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9 Nov

Read All About It: We’re Always In The Press
Birmingham Children’s Hospital is often in the news.

Apparently so. From today’s Observer ::

Scandal of care at top children’s hospital

Treatment at one of Britain’s leading children’s hospitals is worse than that in the developing world, according to a damning doctors’ report uncovered by The Observer which also reveals how parents are “told lies” to cover up sub-standard care.

In the document, which the head of the Royal College of Surgeons describes as alarming, consultants are scathing about the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Last night MPs called for a full inquiry into the quality of care at the hospital, where children are treated for life-threatening conditions such as liver or kidney failure, neurological problems and chronic heart complaints.

The report was commissioned by the NHS primary care trusts in Birmingham that fund the hospital after senior doctors at the hospital and the neighbouring University Hospital Birmingham, including world-renowned experts in paediatric care, complained that their repeated attempts to raise the alarm had been ignored. The report reveals that:

• Doctors lie to parents about why their child has undergone a major operation because they cannot admit that the hospital lacks the personnel and infrastructure to conduct safer procedures.

• Support for surgeons undertaking kidney transplants is so poor that consultants felt they had received better back-up when performing such procedures on a visit to Lagos, the capital of Nigeria.

• Transplant services for children with serious liver failure are so poor that they constitute “a third-class service [which is] putting patients at risk”.

• Children with neurological problems have been involved in “close calls” – potential threats to their health – because of delays in getting them admitted to the right specialist ward. Nurses who work on the ward are resigning because of dangers to patients.

• Staff who support surgeons during complex operations do not recognise which surgical instrument has been requested, causing delays.

• Doctors no longer report safety risks because “there is no point” as hospital managers do not respond with action.

• Specialist services for very ill children with rare conditions “are being allowed to wither on the vine” because of a lack of resources and poor management.

I would advise that the first step in damage limitation would be to change this unfortunate text on the website. BTW. I checked the PR link, and the only thing I could find was the following note ::

Brilliant New Story Here Soon

Watch this space!


nuclear power, not so fab

13 Aug

The folk promoting the nuclear industry are a misleading bunch of scumbags. Next time you come across a planted news story that evangelises the virtues of nuclear power, think about this ::

Documents seen by Greenpeace show that French company Areva is failing to implement vital safety procedures in the troubled construction of its prototype European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) in Olkiluoto, Finland. As well as being 2-3 years behind schedule, 70 per cent over budget, and experiencing 1,500 construction defects along with a damaging fire, the reactor’s safety cannot be guaranteed.


More over at Greenpeace’s excellent “Nuclear Reaction” blog.

nuclear reaction

30 Jul

Green Peace has set up a new blog, Nuclear Reaction, to call the nuclear-power industry on its massive subsidies, questionable practices, and rampant propaganda. Justin is writing a great deal of the content, so they’ll be no shortage of snarky asides. Recommended.

polls apart

18 Mar


It seems that Ken Livingstone and Porsche can’t agree on which of their polls represents the views of the people of London. I guess this would be a classic example of framed questioning, and another reason why polling is deeply, deeply flawed and is almost meaningless.

Context: Porsche are suing the London authority over plans to increase the city’s congestion charge (to £25-per-day for high-consumption vehicles).

krugman calls giuliani to account

3 Nov

Further to my recent posts on the candidacy of GOP reptile-in-chief, Rudy Giuliani, may I draw your attention to this article by economist Paul Krugman. Krugman catches Giuliani as he peddles some unsubstantiated “facts” about “socialized medicine” (which, unsurprisingly when you consider Giuliani’s penchant for bullshit, are untrue).

And the moneyist of the money quotes?

At one level, what Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Romney are doing here is engaging in time-honored scare tactics. For generations, conservatives have denounced every attempt to ensure that Americans receive needed health care, from Medicare to S-chip, as “socialized medicine.”

Part of the strategy has always involved claiming that health reform is suspect because it’s un-American, and exaggerating health care problems in other countries — usually on the basis of unsubstantiated anecdotes or fraudulent statistics. Opponents of reform also make a practice of lumping all forms of government intervention together, pretending that having the government pay some health care bills is just the same as having the government take over the whole health care system.

But here’s what I don’t understand: Why isn’t Mr. Giuliani’s behavior here considered not just a case of bad policy analysis but a character issue?

labour’s youth

1 Nov

According to The Guardian, Labour is planning to broaden the scope of its 10 eco-camps eco-towns by introducing fitness regimes for the occupants.

The health secretary, Alan Johnson, is convinced that two great challenges facing Britain – climate change and obesity – are linked.

He believes it makes sense that 10 eco towns already being planned by the government should now be built and designed to confront the UK’s obesity crisis, drawing on pioneering schemes already producing results in Australia, France and Finland.

Mr Johnson wants Britain to follow the example of 10 French towns which have focused on young children and seen substantial cuts in obesity. The initiatives in France led to the proportion of overweight boys aged seven to 12 falling from 19% to 10% and in the girls from 10% to 7%.

He is convinced only a comprehensive rather than the current fragmented approach will work.

Did anyone else have an escallating sense of foreboding when they read that? It’s true that excellent town-planning and architecture can enhance the lives of a city’s inhabitants. Clean swimming lakes, piazzas, safe parks and pedestrianised streets can all encourage people to exercise and spend time away from the TV. But doesn’t the words, “Regular weigh-ins for children starting as they leave primary school, including the recording of body mass indexes,” give you the creeps?

Do I really want the government regularly weighing my children and making judgements? Isn’t the government seriously overstepping a boundary of what’s acceptable and what’s not? Labour’s record of manipulating society, through a series of increasingly authoritarian measures, has hardly been a roaring success. What makes them think this time would be different?

I’m all for trying measures that have succeeded elsewhere, and there are many benefits in challenging obesity, but isn’t this just going to another big news story that goes precisely nowhere, yet greatly increases the stranglehold of the government on our lives and our private information?

So what if the French, the Fins and the Aussies have pulled this off? They all have a track record of delivering on projects like this. This government, our Labour one, certainly doesn’t. This project will be expensive, intrusive, and will fail.

a sceptic writes

24 Oct

Is this really true?

Giant garbage patch floating in Pacific
An enormous island of trash twice the size of Texas is floating in the Pacific Ocean somewhere between San Francisco and Hawaii.

Chris Parry with the California Coastal Commission in San Francisco said the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, has been growing a brisk rate since the 1950s, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

The trash stew is 80 percent plastic and weighs more than 3.5 million tons.

“At this point, cleaning it up isn’t an option,” Parry said. “It’s just going to get bigger as our reliance on plastics continues.”


Twice the size of Texas?

(psst! Texas is slightly bigger than France)