Oscars all round for a patriotic feelgood fantasy

You really have to feel some pity for the poor foreign correspondents. By their own account, many of them found Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony at the Olympics utterly baffling. Dancing NHS nurses? A giant Franken-baby? And who or what was this Isambard Kingdom Brunel?

The show was surely impenetrable to such folk because it was so very British. And the British are distinctive by being so . . . well, truly distinctive. They are highly individualistic, refusing to be pigeonholed and with a wonderfully anarchic streak. And never more so than in their sense of humour and creative vision.

In the attempt to convey just this, Boyle succeeded brilliantly. Beijing this most definitely was not.

This was the very antithesis of that regimented display of synchronised subservience. This was patriotism at its most quirky, shot through with surrealist humour and manic energy.


The Office for Budget Responsibility lays bare our unsustainable finances: in the long run, we’re all skint

Just when we thought the economic news couldn’t get worse, up pops the Office for Budget Responsibility to remind us that it will. Once a year, the Treasury’s official – but independent – forecaster is charged with assessing Britain’s long term economic health. Like last year, the Fiscal Sustainability Report leaves readers feeling decidedly unwell.

Here are a few nuggets. The cost of keeping Britain’s ageing population in the benefits to which they are currently entitled will punch a £65bn hole in the budget deficit between 2016/17 and 2061/62 – unwinding more than half the current, painful £123bn austerity programme.

Just to keep the national debt at its pre-crisis level of 40pc of GDP, another £17bn of savings will have to be found in 2017/18 to compensate for the demographic pressures. If the savings are not found, the national debt will rocket back up to 89pc by the end of the forecast period.

And that’s the optimistic scenario. In reality, the National Health Service is so woefully inefficient that we would need another £68bn of austerity in 2017/18 to pay for the kind of care we currently enjoy unless the NHS somehow becomes radically

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Elderly dying due to ‘despicable age discrimination in NHS’

A lack of treatment or insufficient treatment is contributing to 14,000 deaths a year in people over the age of 75, Macmillan Cancer Support has found, in what it called an ‘unacceptable act of discrimination’.

Deaths from cancer are reducing in most age groups but at a slower rate in those aged 74 to 84 and are increasing in people aged 85 and over, the report said.

The report, The Age Old Excuse: the under treatment of older cancer patients, said treatment options are too often recommended on the basis of age rather than how fit the patient is.

Professor Riccardo Audisio, Consultant Surgical Oncologist at St Helens Hospital, said: “It is despicable to neglect, not to offer, not to even go near to the best treatment option only on the simple basis of the patient’s age.

“This has been a horrible mistake that, particularly in the UK, we have suffered from.”

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One in five abortion clinics breaks law

Up to one in five abortion clinics is suspected of breaking the law and faces a police inquiry following an official investigation ordered by the Health Secretary, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

The regulator conducted a series of unannounced raids on every clinic offering abortions this week and found that a “shocking” number may be breaking the law.

The Daily Telegraph understands that more than 250 private and NHS clinics were visited and more than 50 were “not in compliance” with the law or regulations. Doctors were regularly falsifying consent forms and patients were not receiving acceptable levels of advice and counselling in many clinics, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) discovered.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, said he was “shocked” by the findings of the CQC’s audit and was preparing to report doctors and organisations to the police. Many clinics may be stripped of the licences that allow them to offer abortions.

Mr Lansley is understood to be preparing an urgent statement to Parliament on the scandal today.


Ed Miliband’s Flash Gordon tactics over the NHS reform bill have, inevitably, backfired

Yesterday the NHS bill cleared its final meaningful hurdle. An attempt by David Owen, the longstanding darling of the Left, to delay its implementation was defeated in the House of Lords by 328 votes to 213. An emergency debate, tabled for today in the Commons, represents the final effort to keep the legislation off the statute books. It will fail as well.

And that will be it. Don’t bother turning up to your local casualty department or GP surgery on Monday. Thinking of dialling an ambulance? Forget it. There will be no NHS any more. It will have ceased to exist. I know this, because over the last month I haven’t been able to turn on the news, open a paper or browse the internet without a campaigner from the Drop the Bill campaign informing me I have less than a month/week/day to pull my health service back from extinction.

When I used to work for Labour we called this the “Flash Gordon” strategy: “I love you Flash, but we only have 24 hours to save the earth, economy, rail network, NHS, pound, etc”. In the midst of an election campaign it works a treat; it garners headlines, galvanises supporters and carries zero risk. You win, the earth is saved. You lose, you’re political vapour%

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NHS pays £20,000 a week for a doctor

In some cases the amounts being paid would be the equivalent to a doctor earning an annual salary of almost £1 million.

And some doctors were rewarded not just for the hours they worked, but for all the time they were on call – including when they were sleeping.

Our investigation discloses how hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on agency doctors so that hospitals can comply with the European Working Time Directive, which limits the number of hours medics can work, and found that:

-80 per cent of hospital trusts which provided figures admitted spending more than £1,000 per shift on medical cover;

-Hospitals spent more than £2 billion on temporary clinical staff in the two years since the rules came in, a sum which could have paid the wages of 48,000 nurses or 33,000 junior doctors over the period;

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Let’s just admit it – the NHS is a rotten way of doing things

When my brother was a little boy, my mother asked him, “Do you like pizza?” His reply was, “No. What is it?” The public reaction to the Government’s health reforms is the same. Most people know they are against them, but hardly anyone knows what they are.

Perhaps this is not a bad prejudice to have. Most new laws are badly framed. We have seen complicated reforms of the NHS before without much apparent benefit. They involve abstruse arguments between politicians, administrators and professionals. Of the three, we tend to favour the professionals, so if their organisations start moaning, we take our cue from them. They always do moan, so we are always vaguely against whatever reform is coming next.

This column is not qualified to explain or justify Andrew Lansley’s enormous, disputed and now heavily amended Health and Social Care Bill. Besides, it is my ambition that a significant percentage of readers should be able to get to the end of any article I write. So I shall say no more of Mr Lansley and his plans.

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