Consultations by Skype? The NHS is turning into Dr Google. We should be worried

Last year my 80-year-old grandmother arrived at her doctor’s surgery for a routine checkup only to be presented with a machine to check her own blood pressure in the waiting room. I should have realised then that further moves to get patients taking on more of the work, reducing human interaction in the NHS, would be inevitable. People are expensive and investing in more technology often looks like an alluring and economical alternative.

Earlier this month, Jeremy Hunt presented the NHS Mandate with a promise that health records will go online by 2015 and contacting surgeries online will become easier. But the latest report from the Ministry of Health goes further. The authors of Digital First suggest some face-to-face consultations could be replaced by Skype video calls, test results should be sent by text and nurses be given iPads. They claim such initiatives would lead to £2.9 billion in savings.


UKIP ‘at war’ with the Conservatives

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph)

Michael Fabricant has extended the hand of friendship to Ukip this morning, with a report on the possibility of an electoral pact between the parties which has made the splash of the Independent . His mission could not come at a more necessary time. The relationship between the Conservatives and Ukip has soured dramatically over the weekend, following our story on the Rotherham family split up because the foster parents of migrant children were Ukip members. While Ed Miliband and Michael Gove both attacked the decision over the weekend, Dave has stayed silent, with nothing to suggest that he has reversed his previous position that the party is racist. Nigel Farage has reacted by declaring “war” on the Conservatives, as the Telegraph reports. He also took to Twitter last night to comment on Mr Fabricant’s idea, writing “no deal with the Tories; it’s war”.

No10 and George Osborne are fearful that Ukip is picking up steam and may cause the Tories all manner of trouble in 2014. Peter Kellner of YouGov predicts they will come first in the Euro elections, which in turn gives them a head start in broadcast terms for 2015. The case may make little difference in a safe Labour seat such as Rotherham (though you’ve got to think that successive scandals have made it difficult for Labour to justify its hold) but it will feed the slow-burn narrative on the right that forces are at work to make life more difficult for ordinary people which Ukip will try to exploit. It looks like the wrong fight at the wrong time for the Prime Minister. It comes at a time when other Conservatives are starting to take the threat posed by Ukip, who took 8pc in a YouGov/Sunday Times poll at the weekend, seriously. Michael Fabricant published a paper last night called The Pact? in which he concedes:

“Ukip is now an electoral threat to the Conservative Party. This threat has arisen because ‘Europe’ is once again an issue of concern to many voters across the United Kingdom. With the Eurozone crisis changing the nature of our own membership by the minute, Ukip’s message is gaining traction with many, and fast.”

But then, Dave couldn’t really do a deal with a bunch of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” could he? For the moment, Tory members will have to be satisfied with taking heart from the fact that he still gets on really well with the Lib Dems.


The countdown to this Thursday’s report on press standards by Lord Justice Leveson has begun in earnest with ministers jockeying for position in this morning’s politics pages. The latest from Downing Street seems to be that the press may be given a stay of execution to sort out self-regulation, with a statute held in reserve should they fail, a line picked up by the Guardian‘s Patrick Wintour. Maria Miller, the media secretary, is after “tough” new rules and insists that state regulation ought to remain on the table, the Telegraph reports. In contrast, the Mail reports that William Hague has warned Dave to err on the side of a free press. Confused? You will be. The Times (£) has tried to map who is in favour of statute and who is against. James Forsyth in his Mail on Sunday column identified the small group around the PM who will help him craft his response, and claims that Sir Jeremy Heywood, the influential Cabinet Secretary, “is far keener on the idea of statute-backed regulation than the rest of Downing Street”. With Boris Johnson the leading Conservative critic outside the Commons and Michael Gove the strongest advocate of a free press within Cabinet, it is difficult not to accept the Daily Mail’s line that the issue has turned into a political tussle between the soft Left and traditional Tory Right.


Public sector austerity to 2018, VAT to 25pc… not a worst case scenario from an economy about to implode, but the steps the Chancellor must take to cut the deficit, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. The Mail reports that in the institute’s less optimistic scenario, George would need to find a further £23bn by 2015/16, equivalent to an increase of 5pc in the rate of VAT. If things go well, he may only need to find a further £13bn on top of current plans. Of course, if the Chancellor needs any help getting his deficit reduction plan going, his backbenches are full of economic experts. This morning it will be the Free Enterprise Group in conjunction with the Institute of Economic Affairs (see schedule).

In the absence of a long-term plan that satisfies both the economic needs of the country and the political needs of the Coalition, with the Lib Dems refusing to cut Government spending plans further, the Government has hit upon the short-term plan of having the Treasury seize control of the public land owned by other arms of the state. The FT (£) reports that the Treasury is frustrated at the slow pace of disposals, particularly given that land sufficient for 102,000 homes has been earmarked for sale.


Boris is in Delhi inspecting the Indian economy. Despite being incognito, he was immediately identified by onlookers as the King of England and Bors Becker, according to the Independent. King Boris was successfully identified only by one lone American tourist who remembered him as “that guy on the zip line”. Unbowed, he has written in this morning’s Telegraph of his desire to build Anglo-Indian trade links:

“India should be one of this country’s key partners for all sorts of geostrategic reasons, and David Cameron was dead right to make thishis first port of call in 2010. But it is the economic partnerships that offer the most extraordinary prospects. Imagine selling a Jag toone in every 100,000 Indians. That’s a lot of Jags, and a lot of jobs.”


Someone in the Coalition has a sense of humour. The Times (£) reports that Ed Davey will sanction a giant wind farm only three miles from the constituency of his loyal deputy John Hayes. The 22 wind turbine project will generate 54 megawatts, meaning decisions on planning are taken by the Energy and Climate Change Department. Unsurprisingly, Mr Davey asked junior minister Greg Barker to sign off on the development, not Mr Hayes.


In the short period which elapsed between his storming from the Cabinet and plunging a knife into Margaret Thatcher from the backbenches, Lord Heseltine endured a number of guests his daughters’ behest. One young man from their “Sloaney Oxford set”, as G2 puts it, was David Cameron, the now Prime Minister. After getting his opus on industrial policy off his chest, is there anything Lord Heseltine has left to achieve. “I would have liked to have been Prime Minister” he concedes. Who’d have thought?


More trouble for Thrasher after it emerged in the Telegraph at the weekend that his aid to Rwandan president Paul Kagame’s regime had been used to sustain the state while it made an illegal armed intervention in neighbouring Congo. Then there is the comment that aid to Rwanda is “sustaining a bad regime”, according to the President’s former private secretary whose remarks are reported in today’s Mail. Mr Mitchell clearly chooses his friends with the same care he chooses his enemies.


Jim Murphy finds they don’t make television like they used to:

@jimmurphymp: “Missed start of Homeland so watching old re-run of Bullseye; 2 guys just won a windsurfer and ladies sheepskin coat. #TellyAsItShouldBe”


YouGov/Sunday Times: Con 33%, Lab 44%, Lib Dem 9%, UKIP 8%


In the Telegraph

Boris Johnson – I’ve seen the future in India, and Britain can share the spoils

Jeff Randall – Del Boy Blair peddles immigration myths

Roger Graef – When love alone isn’t enough

Cristina Odone – Charles has an unlikely new role – voice of a generation

Best of the rest

Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun – Why we can’t let politicians control the press

Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail – It’s not this family who are bigots – it’s the multicultural thought police

Tim Montgomerie in the Times (£) – Cameron cannot flunk his Bruges moment

David Davis in the FT (£) – The time for shadow boxing over Europe has gone


09:00 am: Secretary of State Edward Davey visits the National Grid Electricity National Control Centre ahead of the Energy Bill. ENCC: St Catherines Lodge, Bearwood Road, Sindlesham, Nr Wokingham.

09:30 am: Briefing by Conservative MPs from the Free Enterprise Group and Institute of Economic Affairs on reform of Government spending. Speakers including IEA director general Mark Littlewood; MPs Kwasi Kwarteng, Phillip Lee, Priti Patel, David Ruffley; PriceWaterhouse Coopers senior economic adviser Andrew Sentance. Institute of Economic Affairs, 2 Lord North Street.

09:30 am: Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne to visit the National Centre for Personal Safety to meet staff and stalking victims. This is to mark two new stalking offences coming into force. National Centre for Personal Safety.

08:45 pm: George Galloway speech on Scottish Independence. Clare College, Trinity Lane, Cambridge.

Ukip-Tory pact: ‘Absolutely no chance’ says Downing Street

Number 10 sources said there is “absolutely not” the remotest possibility the Conservatives will do a deal with Ukip, after Michael Fabricant, a former Government whip, claimed it could win them dozens of seats.

Grant Shapps, the Tory Party chairman, also said he could “categorically rule out” any kind of deal with Ukip.

Polls show support for Ukip is at record levels, with seven to nine per cent of the vote, amid a surge in disillusionment with the EU. It came third in the recent Corby by-election, ahead of the Liberal Democrats.

Stewart Jackson, a second backbench Conservative, has joined calls for Mr Cameron to make a “big, bold offer” to eurosceptic voters as Ukip has the potential to do “serious damage” to his party’s chances of winning the election.



Well, Thanksgiving is over, Black Friday is done with, and houses are starting to deck themselves out in glitz, lights and those spangly reindeer things people like putting in their yards. Christmas is a-coming in. So why not pop over to my Etsy store? I love Etsy, and it’s nice to occasionally sell some art on there myself. I have a modest selection of very nice prints and original drawings still available…

For example, you could get a lovely print of my ‘train’ drawing
train engine in davis

Or maybe an original drawing of Old City Hall in Davis?
old city hall, F street

Perhaps you like birds…how about a beautiful original drawing of some birdhouses?

Or decorate your wall with a spiffing colourful 10″ x 20″ panorama print of the Davis Art Center?
Davis Art Center

There’s more stuff on there, so please pop by and check it out. Pretty please.

Pete Scully on Etsy


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Last summer on a flight to Colorado, the passenger sitting next to me was a German videographer. Specifically, he recorded dance pieces. I had danced for many years, decades even, so we immediately struck up a conversation about the complexities of recording dance and how usually no one is satisfied with the result. Then he went on to tell me how he worked with the Pina Bausch dancers. Pina Bausch! I knew all about Pina Bausch. Just two summers prior to this meeting I had danced with a theater group who did a whole tribute to Pina Bausch. Coincidence?

I had heard about Pina as a college student, but did not know much about her as a choreographer, other than she was cutting edge and, of course, German. When I joined this theater group in mid-life, which was quite by accident I might add, I didn’t know that much more…

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Why Evolution Is True

Yesterday I travelled from Edinburgh to St. Andrews to visit an old friend. I had expressed a desire to revisit Anstruther (a place we’d gone when I was doing a sabbatical in Edinburgh), home of what I thought was the best fish-and-chips shop I’d visited in the UK, The Anstruther Fish Bar. (It’s won many awards for its F&C; check out the Wikipedia entry). It’s located in the lovely seaside town of Anstruther, in Fife. There is also an excellent pub nearby, the Dreel Tavern, for one needs at least a pint to wash down a fish supper.

But my friend convinced me that there was a newer shop that was even better: The Wee Chippy (that’s about as twee a name as you can get), just a few doors down in Anstruther, in Fife. So to The Wee Chippy we went:

(Click all pictures to enlarge.)

There was…

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The Slog

but her only aim was to find the whistle-blower

The Director in charge of Children’s Services for Rotherham Joyce Thacker (left) called in South Yorkshire police nearly three months ago on the issue of child protection failures in the region. But her sole purpose in doing so was to find out who had leaked a confidential report about dangerous incompetence to the Times newspaper.

The report showed that paedophile ring crimes had been widespread for years, and hundreds of children had been at risk. Pakistani taxi firms in the area were also profoundly implicated in the horror. But the Council chose instead “for reasons of social and cultural diversity” to sit on the findings. Once again, political fancy had triumphed over criminal fact.

Today, the MSM as a whole are obssessing about UKip membership and the ‘ordeal’ of the foster parents. As usual, nobody seems that interested in getting to…

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