmoor in a two whole-time-equivalent practice. It was a very rural setting, and if we were to try to provide an 8-till-8 service on Saturdays and Sundays for routine GP appointments—if we were, as this is sometimes presented to the public, to enable people to see their doctor at any time—the cost would be enormous...I would like the Secretary of State to be very clear about what he means by a seven-day NHS when it comes to primary care, and about how we will make those fair funding decisions and divide the cake, so that we get the very best for people. "

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab):
Many speeches by the Secretary of State contain valuable, intelligent thoughts about how to improve the health service...The one question is a simple one. If we are to increase the services at weekends, where will the staff come from? Are we suddenly going to magic up special weekend surgeons? If we improve the service at weekends, we have to reduce the service in the week. Perhaps the Minister can explain that to us."

Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con):
"The Royal College of Surgeons strongly supports seven-day care. It has said that one reason why outcomes are worse at weekends is that patients are less likely to be seen by the right mix of junior and senior staff; that such patients experience reduced access to diagnostics; and that earlier senior consultant involvement is crucial. Research from the NHS National Health Research Institute shows that 3.6 more specialists attend acutely ill patients on Wednesdays than on Sundays. More senior doctors need to be available at weekends—not just on call, as many consultants are at the moment, but present in hospitals."

Paul Scully (Sutton and Cheam) (Con):
"We also have a manifesto commitment to deliver. We talked in our manifesto about having a seven-day NHS, and we have been elected as a Conservative Government, so it is important that we deliver our promises...The 2003 consultant contract made the seven-day move a lot more expensive to deliver, so we need to change things... Removing the opt-out will leave a new limit of working a maximum of 13 weeks in a year—one in four weekends—which still gives plenty of opportunity for family life and for flexibility in rotas, while delivering better patient outcomes."

"I have talked about convenience, and GP services cannot be boiled down to some sort of retail operation such as late-night shopping or Sunday opening. None the less, we need flexibility. The 2004 GP contract led 90% of GPs to stop providing out-of-hours care at night and at the weekend. That contract, in many cases, helped to break the personal link between patients and those responsible for their care, which has been especially hard on elderly people. Caving in to the unions at that point effectively restricted GP services to a five-day service, which created extra pressure on A&E."

Maria Caulfield (Lewes) (Con):
"I have been a nurse for more than 20 years. I have worked in the community on weekends, when patients without access to a GP have needed painkillers or an urgent dressing and it is difficult to get hold of a doctor...We are not asking staff to work more hours—we have been very clear—but we are asking staff to work differently. I do not think that there is anything wrong with that if it provides a better service for the patient and takes the pressure off those front-line staff who are without radiology support, laboratory support and senior cover support."

Will Quince (Colchester) (Con):
"I am passionate about our NHS, because it has always been there for me and my family when we needed it... I cannot fault the care and compassion that the NHS gave me and my family, and I will never forget that. Yet, I am bombarded with criticism that, as I am a Conservative, I must somehow care less about the NHS than the Labour party does. The scaremongering and empty rhetoric is patronising and insulting. It has to stop."

Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP):
"I declare an interest: I am a doctor and member of the British Medical Association, and I still work in the hospital."

"We are talking about data showing that people admitted at the weekend are more likely to die within 30 days that those admitted on weekdays. It is important to listen to what Bruce Keogh said, which is that it would be misleading to assume that all of those deaths could be prevented. On a Saturday, there are 25% more people in the most ill category and on a Sunday there are 35% more people in that category."

"There are a few myths going around, including the idea that the opt-out clause is a major barrier. The opt-out clause that was cited was for routine work. Consultants do not get to opt out of emergency work at night or at weekends if they work in an acute service. "

"research by Bray looked at 103 stroke units, including units where there was seven-day consultant review through the day, and compared them. There was absolutely no difference between that seven-day service and units where there was a routine ward round and no ward rounds at the weekend. What made a significant difference was the ratio of fully trained registered nurses to patients. When that ratio was halved, so that there were twice as many nurses, the mortality was reduced by a third."

"The money would be the easiest bit because we do not have the extra staff 5,000 extra GPs and yet the British Medical Association shows that we will lose 10,000 GPs in the next five years. That means that we would need 15,000 GPs, and we simply cannot produce that number."

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab):
"It is no good for Government Back Benchers to laud the ring fence for the NHS budget when, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North, social care budgets have been ransacked. I should not need to remind Government Members, but the fact is that social care cuts are NHS cuts because of the pressure that they cause throughout the health system. "

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ben Gummer):
"I am glad that we have these petitions, although perhaps a little less glad that this particular petition contains such stridency of language…Members may not be surprised to hear that I have read—several times, as it happens—the Secretary of State’s speech on this matter. I have also seen the coverage on it, and there is dissonance between the two. At no point did he attack NHS staff or suggest that they are not working in conditions that are often heroic, and at no point did he suggest that we have ended up at this impasse because of a wilful wish on the part of NHS staff not to work at weekends. What was construed from that speech has unfortunately meant that our debate has been about a number of words and phrases that were not used, intended or even suggested."

"I want to run through in detail where NHS England’s thinking comes from and why the Government have decided to act as they have. As the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire knows, there have been various academic papers from the United States and some from the United Kingdom on differential mortality, and they contain many of the questions and answers that have been alluded to today."

"That assortment of academic research, together with the wide anecdotal evidence from people who have experienced poor care in good hospitals, either for themselves or for their relatives, led NHS England to conduct the Seven Days a Week forum in 2013, which gathered together clinicians to look at the challenge. It produced a clear strategy for dealing with differences in care quality at weekends, compared with the week, and set out 10 clinical standards that it believes hospitals must meet to eradicate the difference between weekday and weekend working. Many hospitals are implementing the 10 clinical standards on a variable basis during weekdays, so the work done for weekends was helpful in determining a standard clinical approach for maximising the ability to reduce avoidable deaths for weekend and weekday admittances. The product of that forum was taken forward by NHS England and incorporated into its five-year forward view, in which the NHS, separately from the Government, made a commitment to seven-day services. It did so not because of the benefits to patients—as my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully) said, that is a secondary reason for pursuing the agenda—but purely because of the need to reduce excess mortality where possible."

This is a challenge on the scale of infections in hospitals. It is our duty not only to find out precisely why excess deaths are happening—as the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire correctly said, further work is needed and the data must be understood—but to do what we can as quickly as possible to reduce them where we think they are preventable. That is why NHS England incorporated the seven-day service into its five-year forward view. NHS England asked for an additional £30 billion of spending between 2015 and 2020, of which it said £22 billion can be achieved through efficiencies within the service. It is important to point out to the hon. Member for Warrington North, who made that point, that they are not cuts but genuine efficiencies within the organisation. On top of the £22 billion of internal efficiencies though a better use of IT, to which she alluded, and better job rostering—I will turn to that in a minute—there will need to be an injection of £8 billion to make up the rest of the £30 billion. That package will implement the five-year forward view, which includes seven-day services and many other things of great importance and about which all parties agree, such as shifting resources from providers to primary care, social care and the community sector."

"I turn to the changes in the contracts, which are at the heart of the … The contract terms are based on a review by the doctors’ and dentists’ pay review body, which identified a number of areas where contract reform is needed, including the systems of opt-out and on call...It is important to point out, as several of my hon. Friends have done, that we are talking about ensuring that, at most, consultants work no more than one weekend in every four. That is the basis on which they will be contracted to work in a seven-day NHS. We are not talking about seven days at a time, but about shift rotas and patterns…We are recruiting close to record numbers of nurses, doctors and consultants, and we are doing so in many of the diagnostic specialties as well."

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Friday, 2 October 2015


Various items looking at PREVENT .


July 2015
Sent the following to BFTF's local MP, the PCC and Notts Conservatives
Just wanted to make sure you were aware of two facts regarding the media and "Prevent"

Fact 1 : The work being done by the Prevent team is being hugely undermined by the constant corrosive drip-drip action of biased media reporting, particularly by the likes of the MailOnline (which is one of the worlds biggest on-line news sites, incidentally). This reporting is making it easy for those who are against the Prevent message to say to young Muslims "Look, the media is demonising you every day, you will NEVER be accepted here. All the government wants to do is turn you away from your faith".

An example of the way some sections of the media are working is shown in the link below.

Fact 2 : Although the constant stream of anti-Muslim articles has a very real effect on me and my family (both emotionally and in practical aspects increased hate crime and making it harder for my kids to get a job) the joke of a press regulator, IPSO, requires me to get the support of a "representative organisation" before they will even consider a complaint. This is an outrageous hurdle to put in front of a citizen wishing to hold the media to account and is, I believe, specifically designed to make it difficult for people to challenge the press.

I have two questions:

i) Why has the government allowed the press to get away with having a regulatory process that is designed to prevent people complaining?

ii) When is IPSO going to get fixed so that individuals CAN hold the press to account?

Received the following from the PCC:

"...I agree with the points you make and, with Nottinghamshire Police, work hard to give a positive image for all sections of our community.

Some of the comments in the national press are unhelpful and counterproductive"

Received the following from local MP:

"I share your concerns about the stigmatisation of young Muslims and believe that the Government should be making more of an effort to understand the concerns faced by Muslim communities.

I have written to IPSO's Chief Executive....[and] will write back to you once again once I have received a reply."

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Five Leaves bookshop, Nottingham

For reasons that BFTF can't recall, recently paid a visit to the Five Leaves Bookshop, hidden just off Long Row next to the Council House in Nottingham City Centre.

It's a very interesting, one might say rather left leaning, bookshop. Leaving without buying a couple of books was never really an option once BFTF had crossed over the threshold and was inside the store....

Follow the arrows to get to Five Leaves

Prepare to be amazed

Many, many, interesting books

BFTF was also interested to see that Five Leaves sold products by Zaytoun, a company who sell olive oil and other products grown by Palestinian farmers. Their website describes them thus:
Zaytoun was founded in 2004 to support the resilience and livelihoods of Palestinian farmers under occupation through fairly trading their olive oil. Initially funded by hundreds of customers who put up payment in advance of receiving their oil, Zaytoun quickly established itself as a UK social enterprise. With funding from Triodos Bank the company developed to offer a wide range of Palestinian artisan foods, and supported Palestinian farmers to pioneer the world’s first Fairtrade certified olive oil in 2009, sold through the UK market.

The range continues to grow, and is now available nationwide through independent shops, online, in Oxfam and of course through our very active network of volunteer distributors. We run two trips a year for customers to visit Palestine and learn more about life for a farming family there, and bring producers to the UK once a year for Fairtrade Fortnight.

Celebrating our 10th anniversary in 2014, we remain a successful Community Interest Company supporting the relationship between Palestinian producer communities and a growing network of passionate, discerning customers in the UK and Ireland.

BFTF bought some Zaytoun dates (which were delicious and caramely) and some Zaytoun Olive Oil.

Aside from some books, BFTF also bought
some Zaytoun Olive Oil and Dates

Related Posts:
Commons debate on Gaza 21st July 2014
Enough is enough Gaza and the West Bank
Are you a Type 1 or Type 2 Person
Proof that activism works

Fracking in Nottinghamshire

Responded to the Governments Consultation on Habitat Regulation Assessments (which closes on 29th Sep) with the following comments :

"Regarding block references SK46c, SK47b, SK55, SK56i, SK57c, SK66b, SK66c, SK67a, SK76b [last one in error]
I am very concerned that accidents, borehole case breakages and deviations from best practice during drilling operations at the above block locations will threaten water quality in the Sherwood Sandstone Aquifer.
I am very concerned that the large quantities of water required for drilling operations, and the need for disposal of resulting waste water, will have a significantly adverse environmental impact at the above block locations.
I am very concerned that the large heavy good vehicle traffic associated with drilling operations will have an adverse environmental impact at the above block locations
I see nothing in the Assessment that gives me confidence that the concerns listed above have been adequately addressed"
Maps of the relevant areas are below, showing the overlap between the fracking buffer zones and the buffer zones around conservation areas and other important areas.









Related Content
Nottingham Talk about public attitudes to fracking

Related External Content
Wiki article on UK Shale Gas Production
It all kicked off on Twitter after the talk
Frack-Off campaign group
Nottingham County Council page on Fracking
Royal Society comments on fracking risks
Article by FrackFreeNotts covering many issues
US review of fracking concerns

Nottingham Green Festival 2015

BFTF had a great time at this years Nottingham Green Festival, an event that has a unique vibe and ambiance!

Thanks are indeed due to funders, such as the Veggies Catering Campaign, who were key to making the event happen. A few notes and pictures below....

It was a busy event

Great selection of food, and the BFTF crew were certainly impressed with the vege burgers from the Veggies van. It was interesting to see how many of the food vendors were clearly very passionate about the ingredients they were using, and keen to demonstrate their committment to vegan and vegetarian principles by showcasing the brands available. BFTF had no idea there were so many alternatives to cows milk, for example.

Very busy at the Veggies Catering Campaign van

Interesting stuff from the Veggies Catering Campaign

Nice drink by Whole Earth

Short list of ingredients, apple juice in second place, not sugar.

Delicious dessert from Food Heaven

As might be expected, many campaigning groups had stalls at the event and BFTF had some interesting conversations, although the marine conservation group who had never heard of the MSC label might want to do a bit more research for next time...

Cuban Solidarity Stall - who'd have thunk Notts had such a group?

BFTF finds it really hard to walk buy a second hand book shop, and inevitably ended up making some purchases at the winningly named "Masked booksellers" stall.

Loved the Masked Booksellers!

Lots of dynamic activities and displays too, including Capoeira.

Capoeira, like martial arts, but at 33rpm

Bands were popular...

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Arrest of Ahmed Mohamed

The recent story of Ahmed Mohamed, the bright youngster who took a home made electronic clock to school to show and got arrested on charges of making a hoax bomb, has been widely reported in the media.

To summarise what happened:
i) Ahmed made an electronic clock to impress his engineering teacher
ii) The Engineering teacher told him not to show it to anyone else. Ahmed put the clock in his bag.
iii) Later in the day, the clock beeped in English class and, after the class, Ahmed showed the clock to the English teacher.
iv) The English teacher thought it looked like a bomb and soon Ahmed was in a room with the principle and some Police officers.
v) He was cuffed, arrested and taken into custody - all without being allowed any access to parents or representation.
vi) Ahmed was later released by the Police but was given a three day suspension by the school.

This post aims to highlight a few of the reports that particularly caught BFTF's notice.

What the Local Police Chief said.
The local Police Chief, Larry Boyd, commented in an interview that

"I think it’s hard for folks watching this from the outside, seeing this all link up, seeing this kid — who seems like a tremendously poised, bright, genuine kid — be put through this. To not hear from anyone in officialdom down there that ‘Yeah, we didn’t get this one right.'”

In response to questions asking why Ahmed had been arrested once it was clear that he did not have a bomb, Boyd commented :

“I get that. I understand the concern... the officers pretty quickly determined that they weren’t investigating an explosive device. What their investigation centered around is the law violation of bringing a device into a facility like that that is intended to create a level of alarm. In other words, a hoax bomb — something that is not really a bomb, but is designed and presented in a way that it creates people to be afraid.”

What Sarah Palin said.
A Facebook post by Palin commented that :

"...Ahmed Muhammad, an evidently obstinate-answering student bringing in a homemade "clock" that obviously could be seen by conscientious teachers as a dangerous wired-up bomb-looking contraption (teachers who are told "if you see something, say something!") gets invited to the White House."

"...Yep, believing that's a clock in a school pencil box is like believing Barack Obama is ruling over the most transparent administration in history. Right. That's a clock, and I'm the Queen of England."

Palin also referenced an article on which stated that "...the whole story smells. It stinks of leftist exploitation."

The article also asserts that Ahmed was "passive aggressive", based on a NY Times piece that states:
"We attempted to question the juvenile about what it was and he would simply only say it was a clock. He didn’t offer any explanation as to what it was for, why he created this device, why he brought it to school,” said James McLellan, Irving Police."

The Breibart article also suggests that Ahmed's father was particularly media-savvy, having tried to get elected as President of Sudan and also debated Pastor Terry Jones.

What Pamela Geller said.
The first thing that BFTF noticed about about Pamela Geller's article impressive search for a (Australian) report that allowed Geller to claim that the device was "ticking"

And also the statement "When questioned about what the device was, Mohamed wouldn’t answer" [not true, he told everyone it was a clock]

Also that the Vaultz pencil case the clock was in "is the size of a briefcase" [it isn't, in fact it's much closer to the size of a DVD box Set)

And lastly, how Geller's article then drifts off into talking about ISIS, Honor Killings and "Jihad Killing Sprees" - which, to BFTF, seems like an argument that the answer to "Was Ahmed arrested because he was Muslim?" is "Hell, yes!"

What the Wall Street Journal said.
The WSJ article, interestingly, give a lot of examples from 2001 of ridiculous "zero-tolerance" policies that were being enacted at schools with outcomes such as an 8yr old being put on "in-school suspension" for drawing a picture of a soldier holding a knife. The policies, which are still in place in many areas were borne out of a desperate wish by school officials to make schools safer.

But not safer from the threat of Islamic terrorism, instead they wanted to make schools safe from another Columbine.

What an electronics enthusiast said.
An electronics enthusiast called Anthony argued, quite persuasively, that the clock had not been "made" or "invented" but was instead a 1980's commercial clock that had been disassembled and put in a new case. Not bad for a 14yr old, but not made up from components either.

Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

The death of Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (eldest son on the ruler of Dubai) has been reported in the MailOnline here.

The article describes the late Sheikh, who died from a heart attack aged 33, thus :

"Sheikh Rashid was known for his love of horses and was a keen football fan, supporting Manchester United. A talented sportsman, he also won two gold medals riding in endurance races at the Asian Olympics in 2006. He spent considerable time working with Dubai Cares, a philanthropic organisation which aims to help provide primary education to all children around the world. "