Public Services News Bulletin w/c March 5, 2007
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One reason used to justify mass immigration is that without
immigrants our health sector would collapse but,at the
same time,it's very hard for British graduate doctors
to find a training post.It's clear that those blunders
are part of a well devised long term strategy aimed to
disincentive British students from enrolling in medical
courses so that there will always be a strong incentive
to justify mass immigration and a good reason to convince
a reluctant electorate to support it.
The British Medical Association has warned that low morale
and a lack of confidence among junior doctors is causing
growing numbers to look for jobs abroad. More than half
would consider going overseas if they were unable to find
a training post in the UK, it said. The BMA blamed the
chaos created by a new training system which has left
thousands of junior doctors without jobs as trainee consultants.
Flaws with the government scheme, called Modernising Medical
Careers (MMC), were highlighted by The Daily Telegraph
last week after despairing doctors called it "a shambles".
The BMA said that this, coupled with a below-inflation
pay rise of £650 per year for trainee doctors, was
leading to widespread loss of goodwill in the profession.
Medical royal colleges will meet today to discuss the
crisis. "There is generally a feeling of low morale
and a lack of confidence. The two things are making more
and more of them seriously consider leaving the country,"
a BMA spokesman said yesterday.
"Recent research has shown more than half of junior
doctors would consider going overseas were they unable
to find a training post in the UK, and more than four
in 10 would consider leaving medicine altogether."
Concerns have centred on problems with the website through
which doctors now have to apply for consultant training
jobs, which has been blighted by technical problems.The
Daily Telegraph has been inundated with letters and emails
from doctors in despair over the issue. One said he has
been forced to look for a job abroad after he was offered
just one interview in the UK. "The central computer
system crashed and repeatedly lost my data," he said.
"Application forms arrived on consultants' desks
late and were apparently not marked properly. "I
and many thousands of colleagues are distressed and feel
rejected by a system to which we have committed a great
deal. "In the meantime I shall return to applying
to jobs in New Zealand and Singapore just in case - potentially
taking my £250,000 of training with me." Another
doctor said she was "in despair" after she failed
to secure a single interview, when part of the online
application she submitted was translated into unreadable
nonsense. The BMA has written to the Health Secretary,
Patricia Hewitt, calling on her to delay the interview
MUM-of-two Janet Clark sold her home to put herself through
university after being told the NHS was "crying out
for nurses". Three years on, after qualifying as
a children's specialist, she has been told it might all
have been a waste of time and money. Janet is among the
dozens of newly qualified nurses in Leeds who cannot get
a job because of cost-cutting measures. Janet, from Halton,
Leeds, said: "I was already working in the NHS in
admin but I had always wanted to be a nurse, right from
volunteering at Seacroft Hospital at the age of 14. "I
called NHS Careers to see if there was any point in applying
to become a nurse. They told me that a person with my
life skills would be hugely valuable to the NHS. They
said I would be guaranteed a job those were their exact
words. "To have given up my job, to have sold my
house and to have worked incredibly hard for three years,
at huge personal expense, then to be told it was all a
waste of time â€ it's heartbreaking."
Around 98 nurses including Janet qualified in January
from Leeds University. Around £30,000 worth of taxpayers'
money was spent training each of them, working out at
almost £3m. The January group is not alone, however.
Nurses not due to qualify until March and August have
been told not to expect jobs in the NHS either. In total,
more than 200 nurses are expected to be affected this
year, with many saying they are being forced into jobs
outside of health care. Others are playing a waiting game,
relying on their families for support until work comes
up. However, they cannot wait for ever. Registration rules
mean that unless nurses complete additional on-the-job
training, a preceptorship in their first year after qualification,
they will not legally be entitled to work in the future.
Former office worker Beth Hall, 27, from Horsforth, Leeds,
spent three retraining as a nurse and also qualified in
January. The mum-of-one said: "I know that no one
has a right to a job when they leave university. But just
up until two years or even 18 months ago we were told
that there was a nursing crisis. The NHS couldn't wait
for us to qualify. "It would be more understandable
if you knew there were lots and lots of nurses. But every
ward I have been on has been understaffed. "It's
just so demoralising. It's desperate. We're just hoping
that things will change soon. "One of the worst parts
is that nursing training doesn't qualify you for anything
else. It's entirely vocational, not like a degree course
which you could apply to several different careers."
Mother-of-three June Staniforth, from Cookridge, Leeds,
spent five years training to be a children's nurse, completing
foundation courses at Thomas Danby College before joining
the diploma course at Leeds University. Ironically, she
gave up a job as a healthcare assistant on a children's
ward to train as a nurse. Now, she could not get her job
back even if she wanted it because qualified nurses with
years of experience are having to vie for lower-paid jobs.
June, 42, said: "I really feel that I shouldn't have
bothered. It has taken me five years to get to this point
and for what? "My only hope is that come April, the
recruitment bans will be lifted a bit and we will have
a chance. Other than that I don't know what I'm going
to do, but I will have to look for a full-time job elsewhere."
Nicola Maher feels her nursing career could be written
off already at the age of 21. Nicola, from Shadwell, Leeds,
won a place on the children's nursing diploma at Leeds
University after completing her A levels. But despite
qualifying in January she has failed to find a job in
nursing. Instead she is working as a pharmacy assistant,
a job she is hugely over-qualified for. She said: "I
needed financial help from my parents to get through the
course so I didn't have the same problems as some people.
But my family were really shocked when I told them there
would be no jobs for me. At first I think they just didn't
believe me, because like everyone they had seen all the
headlines about a nursing crisis. "You see all this
money going into the NHS, but where is it being spent?
It's certainly not on the wards which are still massively
understaffed." Beth added: "We don't blame Leeds
hospitals they and their staff have been very good to
us and have given us the best training we could have hoped
for. "In fact, we would love to work for them. But
the pressure being put on them to save money just seems
to be unbearable." Another nurse, who didn't want
to be named, said she was due to graduate in March. Only
one out of 25 in her group had a job lined up. She has
applied for more than 50 NHS posts, sent her CV to seven
hospitals, two hospices and six nursing homes. The one
job she was interviewed for went to a nurse with more
experience. She added: "They are desperate for us
to work on the wards in Leeds and I would love to go and
work there in April. Despite poor morale among staff,
it is a job I love."
Hospitals in County Durham where newly qualified nurses
have also struggled to find work â€ have
set up a special scheme to allow nurses to gain their
preceptorship. But bosses there have come under fire for
paying the graduates just £480 a month for the extended
period. Janet, Beth, June and Nicola, however, say they
would jump at the chance to work for the same amount in
Leeds. Beth said: "The best we can hope for, if jobs
don't suddenly become available, is that we can get on
to a preceptorship scheme, so at least we have our full
nursing training behind us." Leeds Teaching Hospitals
NHS Trust which runs Leeds General Infirmary and St James's
Hospital is grappling with predicted debts of £7.7m
this year alone. To cut costs it is enforcing a recruitment
freeze, except in cases where wards become dangerously
understaffed. Some nurses have argued that is already
happening. Nationally, the Royal College of Nurses estimates
that around 18,000 nursing posts have been lost to the
NHS because of cost cutting. A National Day of Action
over the state of the NHS is being staged on Saturday
by 16 health service unions and the TUC. A rally will
take place at Leeds Cathedral Hall on Great George Street,
Leeds, at 11am. There will also be mass leafleting from
noon in Millennium Square and outside the City Art Gallery
on the Headrow.
Congestion charge has always been a way to increase taxation
rather then speeding up traffic and it's far from clear
if such improvement did really happen. Actually measures
like road restrictions and traffic humps may have worsened
If congestion fees ever come to the city of Toronto, it
won't be a pretty sight. "There will be headlights
shining out of my butt before we ever see congestion charges
in Toronto," Councillor Brian Ashton told the Toronto
Star. Ashton, who heads city council's planning and growth
management committee, recently spent three days in London,
England, where the city has imposed heavy fees on drivers
entering the central city. Ashton, a member of the newly
created Greater Toronto Transportation Authority, said
in an interview last week the agency would be foolish
not to consider the same kind of congestion fees for Toronto.
But after checking the situation firsthand, he said he
doesn't think the program would work in Toronto. Ashton
(Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest), said London brought
in the fees now about $20 per vehicle to
clear up traffic snarls downtown and not as a tool to
encourage public transit and thus battle climate change,
which is what many supporters in Toronto have cited as
a reason to look at the idea. "In London, they had
so much congestion that buses and taxis and even emergency
vehicles in the centre of the city couldn't move."
Millions of consumers will not have been surprised when
water regulator Ofwat confirmed on Thursday that average
domestic bills would rise this year by more than twice
the rate of inflation. Letters telling householders of
their increases were already landing on doormats. The
water industry collectively made about £3bn last
year, and they didn't do that by delaying sending out
bills. Nor, say consumer groups, did they make that sort
of money by meeting promised improvements in services
and infrastructure. This year's rise in bills, which increase
a typical household charge by £20 to £312,
come on top of double-digit rises last year. The prices
were agreed as part of Ofwat's five-yearly review for
2004-2009, a settlement that many critics warned at the
time was too soft. Ofwat set the cost of capital, the
rate of return that water companies could make, at 5.1pc.
This was more than many other regulated sectors, especially
energy. "In terms of the price review, you do have
to ask questions about whether Ofwat was too generous
last time around," said an official at the Consumer
Council for Water yesterday. After Ofwat's price review,
shares in water companies soared and the sector became
alive with takeover speculation as investors identified
the industry as a secure and low-risk revenue stream for
the next few years. Indeed water companies were awash
with so much cash that some paid special dividends. In
fairness, some others paid customer rebates, but that
just served to heighten concern that Ofwat had somehow
got its numbers wrong.
"The water companies are demonstrably not doing what
they should be doing, in that they have invested a lot
less in the infrastructure than Ofwat actually allowed,"
said the Water Council official. "They haven't actually
been doing what they should have done in return for the
money that customers have provided," he added. In
the financial year 2005-06 water companies were meant
to have invested £4.3bn under the Ofwat settlement,
but the actual figure is only £3.4bn. Some of the
investment delay was unavoidable. For example, Thames
Water's planned spending for that year included finance
for a desalination plant at Beckton, in the Thames Estuary.
But planning permission has still not been given. In other
areas, though, companies have dragged their feet. Ofwat
had to force Thames, which is raising bills 6pc, to do
extra work to meet leakage repair targets, and Severn
Trent (up 5.7pc) and Southern (6.3pc) were fined for failures
in customer service standards. "We're not in the
business of allowing big profits," said Ofwat's chairman,
Philip Fletcher, last November. And yet, water companies
are doing just that. In December, Pennon reported first-half,
pre-tax profits up 17pc. This was after it spent £15m
giving £20 rebates to each of its customers, a fraction
of the £200m it paid in dividends to shareholders.
Meanwhile, Northumbrian Water saw interim profits rise
17pc. The companies' financial performance meant the value
of shares in quoted water firms rose by a third last year,
and are up about 22pc so far this year.
Last year Thames, which as Britain's biggest offender
for leaking pipes faces a huge repair bill, was nevertheless
sold to a consortium led by Australia's Macquarie Bank
for £8bn, making a £300m profit for German
owner RWE. But it is estimated that RWE had taken more
than £1bn in dividends during its ownership of Thames.
Also last year, Osprey Acquisitions, an international
consortium, paid £2.2bn for AWG, the owner of Anglian
Water (price rise: 8.8pc). The £15.55p-a-share deal
was about a 26pc premium to the estimated value of AWG's
asset base. Ofwat will be watching how those water companies
that have dragged their heels over investment plans catch
up on their spending during the remaining two to three
years of the current price settlement. But some City experts
think the series of mergers and acquisitions in the water
industry in recent years has made it more difficult for
the regulator to assess companies' financial strength
and spending commitments. Other people think it is time
to put the "public" back into public utility.
They point to the mutual ownership structure at Welsh
Water, one of the best performing water companies in Europe.
The Government, however, has shown no desire to go down
Another alternative is for Ofwat to use more effectively
the extra powers it was given under the 2003 Water Act
to punish companies for under-performance. It has been
suggested that, at the very least, Ofwat should hold an
interim price review. But this seems highly unlikely.
Ofwat's Philip Fletcher said on November 1: "We continue
to believe the cost of capital was appropriate at the
time we set the price limits and we have no intention
of changing it before the next review." Ofwat says
that if by the end of the current price review the settlement
was deemed to have been on the generous side, then the
subsequent price review will include any necessary adjustments.
And yet, consumers should prepare for the worst. Fletcher
also said in November that preliminary analysis suggested
that bills will have to rise still further in the next
price review to meet infrastructure spending. If the analysis
proves accurate "then we would see significant increases
in bills in 2010. In some cases, significantly big bills",
Fletcher said. "But we are not predicting bill increases."
Water companies themselves are starting to get fed up
by the criticism. Colin Skellett, chairman of Wessex Water
(price rise: 9.4pc) said: "The sole reason for the
price increases is to pay for the investment programmes.
At the time of the price review we submitted a business
plan which said we should limit the price increases to
2pc per annum above the rate of inflation, and phase the
investment programme accordingly. But we didn't win on
that, so we were told the investment programme had to
be done more quickly. "As long as there are these
large investment programmes, particularly the requirements
coming out of Europe for higher and higher [environmental]
standards, bills will continue to rise." It was plain
wrong to suggest there is any evidence that price rises
are being driven by payments to investors, he maintains.
"Prices are driven by the investment programme. The
cost of capital that was set was a reasonable cost of
capital at the time it was set," Mr Skellett said.
Critics might respond: even if it was reasonable then,
it certainly isn't now.
We have always been in favour of more grammar schools
and more selection and this study proves we are right.
Grammar schools dominate league tables for 14-year-olds
published today. The continued success of the selective
grammars comes as more than a million parents across the
country prepare to hear today which primary or secondary
school their child has got into this September. It is
feared thousands could be left without their first choice
as competition for places at the best schools reaches
fever pitch. Yesterday it emerged that parents in Brighton
will have to compete in a lottery next year to get their
children into some of the city's most popular comprehensives.
The Labour-run council is the first in the country to
use an "electronic ballot" when schools are
over-subscribed. Ministers said other schools nationwide
should consider using the same tactics. But today's league
tables are sure to fuel the popularity of the country's
remaining grammar schools, which continue to select pupils
using the traditional 11+. Figures show that pupils make
faster progress between the age of 11 and 14 at grammars
than any other schools in England. So-called Key Stage
3 results show that 81 of the top 100 schools rated using
the "valued added measure" are grammars. It
is a blow for the Government which hoped the new style
tables would put comprehensive schools on an equal footing.
Although grammars are heavily over-subscribed, Jim Knight,
the schools minister, said last night that they harmed
those children left behind.