Saturday, March 31, 2007


Originally uploaded by fitaloon.
Back on family duty for the rest of the weekend

Friday, March 30, 2007

Prof Alan Crockard's letter of resignation

The MMC/MTAS debacle of Junior Doctor's Training in the UK looks to have seen its first senior Resignation, Professor Alan Crockard has apparently resigned from his position as National Director for Modernising Medical Careers. Confirmation of the resignation or reporting of it in the mainstream media appears to be thin on the ground and even the Telegraph does not actually have a report on it , just the letter. Various Blogs by Health Professionals have the story from early this morning.

UPDATE: Telegraph appears to confirm story here:

Alan Crockard is an eminent neurosurgeon, and has been the national director of the Department of Health's programme, Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) and its online application service, the Medical Training and Application Service (MTAS), since 2004.

One paragraph from the letter is very interesting:

From my point of view, this project has lacked clear leadership from the top for a very long time. Moving to the last few weeks, I have become increasingly concerned that the well intentioned attempts to keep the recruitment and selection process running have been accompanied by mixed messages to the most important people in the whole process - the young doctor applicants.
I assume that this is a dig at Patricia Hewitt. We can only hope that she has got the idea and will follow Alan Crockard's example. This is however unlikely bearing in mind Labour's normal mode of operation of promotion on failure.

It was earlier reported today that he was being reported to the GMC by Lindsay Cooke, who founded Mums4Medics - a family support group for people caught up in the jobs fiasco, who wrote to the GMC naming Prof Crockard as he was
"ultimately responsible" for the MMC and its implementation.
"I respectfully ask the GMC to examine the conduct of Prof Crockard in this matter and, if it is found wanting, to consider disciplinary action,"

Full text of resignation is as follows.
Dear Liam,( Sir Liam Donaldson chief Medical Officer at the NHS)

I wish to resign from my position as National Director for Modernising Medical Careers with immediate effect. I am increasingly aware that I have responsibility but less and less authority.

I care deeply about medical education and training. In 2003 I moved from the College of Surgeons where I was Director of Education to join the MMC team. At the College we developed a competency based curriculum. These ideas rolled over into MMC where the team put together the Foundation Programme which was launched in 2005.

It also involved coordination of the stakeholders in curriculum development, training the trainers and carrying out numerous road shows to set the scene for consultants and trainees. It is now considered successful and fit for purpose.

In addition the doctors completing the Foundation Programme this year seem as if they will match well into the new Specialty Training Programmes. As a prelude to new Specialty Training, MMC worked closely with PMETB and all the stakeholders to facilitate the new competency based curricula and set the scene for such a radical change in training.

Manifestly, specialty training is an order of magnitude more complex than Foundation, but it became obvious that the MMC team's expertise was less used in planning of specialty rollout. MTAS was developed and procured by DH outside my influence.

An email (12 October 2005) to our team made it abundantly clear that "Debbie (Mellor) has been tasked with delivering a recruitment system to recruit junior doctor posts specifically FP's and ST's .......I am not clear how far you should (or want) to be involved in this. We don't want to tread on any toes, but equally we need to be clear about what level of autonomy this Programme has".

The MMC programme has been the subject of an OGC Gateway Review in September 2006 (DH331), they concluded "that the programme has made significant progress since the OGC health check in August 2005".

The report overall was supportive of MMC, but there was one serious red risk. This was to "identify a clear break point for the MTAS project beyond which the contingency arrangements should be activated". It also commented on the unclear leadership between DCMO and two senior responsible officers.

From my point of view, this project has lacked clear leadership from the top for a very long time. Moving to the last few weeks, I have become increasingly concerned that the well intentioned attempts to keep the recruitment and selection process running have been accompanied by mixed messages to the most important people in the whole process - the young doctor applicants.

I realise that the service must continue to allow patients to be treated and I know little of the law, but it seems to me basically unfair to advertise the possibility of four interviews and then suggest that these might not be honoured.

Equally devastating would be the suggestion of some stakeholders, that the completed interviews be discarded and the process be rerun.

I accept that in many areas and in many specialties, this round of recruitment and selection has been acceptable. But the overriding message coming back from the profession is that it has lost confidence in the current recruitment system.

With my very best wishes.


Prof Alan Crockard's letter of resignation

US military tests ground-penetrating Monster Bomb

Now I wonder where they might want to use that?

Full details on the MOP bomb here.

The Mop Bomb a proposal by the US Air Force to develop a massive, precision-guided, 30,000 lb (13,600 kg) 'bunker buster' bomb. This is substantially larger than the deepest penetrating bunker buster presently available, the 5000 lb (2,270 kg) GBU-28.

The earliest types of these bombs were designed by Barnes-Wallis (of Dambuster fame). The two most famous versions of which were Tallboy and Grand Slam.

Ground Penetrating Monster Bomb

Fortuitous Warship deal to secure Scots jobs

Amazing just a few short weeks before elections in Scotland this news "pops" out.

Now, as I blogged some weeks ago, they have been arguing about this for some 9-10 years now.

It does seem a bit fortuitous that the announcement is going to happen in the next week. Call me cynical!

Warship deal to secure Scots jobs

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Beckett attacked on farm payments

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee called the handling of the new Single Payments Scheme an

"embarrassing failure".
accoding to the BBC. They then went on to complain Mrs Beckett and senior officials had not been held
"personally accountable"
for delays.

In other words they should have been sacked. Their actions could cost us the Taxpayer up to £500 million so this is no minor oversight. This does not include the costs, stress and misery to the farmers because of the delays on payments. The MPs' report said:
"A culture where ministers and senior officials can preside over failure of this magnitude and not be held personally accountable creates a serious risk of further failures in public service delivery."
So let's see what's happened instead of sacking the idiots responsible for this. Oh yes that nice Mrs Beckett has towed her caravan across to the Foreign Office and been promoted to Foreign Secretary where she is now even deeper in the mire and dragging us with her.

Labour "government" at its' best.

P.S. After writing this I thought I'd just pop over and see what Wat Tyler had to say on this at Burning our Money He certainly has done some work on this subject and I'll point you here for more info. The final sad touch though was the P.S. at the end of the first article:

PS Let's hope somebody more competent than the horse lady is working on extracting our marines from Iran. If it's left to her, they'll still be there this time next year. Maybe we could swap her for them.
God but that's so true.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Beckett attacked on farm payments

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

SNP ready to plant their banner in Labour’s heartland

An interesting article in the Times that kind of backs up my opinion of what is happening in Scotland at the moment. It is not that Scotland wants the SNP and Independence, its just that we don't want Labour and in particular Blair and Brown. I must admit if anybody asks me I just say vote anyone but Labour and hopefully not Lib Dem as they have been the lackeys for Labour in Scotland, especially the arrogant, brainless and unprincipled Nicol Stepen. The quote below rings true in that Mr Blair is now as unpopular as Maggie was and look what that did to the Conservatives.

I suspect the SNP will do well in the local elections but that final Independence Vote will evade them again. Hopefully the Tories will then begin to benefit again and Labour will slowly decline to the current Tory levels. I can but dream...

This is, primarily, a stinging rebuff to Mr Blair, who has succeeded in winning for himself a level of unpopularity that has not been witnessed north of the Border since Margaret Thatcher introduced the poll tax; in this case it is Iraq that has been the aggravating factor. For Mr Brown, too, the poll is grim news, because it suggests that he may take over as Prime Minister just as his homeland is turning its back on a decade of steady if unspectacular economic growth under his chancellorship.

SNP ready to plant their banner in Labour’s heartland

Computer therapy access 'for all'

According to the BBC our esteemed Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said:

"On 1 April, we will reach the first milestone in our drive to provide choice - namely quicker access to computer-based self-help services to stop mild mental health problems becoming worse.

"Clinical evidence confirms that counselling and therapy are just as effective as medication in helping to treat most cases of depression."
Now what she knows about clinical evidence could be written on the back of a stamp. In fact what she knows about anything could be written in a large font on the back of stamp.

I thought for a moment this was a joke for April 1 just being released a bit earlier by error as is normal by Patricia (Best year so far) Hewitt. This is not so much about choice as about cost and lack of resources. I have no doubt that the computer therapy may be a somewhat useful tool in the box but it is no replacement for face to face therapy. A few others have much the same opinion and they should know better than me.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said computerised CBT was an important addition to the range of treatment options available for people who suffer from mild depression or anxiety.

But he added:
"This method of delivery will not suit everyone.

"Some people will prefer face-to-face contact and this electronic therapy must not be a replacement for CBT."
Dr Richard Vautrey, GP negotiator for the British Medical Association, said it was helpful to have a range of options for treating depression and computerised CBT had proven to be useful in some areas of the country.

But he added:
"Many patients still struggle to get an appointment with a therapist and it is key that it doesn't replace the pressure to invest in trained therapists."
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said:
"Evidence from several hundred thousand of our callers shows that of those reporting depression or anxiety, while 83% are being treated with medication, only 2% are receiving cognitive behavioural therapy.

"While we applaud the secretary of state's announcement, we urge her to match it with a funding commitment to ensure that CBT can be a real choice, as she intends, for everyone who could benefit."
So whilst, it my be of some use, it is really just another case of Patricia trying to dumb down the NHS as usual. Medicine by Protocol, Medicine by numbers, Medicine by the untrained.

BBC NEWS | Health | Computer therapy access 'for all'

BBC fights to suppress allegations of bias against Israel

According to the Independent

"the BBC was in court yesterday fighting over the public's right to know. But the Corporation was not battling to bring information into the open. Instead it has paid an estimated £200,000 in legal fees to keep the report secret.

The Corporation is trying to persuade the High Court to overrule a decision by the Information Tribunal that an internal report into the BBC's Middle East coverage should be made public."
So what looks like a report that perhaps critisices the BBC is as far as we know at the moment not to see the light of day. Not only that but about 1800 people's TV licence fee is being used to stop us from seeing the report. What a complete waste of our money.

BBC fights to suppress internal report into allegations of bias against Israel

Sleaze watchdog says Blair 'failed to live up to promises'

Sir Alistair Graham has been forced to step down from his job as chairman of the "Sleaze Watchdog" after disagreements with the Labour Sleaze chief Tony Blair.

Launching his final report as chairman, Sir Alistair said Mr Blair should never have promised to be "purer than pure" unless he was going to "follow through" with action.

Mr Blair is keen to escape the cloud hanging over him because of the police inquiry into loans for peerages allegations when he steps down at the end of June.

He is also still under public scrutiny for his role in the Iraq Dossier that helped take us into the invasion of Iraq.

This was also the subject of a question at PMQ's today when Conservative MP Stuart Jackson asked about parliamentary standards commissioner Sir Alistair Graham, who said Mr Blair had damaged trust in politics, asking if Mr Blair was "qualified" to advise his successor on drawing up a new ministerial code.

Mr Blair said: "I completely disagree with Sir Alistair Graham. He is entitled to his opinion and I am entitled to mine".

So again Mr Blair rides roughshod over anyone who dares argue with him and believes himself above criticism.

Sleaze watchdog says Blair 'failed to live up to promises' - Independent Online Edition > UK Politics

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sunset at Tarland

Originally uploaded by fitaloonson.
My son Cameron took this last night about 40 yards from our house. It was also selected to go onto the Scotland in the Gloaming Blog.

Stupid Thief stole police officer's bag

Some scroats are just not really up to their line of business, as so ably displayed by Fraser Cheyne . Apparently Fraser

A thief, who had just evaded jail, was later caught stealing a police worker's handbag in Aberdeen.Fraser Cheyne, 21, admitted stealing the bag just hours after being placed on probation for a previous theft. Cheyne took it from a Grampian Police employee on a Christmas night out with colleagues but was caught.
Time for a rethink of occupation, perhaps being a Labour Cabinet Minister might suit him, most of them have been promoted beyond their abilities.

BBC NEWS Scotland North East/N Isles Thief stole police officer's bag

Angry Scots fishermen lose out in German swap deal

From this story I can only conclude that the government has already decided that Scotland is a lost cause or that the just don't care anymore and can't be bothered to look at the consequences of their actions. I suspect it's a combination of both.

SCOTLAND'S most powerful fish producers' organisation accused the UK government yesterday of "breathtaking arrogance" over the controversial decision to swap almost £2 million of the North Sea's lucrative prawn catch to prevent trawlermen in the south of England being driven out of business.

The deal, brokered last week by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and backed by Ross Finnie, Scotland's environment minister, has resulted in German prawn fishermen receiving 375 tonnes of the UK's share of the North Sea langoustine catch in return for 150 tonnes of sole which will be used to aid 160 English boats operating in the southern North Sea.

Mr MacRae,the secretary of the Scottish White Fish Producers' Association whose organisation represents most Scottish prawn boats, said:

"You have to ask if the government has lost the plot completely."
A spokesman for DEFRA said:
"Without urgent action, 160 fishing boats stood to directly lose their livelihoods and go out of business because the restrictions were giving them such problems. We had move very quickly.

"Due to the urgency of the situation, there wasn't the time to consult the industry as we would normally do."
So that's the real reason, they had to move quickly, and didn't really think it all through, marvelous reasoning! Unfortunately this is joined up government under Labour.

The Scotsman - Angry Scots fishermen lose out in German swap deal

British backtrack on Iraq death toll

The Independent reports that British government officials have backed the methods used by scientists who concluded that more than 600,000 Iraqis have been killed since the invasion, the BBC reported yesterday.

The Government publicly rejected the findings, published in The Lancet in October. But the BBC said documents obtained under freedom of information legislation showed advisers concluded that the much-criticised study had used sound methods.

The researchers, reflecting the inherent uncertainties in such extrapolations, said they were 95 per cent certain that the real number of deaths lay somewhere between 392,979 and 942,636.

The conclusion, based on interviews and not a body count, was disputed by some experts, and rejected by the US and British governments. But the chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence, Roy Anderson, described the methods used in the study as "robust" and "close to best practice". Another official said it was "a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones".

So the government after trashing the report with no reason, apart from it was not what they wanted reported, have been advised by their top officials that the death toll is more than likely correct.

This is a shocking figure and will forever be the legacy of Bush and Blair who have dragged us into this conflict with no thought to the likely outcome.

British backtrack on Iraq death toll - Independent Online Edition > Middle East

Monday, March 26, 2007

Old Bird Flys again?

Baroness Thatcher visited Bruntingthorpe Airfield near Leicester on Friday to see the progress of the restoration of the Vulcan bomber XH558.

Engineers are in a race against time to restore the Avro Vulcan B Mk II for a flypast over London in June to commemorate the South Atlantic conflict.

Lady Thatcher also met crew members who took part in the Black Buck missions to bomb Port Stanley at the start of the war.

Barry Macefield, an air electronics officer on the second Black Buck mission, said: "I feel very privileged to have met her. It's not often when you are sent into war that you can meet the person who did it.

"I was surprised how well she looked. She had a firm handshake."
David Thomas, former flight commander of 44 Squadron, said:
"To me, Margaret Thatcher is just a brilliant icon and everything it is to be British.
"But for that iron will, where would we have been in the Falklands War? She stuck her neck out and she won."
Remind me next time you see Mr Blair or Brown visiting with some of the Servicemen and women they have sent into war.

Oh and by the way have a look at how the Biased BBC ended their reporting on this event. No mention of the meeting with the crews or anything like that. Why do we have to contribute to their Labour supporting views.
But the British government decided it would fight to reclaim them and Mrs Thatcher dismissed advice from defence officials who feared the islands could not be re-taken. She ordered a task force to be assembled to fight a war 8,000 miles away from the British Isles. The war claimed the lives of 255 Britons and 655 Argentines.

Sky News: Iron Lady Faces Her Past

Woman DriverSatnav plunges £96k Merc into river

According to that well known journal "The Leicester Mercury" a Woman DriverSatNav system plunged a car into a river. The driver a 28-year-old woman - apparently on her way to a Christening on 3 March - ignored signposts indicating the track was unsuitable for motor vehicles and gamely ploughed into the watercourse. Unfortunately, the river was "swollen after heavy rain in recent floods" and quickly overcame the Merc, "gushing through the car" and sweeping it 200 metres downstream "bouncing from one river bank to the other, as the woman frantically tried to smash the windows with her feet".

No further comment is required.

Satnav plunges £96k Merc into river | The Register

NHS cuts 'hit antenatal classes'

Why I should think NHS Cuts should be news anymore I'm not sure. The relentless cutbacks and dumbing down of the NHS continues from Cradle to Grave and even before and after each of them.

Now it's Antenatal classes that are being cutback.

Hospitals in parts of England and Wales are reducing or even axing services for pregnant women because of the NHS's financial problems forced on them by Patricia Hewitt.

According to the BBC, the National Childbirth Trust and Royal College of Midwives, told them that Antenatal classes and breastfeeding tuition are being affected.

Apparently a Department of Health spokesman said trusts should meet standards laid down by the NSF, and echoed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

"The soon-to-be-published maternity strategy will set out how we will achieve services that provide real choice and support for women in all settings, from antenatal care through to the early child years."
So that will be another strategy/protocol to follow which has plenty of paper but no action or money behind it.

BBC NEWS | Health | NHS cuts 'hit antenatal classes'

Police told Blair would resign if cautioned

According to the Telegraph:

"Make no mistake, Scotland Yard was informed that Mr Blair would resign as Prime Minister if he was interviewed under caution," said a source. "They were placed in a very difficult position indeed."
Just imagine if I said I was to resign my post at work to the police rather than be interviewed under caution. I would rightly be laughed out the door and told to go and resign. So we now have two levels of justice. One for the rest of us and one for those in government.

Just some more of the hypocrisy that this Labour Party uses to hang on in government.

Police told Blair would resign if cautioned

Dumbing down of the Ambulance Service

Across at Random Acts of Reality we have the story of the latest dumbing down of the NHS. This time it's the turn of the Ambulance Service and as usual it is being sneaked in below the radar, not only of Joe Public, but even of the employees. As Tom Reynolds says.

With the whole dumbing down of healthcare under this government, this hasn't come as a huge surprise, what has come as a surprise is that no-one is protesting it. It's a stupid, stupid idea and I'm dreading working with an ECA; it's nothing against the people who will be doing the job, but they won't have the training to provide the care that has traditionally been part of the ambulance service.

It's the sort of thing that will have me leaving this job that I love so much.
I picked this up from Dr Crippen who said in his article:
This, of course, is Hewitt dumbing down the service to save a few pence. Her mind works like that. Most of the patients who see GPs only have minor illness, so why not get a nurse to do their job? Most of the patients consultants see have predictable and easily treatable problems, so why not get a GP (with a “special interest” of course) to do the job? Most of the calls the ambulance service get, even the 999 calls, are breathtakingly trivial. So driving skills, even white van driving skills, will do nicely, thank you. Who needs a paramedic?

Most of medicine, like any other job, is humdrum. But when there is a serious problem, a really serious problem, you need trained personnel. You need experience.

If the paramedics are replaced by white van drivers, the really seriously ill patients will not get to hospital.

Perhaps it does not matter any more. You might as well die in the in the hands of the ambulance quacktitioner on your way to hospital as die a few hours later in the hands of the hospital-at-night quacktitioner.
Soon the NHS will be populated by the likes of Blue Peter's John "I'll have a go" Noakes and we will just be one big accidenttraining exercise for the NHS as they skill up. Remind me not to get ill/have an accident/get pregnant(?) again.

Random Acts Of Reality :: Changes, And Not For The Best... (Or - Reynolds May Lose His Job Again)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Scotland win World Championship (Unofficial)

As I mentioned back in February Scotland have won back the World Championship. Even if they lose on Wednesday they will still remain the team who have retained it the longest and have had the most Matches as Champions. What more need I say.

Unofficial Football World Championships - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia