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test blog entry from mda

This was initially entered using a new MDA vario II. My version 1 has slightly worn out and the handsfree set was not working which caused some problems travelling around Birmingham. I, therefore, got an upgrade yesterday.

The new version is still a bit slow on the net compared to broadband, but is not at all bad.

I don't think I am going to go for that much "blogging on the move", however.

Labour Ministers Campaign against Labour Government Policy

The idea that a Labour Government minister responsible for the policy on maternity services would actually campaign against the outcome of his own policy is quite surreal.

There was another symptom of this disconnection between policies of the government and the policies argued for by Labour MPs on Planning during the Xmas adjournment debate. It is no good criticising the planning appeal process if the government is actually trying to reduce the democratic element.

The question that Labour need to answer is "who is running the government if you are not".

This is an important issue in politics as if those who are in a position to change policy don't support the policy then what is the sense of putting them in that position.

The Rule of Law and Process of Change

One thing I find interesting to study is how systems change. In theory politics is about "power" and the ability to effect change. However, frequently "politics" is about status and really does not result in that much that changes.

Good examples of laws that have not had any real effect is the "banning" of hunting with hounds. The argument about whether it is better for a fox to be shot than torn about by dogs resulted in a law that cannot be seen to have had any real discernable effect.

At the same time the law has been recently reinterpreted to substantially open up much of the actions of the Family Courts. There is an interesting question as to what encourages judges such as Mumby J to make such clear shifts in process. There is a public debate in the media, there was also an Early Day Motion that had large numbers of MPs sign it.

In a traditional constitutional sense the houses of parliament are actually courts. They were used to change the common …

North Staffs NHS Trust Responds !!!

They have issued the following statement:

The Trust has been in communication with Mr John Hemming MP about his concerns relating to research carried out by Professor David Southall and colleagues.

Mr Hemming has made a number of allegations that officers of the Trust have behaved unlawfully and has made repeated statements of his intention to issue Judicial Review proceedings against the Trust. However the Trust, acting on the advice of its solicitors, has explained to Mr Hemming that it cannot lawfully take the steps that the MP has requested in relation to the confidential information in Special Case Files.

The Trust has asked to meet Mr Hemming to seek to explain that, as long as the Trust is holding the files, it will abide by all its legal duties regarding the confidential information in the files. The MP has not yet responded to that offer.

The Trust has not threatened to sue Mr Hemming but has reserved the right to recover the costs of responding to any legal action so the mo…

Birmingham Post reports on UHNS litigation threat

The Front Page story in the Birmingham Post today as with that yesterday on The Stirrer (Adrian Goldberg's news blog site) report on the threat by North Staffs to sue me.

Their lawyers want a meeting with me, but are also suggesting that I should pay the hospitals legal costs. I have made it clear that I will not want to meet up with them if they are going to try to charge me for the time taken in the meeting.

In any event although legally they are on shaky ground trying to sue me for the legal costs of writing a letter, more importantly they are really working against the interests of patients. If MPs have to worry about the threat of legal action for the costs of hospitals getting advice when they write to hospitals it would seriously undermine the system of democratic accountability.

The Post's article also looks at aspects of the speech I made just before Christmas (in the Christmas adjournment). It is in fact that the first newspaper article I have seen to look generally…

Respect Zones - A quiet news day

This period before the New Year is always quiet for news. The government appear to have gone for a bit more on the "Respect" Agenda.

So now we have "Respect Zones" this is on top of last year's "Respect Action Plan".

There is a complex issue relating to how the public sector operates. That is that the politicians are not really executive officers. The work is done by other people. Politicians establish the legislative framework and sometimes end up as ministers defending the decisions of civil servants.

That means that it is not really sensible to try to micromanage what goes on. That is why we end up with budgeting systems such as RAB. It also means, however, that we get nonsense such as today.

What would be better is a good analysis of the current system followed by a set of proposals for change. The analysis does not have to cover all aspects, but has to look at the systems of feedback. Cautions are a good example of an aspect of the system t…

Greeks bomb Scotland Yard?

If you imagine a situation in which the Greek army acting as peacekeepers in the UK allied with the scottish dominationed national government of the UK blew up Scotland Yard you would part understand how risky the attack on the Basra police station is.

I don't like second guessing military tactics as you need to know what the situation is on the ground in detail. However, it appears that the UK forces in Basra are now working against the local council.

Segmented societies tend to divide into factions. Tribes or clans can switch from faction to faction. However, most feudal disputes are based upon feuds or vendettas which arise from a desire for revenge. There are a number of good books on the motivations for Suicide Missions which basically show that revenge rather than religion is the key motivator.

I am concerned that this particular action by the UK forces may be seen in retrospect as something increasing the level of disorder in the south. I may be wrong. I am writing from Birmin…

Wii out of box, two more kittens

It is quite impressive that the Wii (which was bought about 2 weeks ago) remained under the Christmas Tree until today. I operate a system with my children whereby as soon as they can count sufficiently they get a present budget. My 6 year old decided as part of her budget to buy an electronic kitten that purs and moves its head. I must admit that I much prefer the real kitten that we got via Freecycle about 9 months ago. I also noticed a new kitten eating dinner with our other cats. It is quite interesting how quickly cats find free sources of food. I presume one of our neighbours have a kitten that has wandered a bit.

The general feeling is that real cats are far better than robot cats. I did suggest, however, that the next enhancement to gaming might be to develop physical models of the games in the Wii such as getting a real wooden table tennis top and real bats and try that rather waving around the Wii wands. This, however, did not get the same level of support domesti…

Blair's Iraq Figleaf non-existant

With the Weapons of Mass Destruction having been found to be non-existant some time ago Tony Blair has used the argument that it was good to introduce democracy and get rid of Saddam Hussain.

The fact is, however, that it was not necessary to invade Iraq to achieve this. What people have now forgotten is that in the Kurdish north there was a no-fly zone which enabled the Kurds to operate independently of the Ba'th government. There was also a no-fly zone in the south. That, however, had rules of engagement that meant that heavy weaponry could be used on any rebellion, but no action would be taken.

Had the rules of Engagement been changed in the southern no-fly zone then it would have been possible for the south to rebel against the Ba'th. In fact it was the non intervention policy that caused the south to be recontrolled after the first gulf war.

People on the ground in the Middle East could not understand why the USA would not assist the Iraqis to take control of Iraq.

The reason…

Hospital Threatens to Sue MP over letter

It is a new one on me. The University Hospital of North Staffordshire have threatened to sue me (or more precisely their lawyers have threatened to sue me) over a letter I wrote to them.

I wrote to them asking for them to tell those people who have secret medical files that there are secret medical files. They responded by

a) Refusing to write to me and/or talk to me directly and passing the issue to their lawyers
b) Threatening to sue me for the cost of their lawyers giving legal advice

The best thing the hospital could do is to 'fess up and tell people about whom they have been holding secret medical files that they hold those files.

It does, however, raise some quite serious issues that an arm of Government is trying to stop Members of Parliament from raising things with them with the threat of charging them thousands of pounds for the temerity of writing a letter.

They should stop squirming and obey the law.

Medical Ethics - NHS responds

I did a speech on Medical Ethics on Tuesday (see link) which referred substantially to the research managed by Dr David Southall.

It included the following section:
Furthermore, the lack of action to maintain its integrity makes the national health service institutionally complicit in the destruction of evidence.
At least now the NHS is acting at a level other than that of the Hospital. I have raised the issue on numerous occasions over the past few months both nationally and regionally. I also raised it at a meeting with the region on 11th December.

It has, however, taken until yesterday for anything of substance to be done. The advice is that the Special Case records actually belong to the Secretary of State.

The authorities need to be aware that this issue will not simply go away. The lack of action from senior officials including the Chief Executive of the NHS, Regional Chief Executive of the NHS and Chief Medical Officer is unacceptable.

We're in the court of appeal

I need to work out how to handle the procedures, but some time in the new year there should be a hearing in front of a Division Court (three judges) in the Court of Appeal relating to the matter of forcing Ministers to answer questions.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 19th December 2006

Highly-skilled Migrant Programme
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the likely impact of changes to the highly skilled migrant programme on economic migration within the UK; and if he will make a statement. (John Hemming)

A:Migrants currently in the UK under the highly skilled migrant programme (HSMP) can apply to extend their leave. The rules for the highly skilled migrant programme extension applications have recently been amended to ensure that applicants already in the UK under the programme have been making, and can continue to make, a contribution to the UK economy. The changes were based on a thorough analysis of the HSMP criteria.

Individuals applying to extend their leave to remain in the UK under the HSMP must now achieve a minimum of 75 points against robust points scoring criteria (qualifications, previous earnings, age and UK experience) and must also meet a mandatory English language requirement. The points scoring structure…

That Sub-Post Office Question

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley, Liberal Democrat) Hansard source
The Secretary of State has admitted that the Government will force sub-post offices that are profitable private businesses to close because they are not profitable for the central Post Office. Will he publish details of the localised costs and the methodology used to calculate them, so that we can be sure that the mistake that was made in the "Counter Revolution" report has not been made in these calculations?

Alistair Darling (Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry) Hansard source
I did not say anything of the sort. The job of the Post Office is to ensure a coherent national network. As I said at the beginning of my statement and as the hon. Gentleman has to realise, most post offices—apart from Crown ones—are private businesses operated by private individuals, and if they are profitable they will remain profitable.

One Doctor's View: "Closing Hospitals Killing Patients"

The link is to a post from a doctor who calls himself Dr Rant. He makes the point that the cuts in ambulance services and hospital services are impacting on care of patients.

I have now received the "hospital at night" documents from the government, but not managed to work through them. The real question is one of identifying when the government's cuts have impacted on patients. Dr Rant appears to have identified one.

Understanding the Law and the Webster Case

I have just picked up on this case from Monday.

It goes to the nub of one of the legal arguments in child protection. There are fractures that can be diagnosed as Classic Metaphyseal Lesions from X-rays.

I have a report from the College of Radiologists that confirms that noone knows what proportion of children who have Metaphyseal fractures have obtained them through abuse.

There is a difficulty in that X-raying a child has some risk so you cannot just go around x-raying everyone.

However, a high proportion of children who have been abused (particularly fatally) have CMLs.

Let us assume for them moment that 90% of children with CMLs have them through abuse.

That means that 10% of children diagnosed with abuse haven't actually been abused.

They, however, are removed from their parents. Furthermore any other children that the parents have are removed from their parents.

There is an additional problem in that the 90% figure could be 40% and 60% of children who are removed from their parent…

Closing Profitable sub-post offices

So yet again 2,500 sub-post offices that are mainly profitable will be offered 28 months income to close. 24 months is the usual sale amount.

This will pressurise more people into having benefits paid into bank accounts saving the government about £15 per year for each person on benefits.

Whether it will pick up and prevent any benefit fraud is unclear.

However, as far as offering a service the Government have a clear strategy of chopping off about 3,000 sub-post offices every so often.

The fact is that almost all of the sub-post offices are themselves profitable. There is a problem with the finances of the operator of the Network the erstwhile "post office counters ltd". This problem, however, has almost certainly not been properly analysed. I read a report "counter revolutions" some time ago that produced flawed management accounts.

To identify the cost of running a sub-post office for the post office itself you cannot simply take the fixed central costs and alloc…

Written Parliamentary Question: 14th December 2006

Litigants in Person
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to her answer of 29 November 2006, Official Report, column 764W, on litigants in person, what reasons the Civil Procedure Rule Committee gave for keeping the rate at which litigants in person can claim costs at its 1995 level.(John Hemming)

A:There is no record in the minutes of the Committee of the reason for their decision. (Vera Baird, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs)

RCPCH issues child protection companion

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Heath has issued its Child Protection Companion.

It is a big file that is available on their website. It is a helpful step forwards as it works towards some certainty as to what particular symptoms mean.

There remains a failure to recognise the problems that arise from false allegations. I think there is a need to distinguish between situations which have certainty and those which are more vague.

Written Parliamentary Question: 13th December 2006

Highly-skilled Migrant Programme
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people in the UK who qualify to work under the highly-skilled migrant programme scheme will fail to have their qualification renewed unless they find a job paying them more money. (John Hemming)

A:Information of this kind is not available. In order to qualify for further leave to remain as a highly skilled migrant under the new rules, applicants must now meet robust points criteria based on their qualifications, previous earnings, age and UK experience. It will also be mandatory for applicants to demonstrate a good standard of English language. The salary an applicant needs to reach for their previous earnings in order to qualify for a Highly Skilled Migrant programme extension will depend on the points awarded against the other criteria.

I have also announced transitional arrangements to avoid disadvantaging those who fail to meet the new requirements but are making a useful contribution to t…

Oil Company Reserves in Decline

Historically the decline in reserves from any oil field have been in part concealed by activity such as oil companies buying each other. There always has been some "reserve growth" from a single field because people are frequently cautious to start out with and also technology enables better recovery rates. Those issues are stabilising.

ASPO has now produced Newsletter 71. Within that the reported reserves of the oil majors are compared from 2004 to 2005 and now are on an aggregate basis reporting a decline.

Reported Reserves Mb20042005Exxon-Mobil1165111229BP99349565Shell48884636Total70036592Chevron-Texaco79738000Total4144940798

The predicted year for conventional oil production peaking is 2005 and for all liquids is 2010 (Natural Gas Liquid - that oil that is condensed from gas fields is still growing.

Selections Yardley and Hodge Hill

On Saturday Cllr Tariq Khan was selected as PPC for Birmingham (Hodge Hill). Liam Byrne has greeted this with an attack on the Lib Dems. Tariq stands in a strong position as the new boundaries make the seat more of a Lib Dem seat than previously. Tariq won with an overwhelming vote of the members.

I was also reselected on Saturday. The system for reselecting Lib Dem MPs is complex. It starts with a secret ballot at a members meeting. It is right for this to be a secret ballot. If the MP loses that then there is a postal ballot of all members. If the MP loses that then there is an open selection.

Normally I have about 3 people voting against me, but on this occasion I won 76 votes to 1.

NHS Financial Crisis

The story in the Guardian today is much like an EDM I tabled over a year ago.

Hospitals such as the QE in Woolwich cause major problems for the NHS. If such hospitals are bailed out then this creates a situation where others expect to be bailed out. There is a difficulty in that the NHS Executive handles hospitals as entities. Where bad management occurs that is the fault of the management.

The truth about the QE in Woolwich is that PFI has been a major part of the financial crisis of the hospital.

The DoH has underwritten all PFI costs. The theoretical position of Monitor shoving insolvent FTs into a form of administration is a non-starter.

The problem is that a form of ineffectual private sector market system has been imposted. It is too random for the NHS to cope particularly as a process of change, but it does not have the facility to attract external risk capital because there is no potential return.

It is, therefore, destined to be an expensive problem to resolve. In the mean…

One Artist's Perception of Global Warming

B3TA has some interesting images from time to time. The above image (which of course is totally unrealistic) shows what can be done with gifs.

ITV and new media

I had an interesting discussion last night with people from ITV about New Media. The media market is changing with people moving towards getting information from the Net.

The traditional broadcasters need to dip their toes into the activities involved in narrowcasting as well. Their audience is moving onto the net and if they are not there then they miss their audience.

Strong content then will find an audience through its strength whether or not any large corporate places its editorial brand on the content.

What impact Michael Grade will have on this is unclear.

Questions and Answers

I find today that no minister is responsible for the GMC or the National Audit Office.

That means I cannot ask a written parliamentary question about the GMC and what is happening there. Interestingly they have today said that they can tell me tomorrow whether or not they will provide an electronic copy of the Southall Transcript.

Similarly I referred the overpayments on drugs to the National Audit Office over a year ago. Sir John Bourne who is in charge of the NAO is an officer of the house of commons. Hence I cannot ask any parliamentary questions. I have been writing to ask when this report will be finished, but not got an answer.

The University Hospital of North Staffordshire are now saying I have to write to their solicitors. They cannot tell me what they are doing about the Special Case files.

The letters about the many cases which didn't have full disclosure of medical records went off yesterday and were collected in the post this morning at 7.45am so they should arrive wi…

Written Parliamentary Question: 6th December 2006

Middle East
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of (a) Palestinians and (b) Israelis who have died since September 2006 as a result of the conflict in the Middle East. (John Hemming)

A:Between 1 September and 15 November, we have reports that 191 Palestinians and two Israelis were killed in conflict-related violence. (Kim Howells, Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office)

GMC Transcript and Court Procedure

I have now managed to get some of the transcript of the GMC hearing as images. I have been asking the GMC themselves to provide an electronic copy. They should do this, but I am not going to hold my breath.

I have managed a quick scan of part of the cross-examination of David Southall. It is interesting how he tries to redefine research as "Clinical Audit". The point about Clinical Audit is that it does not require consent for record keeping.

I am told that the Special Case Secret Medical Files are now going to be put with the medical records - which is where they should have been in the first instance.

This does mean, however, that any court case which involved requesting medical records (even at the pre-proceedings stage) from North Staffs or Bromptom now needs to be reopened if there was a Special Case file.

I have asked the hospital again to tell patients when this has happened.

There are also two rapid response debates on the BMJ website relating to these issues.

The BMJ have…

Written Parliamentary Questions: 4th December 2006

Litigants in Person
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs why the rate at which litigants in person can claim costs has not risen since 1995; what estimate she has made of the additional costs to the Government were this rate to rise; and if she will raise the rate at which litigants in person can claim costs.(John Hemming)

A:holding answer 23 November 2006

The hourly rate payable to litigants in person was reviewed in 2003 by the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, when it was decided that the rate should remain at the existing level. No estimate has been made of additional costs, should the rate be raised and there are no plans to raise the rate at present.

Civil Procedure Rule 48.6(2) provides that where the litigants in person can prove financial loss (greater than £9.25) has occurred due to time he has reasonably spent on doing the work, he is entitled to claim up to two thirds of the amount which would have been allowed if he had been legally represented.
(V…

Nov 28th Transcript GMC

The following is part of the transcript of the proceedings at the GMC relating to David Southall on November 28th

It relates to when lawyers contemplating legal proceedings ask for information about patients.

The GMC's prosecuting Barrister (Mr Tyson) asks:
The problem heing that your agreement does not include those lawyers getting access to the SC files?

David Southall response:
My understanding is that it is very complicated, this, and it depends what was being asked for. If they
were asking for the recordings, then I provided them. If they were asking for the special case file,
having found out that we had it, then they were provided with it, or those bits of it that I could provide.


This implies a number of things:
a) That people were unlikely to know that special case files were kept
b) That unless people specifically asked for it in legal proceedings the contents were not provided and furthermore not all of them were provided.

This means that any case that David Southall was invol…

That video - its up again

I was sent the URL, but deleted the email before copying it. In any event it will be interesting to see how long it lasts.

It was initially uploaded on 28th November. Then removed on 1st December. It appeared somewhere else later that day.

I wonder how long it will last this time.

Video diary wars with Social Services

There was a 6 minute video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoZKjUk6hT4, but it is not worth looking for it now.

The video was a mother's message to her children. I didn't manage to look at it, but now it has been taken off Youtube.

It will be interesting to see how this spreads. There are, of course, far more sites which allow uploaded video than only Youtube and Google Video.

The truth about airline security

Well ... it makes a point.

From The Telegraph

Boston SIDS research

The linked extract is to the research on babies that died of SIDS that demonstrates that (one probably major cause of) Sudden Infant (unexplained and unexpected) Death Syndrome is the way in which the brain responds to seratonin.

This would explain why there appears to be some genetic link that predisposes to SIDS.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 30th November 2006

Gas Industry
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he has taken besides his efforts to liberalise the European gas market to ensure security of supply within the UK gas market.(John Hemming)

A:holding answer 21 November 2006

The recent review of the UK's energy policy confirmed the Government's view that security of supply is best ensured by a competitive and liberalised market-based system. Coupled with a light touch regulatory framework, this facilitates the short-term balancing of supply and demand, and provides the price signals and incentives to encourage investment for the longer term in diverse supplies. Two outcomes from the Energy Review address security of gas supply: DTI is working to streamline consent regimes for gas supply infrastructure projects, and is also consulting on possible ways to further improve the effectiveness of the current UK gas security of supply arrangements.
(Malcolm Wicks, Minister for energy, Department of Trade and Indu…

Written Parliamentary Question: 29th November 2006

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the estimated income to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency from fees for providing replacement registration certificates (V5C) was in (a) 2005-06 and (b) 2006-07. (John Hemming)

A:The income, which is derived from fees for providing replacement registration certificates (V5C) for 2005-06 was £14.7 million and the forecasted income for 2006-07 is £13.5 million. (Stephen Ladyman, Minister of State, Department for Transport)

Family Courts - how secret are they?

What has happened recently is that there have been two judgements in Clayton v Clayton and in NCC v Webster that have both reinterpreted and clarified the situation in terms of proceedings in the Family Courts.

I would emphasise that I am not legally qualified and if people wish to check out specific details then they should check them with people who are legally qualified.

Firstly, however, any proceedings held in private before a judge remain confidential. That includes any of the papers and reports that are part of those proceedings and prepared for those proceedings. This includes the judgement whether it is anonymised or not.

Secondly, whilst proceedings continue noone can publish the identity of a child or material intended or likely to identify a child in such proceedings.

Thirdly, however, when the proceedings have come to an end there is no statutory protection of the identity of the child. It is, therefore, at that point open to people to publish details. Quoting from Mumby&…

Birmingham Baywatch

I always thought Birmingham needed a big river. The rivers Rea and Cole are relatively small although I have seen a nice old picture of the River Cole today.

We have, however, had our own tailored version of Baywatch uploaded on Youtube.

Children and Mental Health

I have been reading an interesting report by National Statistics into the Mental Health of young people looked after by local authorities in England.

It points out for example that for 5-10 years olds 42% of the children (looked after by local authorities) are thought to have a "mental disorder" as opposed to 8% of "private household children".

There is a question as to why. Clearly there are two potential sources of cause. One is the experiences of the child before becoming formally "looked after". The other the the effect of being "taken into care".

The only way of checking out this situation and finding out what are the key drivers is to have controls. The only available controls are other countries. It is clear that a substantial number of children are taken into care who should not be. What is not clear is what proportion of those taken into care fall into that category.

Another useful piece of information is that which looks at the preval…

Afghanistan - a segmented society

Afghanistan is, from an anthropological perspective, a segmented society. The primary patterns of political loyalty are to families, clans and ethnic groups.

Fundamentalist secularists tend to see religion as a cause of problems. It is in fact human nature that is a cause of problems religion tends to temper the worst aspects of human nature.

It is important to remember that religion tends to follow a segmented identity. When the UK was primarily segmented a thousand years ago Christianity followed the conversion of clan chieftans.

The division between Sunni and Shi'a Islam started out as a political division and became from that an ideological division.

To understand what is happening in societies it helps to deemphasise religion and look at the tribal loyalties.

The word Afghanistan is pronounced as if all the first three consonants are swallowed up and elided together. The languages spoken are those which tend to ignore the constancy of vowels and focus on the consonants. Hence…

Birmingham MPs work together on New St

It should not be really "news", because the Birmingham MPs should work together in the interests of the city.

However, this is working quite well as far as New Street Station is concerned. 5 MPs (3 Labour, 1 Tory and 1 Lib Dem) took part in an event to highlight the petition cards. Then Gisela Stuart and I took the petition (along with various other people inc Steve Dyson, Carl Chinn and Paul Tilsley) to the Department for Transport.

Written Parliamentary Question: 22nd November 2006

NHS Trusts
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) what the maximum amount each NHS trust may spend on marketing their services to general practitioners under patient choice and payment by results is; and what definition of marketing she uses;

(2) what the maximum amount each NHS trust may spend on marketing their services to patients and members of the public under patient choice and payment by results is;

(3) how much each NHS trust has budgeted for marketing their services to (a) patients and (b) general practitioners under patient choice and payment by results.
(John Hemming)

A:Information on NHS trust budgets for marketing is not held centrally.

In the "Operating Framework for 2006-07" the Department set out its expectation that providers would not want to spend excessively, on advertising and marketing and its preference for a self-regulatory approach. The Department will launch a "Code of Practice for Advertising and Promotion of National Health Services", …

PMQ Again

Prime Ministers Question time starts up again today.

I wonder sometimes if PMQ's style of questioning drives and/or responds to the style of politics in the UK. It is more about entertainment than good government. There are important issues which need proper consideration. That will not generally happen through PMQ, however.

For example the Quality and Outcomes Framework in the NHS is costing a lot of money. Is it value for money? Given the contract with GPs is it possible to reduce the costs? I am told of one single handed GP with a gross income of £450,000 as a result of QoF with a patient list of 6,500. That probably gives him a profit after staffing costs of about £300,000. The question is whether the improvement in health of his patients is worth the increased costs. I am not sure that it is.

Local Hospital Most Important to Patients

The national survey of patients into patient choice of hospital has been released. Unsurprisingly 57% of people (79,000) think that the location is an important issue.
22% were concerned about the waiting times, 18% about the hospital's "reputation", 17% about the quality of care, 15% about cleanliness, 8% about quality of staff and 6% about car parking.

The reputation of the consultation for a specialism was less important than car parking. There were a number of other minor issues as well.

In Eastern Birmingham 26% of patients remembered being offered a choice.
This figure was 18% for Heart of Birmingham, 37% for North Birmingham and 19% for South Birmingham.

Everyone was supposed to have been offered a choice from Jan 2006.

SIDS Conference in Yokohama

This conference included an interesting abstract:

CARDIORESPIRATORY RECORDINGS DURING SUDDEN INFANT DEATH (SID)
The pathomechanisms leading to SID are still unknown. One way to gain more insights into these is an analysis of memory monitor downloads. There are now a number of recordings from cardiorespiratory monitors which were obtained during SID. In an analysis of 9 recordings of chest wall impedance and heart rate obtained during SID, gasping was the predominant pattern, being already present at the time of the monitor alarm in 3 infants and occurring within 3 min. after it in a further 4. One infant only began to gasp 13 min. after the first monitor alarm. The duration of gasping ranged from 3 s to 11 min. Primary trigger for the monitor alarm had been bradycardia in all but two infants, but there was no indication of heart block or ventricular tachycardia. Prolonged apnea (>20 s) began only up to 13.7 min. (median 2.7) after this alarm in 5 infants and 7 to 20 s before it in 3;…

The Bolam Test and Medical Ethics

There has been some debate about Medical Ethics.

Since Nuremberg there has been the Nuremberg Code .

In essence in non-therapeutic research doctors are not allowed to Harm human beings to find out what happens.

It is more permissible when the research is supposed to benefit the patients.

The Bolam Test (see link) is a test for medical negligence. If a doctor harms a patient when trying to cure the patient then this is OK as long as it is something seen as a reasonable thing by other reasonable doctors.

So, in other words, a doctor can avoid a charge of medical negligence by finding another independent doctor who says that it was OK.

This, however, is not the same for harming patients as part of research where the actions taken were never anything like to benefit the patients.

The goes to the nub of the arguments about the research managed by Dr David Southall (it turns out he is no longer a professor).

The evidence is from published work as well as secret reports such as the Hull report that…

Written Parliamentary Question: 16th November 2006

Dental Budgets
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the gross dental budget is in each primary care trust in 2006-07; how much has been budgeted for in charges in each trust; what the expected outturn against budget is; and if she will make a statement. (John Hemming)

A:A table listing the primary dental service resource allocations for 2006-07 for all primary care trusts (PCTs) in England as at 31 July 2006 is available in the Library. This sets out gross budgets for each PCT, the level of patient charge income that it was reasonable to expect for the level of gross expenditure for each PCT, and the net allocations awarded to PCTs. The actual level of charge income will depend on a range of variables including the service levels, ie the annual units of dental activity, agreed for each local contract with dentists and the relative proportions of chargeable and non-chargeable treatments carried out during the year. The in-year management and monitoring of those allocations is …

GMC Continues Cover-up

There are 5 families in front of the GMC. I know who all 5 families are, but am not going to identify family M because Mrs M is in Australia and I have not been able to contact her.

The other families are
A - Janet and Lawrence Alexander - see Lawrence's Web page see Lawrence's Web page
B - Sharon and Hannah Bozier
D - Janet Davies
H - Davina and Ben McLean

GMC Hearing

Being in London for the meeting tonight having come down early because of meeting Ofgem I attended the GMC FPC hearing earlier today.

There are a number of odd things about this particular GMC process.
The first is that they seem to concentrate on relatively minor issues rather than the major issue of doing harm to patients (particularly babies) through dangerous research.

Secondly, they are appear to be trying to gag the patients and their parents. There is no reason for the parents to be anonymous. Lawrence Alexander (one of the patients) is now 20 he has done loads of interviews with the media and published his story on the web. The theory of anonymity is to protect the children. The reality is that it only protects the professionals who make errors (intentionally or otherwise).

I had referred the research to the GMC to ensure that it has been formally referred. I have now referred the absence of action to the Council for Regulatory Healthcare Excellence which is the watchdog of…

Remembrance Sunday Birmingham 2006

I have noticed that quite a few people are looking at my photographic record of Remembrance Sunday in 2005. I, therefore, took photos from my seat in the VIP stand plus a few others.

I have suggested that the City Council kept a documentary photographic record of major city events such as Remembrance Sunday and post them on the web. If I remember to chase this up it would be relatively easy to do. What is important is to do a better job with events than people such as the BBC. For example you should ensure that each of the groups attending is photographed. That is much like the Jang or Kashmir Post that photograph all the people at a meeting. The BBC editorially select what they think are good photos. That misses out much of what happens.

My difficulty is that often I am involved in the event such as playing the Guitar at St Patrick's day so I cannot do a proper record.

However, for remembrance Sunday 2006 in Birmingham's Centenary Square you need to start with a properly …

Justice for Families

I have been working on creating a defined structure for the umbrella campaigning I have been doing (with others) to improve Public Family Law.

From Friday it has been called "Justice for Families". The main web page on my reference website is linked.

As am umbrella campaign it will not have individual membership, but be based upon affiliation of other organisations.

So far Fassit have agreed to affiliate. If anyone else wishes to affiliate they merely need to indicate their support. No financial contribution is needed.

Farepak and MPs Salary

A considerable amount of fuss has been made about whether or not MPs should donate £165 (a day's salary) to those who have lost money in Farepak.

I give more to charity in a year than £165 so the question is why Farepak?

Firstly, noone has contacted me from my constituency about the issue so it does not appear to be an issue in Yardley.

Secondly, for each MP who donates someone who lost a hamper at a value of £500 will get about a fifth of a penny. Hence if 600 MPs donate funds then people will get £12 towards a hamper. Enough really for a fish and chip dinner for a family of four.

Thirdly, why Farepak and not MG Rover.

Fourthly, why Farepak and not Save the Children or Help the Aged.

As far as I am concerned I will continue to support local youth groups rather than Farepak.

The important point about Farepak is why the advance monies were not kept in a trust account so if the company goes bust the money is not lost to the depositors. That, however, is the responsibility of the gover…

Peak Uranium

The linked article (slightly old apologies, from October 2006) relates to how flooding at one mine caused a jump in prices of Uranium.

With the issues about either scarcity of fossil fuels or carbon emissions there have been discussions about Nuclear Power.

It is quite clear that there are constraints on the availability of Uranium.

There are arguments that there is only enough Uranium to produce three years of the world's electricity

One of the problems with Uranium is that it takes quite a bit of energy to mine and process the ore such that it can be used.

What is needed is a proper full cycle analysis of the production of Uranium.

There are three other suggested nuclear energy sources. These are fusion (where deuterium is hammered together to create heluium), the breeder reactor and the Thorium Cycle which is a form of breeder.

None have been shown to be effective as yet before we take into account the long term effects on the environment.

My own view is that solar energy through alga…

Adoption Campaign

The issue of Adoption has been quite high profile recently. We had Madonna's circumvention of the system. We also have the campaign to encourage older people to adopt (see link).

It is clear, however, that some of the contested adoptions of the past have occured on the basis of false evidence. My own view is that there should be a hold on contested adoptions until there has been a review of the process. Whatever the situation is we should not compound the difficulties.

Some of the people I am particularly worried about are those parents that adopt children that should not have been "freed" for adoption. What happened with Tammy recently is likely to happen more often as the children get older and find their birth parents. This is difficult for both sets of parents and the children. There is, of course, no easy answer to this.

What is important, however, is not to create any more of these situations. When parliament starts again I will do some work on this.

Pipped at the Post

Well, having been at place 14 on the list of questioners for the Prime Minister (probably too low down to be called) then parliament is prorogued (cancelled until the official opening next week). Hence no question.

Times Articles and Southall Victim

The first article looks again at MSbP and FII. I asked a question about FII relatively recently and the government (Civil Servants) came out with the usual drivel.

The second article
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,200-2436306,00.html
Looks at the use of Medical Opinion as Evidence.

It is important to remember the impact of the false allegations on the children of the parents who were alleged against. There is a speech from last week's conference at
http://www.fassit.co.uk/opening_up_family_courts.htm
This is from someone who was adopted as a result of false allegations and was recently reunited with her mother. This raises perhaps the hardest aspect of this whole saga. There is clearly an impact on the adopting family when it turns out that the forced adoption occurred on the basis of false allegations. I don't really have an answer to this save that we should stop forced adoptions on the basis of "balance of probabilities" immediately.

The following statement will…

Metaphyseal Fractures

This seems to be another diagnostic of child abuse. The real question is how valid it is as a diagnostic. There is no question that it has been used. The Webster Family is one family with many children taken off them because of "metaphyseal fractures".

Of all the injuries observed in child physical abuse, none is more specific than the metaphyseal fracture. First described in 1957 by the eminent pediatric radiologist John Caffey, metaphyseal fracture is virtually pathognomonic of abuse. Kleinman et al coined the term "classic metaphyseal lesion" (CML) to describe the injury. CMLs are relatively common in abused infants and are discovered in 39%-50% of abused children less than 18 months of age. Overall, CMLs most often occur in the distal femur, proximal tibia, distal tibia, and proximal humerus. They are seen almost exclusively in children less than 2 years of age.

pathognomic, pathognomonic
a. a. aiding diagnosis; distinctive

News Item re Websters (Hardinghams)
The e…

Standards of Proof, Medical Ethics and Family Law

At the moment to disqualify a doctor requires evidence beyond reasonable doubt (the criminal standard). However, to remove children from parents requires evidence on the balance of probabilities.

I am aware of a number of cases where totally rubbishy medical opinion has been used to remove children from parents.

I am to some extent persuaded of the need of stronger standards of proof for permanent actions (such as disqualifying doctors or removing children from their family for ever).

The big issue for me, however, is why that the GMC has not acted (and still does not respond to my reference) on some of the research managed by David Southall. There is a hearing on 13th November. However, it is not going to consider research project E5 in Sir David Hull's report.

The law in terms of defamation on these issues is relatively complex. References to bodies such as the GMC have qualified privilege which means that if they are not malicious, but in error then they do not form cause for…

Written Parliamentary Question: 2nd November 2006

HMRC Call Centres
Q:To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether HM Revenue and Customs has implemented the informative message to stop silent calls in its call centres.
John Hemming)

A:holding answer 30 October 2006

HM Revenue and Customs is currently undertaking work to upgrade the outgoing telephony systems in its contact centres and expects to have the technical ability to play such recorded messages fully in place from March 2007. In the interim, arrangements are in place to ensure that the contact centre telephone number is always displayed therefore anyone missing a call would have the option of calling the number back. (Dawn Primarolo, Paymaster General, HM Treasury)

The Free Lunch Row

There is a row going on in the blogosphere about whether or not the Lib Dems should have made it clear in the last manifesto that "free personal care" did not include a "free lunch". (or indeed a free dinner).

The reality is that free personal care is an improvement on what happens at the moment. Anyone going into a residential home would have had to pay for their own food in any event. Hence the underlying policy is a clear step forward for the people involved.

There is also a problem where people are having to top up payments for people in residential care. Some of the care may be paid for through means testing, but that does not cover all of the bill and relatives need to find the rest.

Shorter Speeches

There were a number of votes yesterday on how parliament should operate. I voted for shorter speeches and september sittings, but against the communications allowance and requiring more notice for amendments in committee.

Now, however, the communications allowance has been put in place I will probably fall into line and make use of it. (in the next financial year). I am subsidising my office costs slightly this year, mainly because of the cost of the phone system.

The reason it is being done is to stop abuse of postage, but really the best thing to do would be to stop abuse of postage instead.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 2nd November 2006

Health and Safety Executive
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the Health and Safety Executive plans to make its guidance books available in electronic format.(John Hemming)

A:holding answer 11 September 2006

Over the past 18 months, HSE has made more than 1,000 previously priced publications, mainly reports, freely available in electronic format, through the HSE website. (Anne McGuire, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions)

NHS Lobby

Today I met people from Birmingham concerned about proposals for the NHS. The loss of our regional blood testing centre concerns me as at times we need a rapid turnaround of testing. There is an argument that there could be fewer centres, but not as few as three.

I also had the papers accepted for the appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 31st October 2006

Operational Tour Bonus
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made with the implementation of the operational tour bonus. (John Hemming)

A:Further to my statement to the House on 10 October, I can confirm that all service personnel have now been given full details of the scheme. Our aim is to pay the allowance as soon as possible to all those who have already returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. (Des Browne, Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence)

Random Calling

One thing that has come up as a result of the progress being made with respect to silent calls is the tendency for companies to call randomly all numbers in a particular range of numbers. This includes all ex-directory numbers. It is probably the case that people need a facility to stop any unrequested calls.

CMO on Expert Witnesses

I have not yet read the CMO's report on Expert Witnesses. There are, however, clearly very substantial problems far beyond just the one case. Problems are diagnosed where they basically don't exist. Then action is taken totally unnecessarily and very damagingly.

Permission Refused

Unsurprisingly today Permission was refused. I still think there is a strong legal case, however and am looking at taking the issue to the Court of Appeal. Otherwise we will continue to have a situation where the government hide problems until it is too late to properly fix them.

The Queen on the application of Hemming Mp v The Prime Minister

COURT 27
Before MR JUSTICE BENNETT
Monday 30 October, 2006
At half past 10
Applications for Permission
CO/2164/2006 The Queen on the application of Zaluska v East Devon District Council
CO/4705/2006 The Queen on the application of Hemming Mp v The Prime Minister
CO/2173/2006 The Queen on the application of Mehmood v SshdCO/1917/2006 The Queen on the application of Arpa v Sshd
CO/2803/2006 The Queen on the application of Arpa v Sshd
CO/5021/2006 The Queen on the application of Koyuncu v SS Home Department
CO/4637/2006 The Queen on the application of Ileo v SS Home DepartmentCO/8185/2006 The Queen on the application of Agyeman v Secretary Of State For Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs
CO/5534/2006 The Queen on the application of Turner v SS Home Department

Well, we are second on and I carried all three lever arch files and big (1607pp) JR book from the House of Commons to my flat because there were no taxis.

The government's argument is that the courts cannot force ministers…

Score 3:1 to Children and Families

We now have the results in from two more cases. The scottish case was always a more difficult one because if its nature. The Birmingham case - which is bound by Family Court rules went well.

The newspapers today are starting to recognise that there is a serious problem whinc is endemic in the system. To be fair to the Judges and the Attorney General (Lord Goldsmith) they are doing some work to deal with this.

What we really need, however, is a Clayton order on the Birmingham and Newport Cases so that the consequences of those can be fully recognised. I will, of course, contact Birmingham Social Services about the Birmingham case and its knock on effects. I have already mentioned it.

Marianne Williams Cleared

The second of the results as part of the 5 key cases mentioned below where the results on four are due either yesterday, today or on Monday cleared Marianne Williams of poisoning her son with salt.

There is a really big problem that lies in the use of expert witness evidence to convict people where the expert witnesses have a conflict of interest. In the case of Roy Meadow it was merely that his evidence was "professional misconduct". In other situations you have people who would otherwise potentially be interviewed about the death by the police giving evidence to say "it was the mother".

The Newport Case where children were taken off their parents was a catalogue of errors. In this case I believe relatively well meaning professionals who were wrong and arrogant, but did not initially have a conflict of interest made a catalogue of errors which split a family apart for two years.

There is a lot more to come. There are also still miscarriages of justice that nee…

More on GMC Meadow

All three appeal judges concluded that the GMC Fitness to Practise Panel had the right to apply professional sanctions to someone on the basis of expert witness evidence provided. Two of the three thought it was "professional misconduct" and one of the three thought it was "serious professional misconduct". On that basis, however, Roy Meadow returns to the GMC lists and is open now to further charges of "professional misconduct" or "serious professional misconduct" on the basis of other cases where he has provided expert witness evidence. My understanding is that there were 6 other references that were dropped.

Stop Press: GMC can keep powers to act

I have picked this up from the TV so don't know where any links are yet, but the Court of Appeal has found that the GMC has the right to strike off someone for the invalidity of their expert opinion in court.

I do need to see, however, what the detailed judgement has said about Roy Meadow's evidence itself. There is a question as to how many people should be locked up on the basis of "honest mistakes".

Clearly, however, now any people whose references to the GMC were struck out because Roy Meadow was struck off can now have the references reinstated. It is, therefore, not entirely clear whether in the long term Roy Meadow won or lost today. I would not be surprised to see him being brought before the GMC again.

Legal "perfect storm" building for medical profession and social workers - Hemming writes to Attorney General; refers North Staffs hospital to informa

In the context of a "perfect storm" of a number of court and GMC cases campaigning MP John Hemming has written to the Attorney General raising the question of medical expert witnesses who have a conflict of interest providing evidence. He is also referring the University Hospital of North Staffordshire to the Information Commissioner.

John Hemming said, "there are some very important issues going through the courts at the moment. Many of these are, in fact, interlinked. Most of the people working in Social Services have good intentions, but there have been large numbers of appalling miscarriages of justice where families have been destroyed for no good reason.

"There are a number of cases going through the courts at the moment that will reopen the question as to whether the government has simply covered up the failure of the system. Margaret Hodge's review of Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy only found one case which was found to be in error. However, the main …