Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Phillip Davies' Comment

I was shocked and appalled to hear about the comment Phillip Davies MP made during a Parliamentary debate earlier this year. The following is from the recent newsletter of the Equality and Human Rights Commission:

Mr Davies had argued that disabled people 'could' be paid less than the minimum wage.

In the debate, Mr Davies contended that that employers often chose non-disabled people over disabled people when recruiting, since they were forced to pay the minimum wage to all potential employees and therefore would not take on a disabled candidate who 'cannot, by definition be as productive in their work' as a non-disabled candidate who would be 'more productive and less of a risk'.

He went on to argue that disabled people should therefore be able to offer to work for less than the minimum wage if it would help them get a job.
Read more at:

What do you think?

Convention for the Rights of Disabled People

Equality and Human Rights Commission Update:
The Commission is carrying out a range of activities across Britain to fulfil its role as one of the designated independent bodies which promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the Convention in the UK. We have produced a briefing document to communicate our work and to encourage participation and involvement.

Health Authorities Need to Advance Equality

From the Equality and Human Rights Commission:

New health commissioning bodies should learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and take steps to meet their obligations under equality legislation to make a real difference to health outcomes according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The Commission undertook a study assessing the performance of a sample of Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts in England with regard to the race, gender and disability equality duties. It found that many bodies were not taking sufficient action to address the diverse needs of people in Britain and to protect the rights of disadvantaged groups.

The Commission concluded that without a major re-think by new health bodies on how they tackle discrimination and advance equality some groups will continue to experience poorer health. For example:
  • Men are less likely to report health conditions than women, leading to worse implications for their health;
  • Infant mortality is higher than average among Black Caribbean and Pakistani groups;
  • Muslim people tend to report worse health than average; and
  • Women report higher incidences of mental health conditions.
The Commission’s recommendations include a requirement that health authorities collect data to ensure they have the right evidence base on which to make decisions, and provide guidance to the people making decisions about commissioning.

Until April 2011, health bodies in England were subject to equality duties regarding race, disability and gender. This meant that public authorities had to take steps to tackle discrimination and promote equality amongst the people they serve. The duties were replaced by the public sector equality duty in April 2011 which covers a wider range of groups such as age, religion or belief and sexual orientation.

Andrea Murray, Director of Policy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
“The introduction of the new equality duty and the reorganisation of the NHS is a good time for health bodies to re-think their approach to equality. Our research shows that many health organisations see equality as a box ticking exercise, and few were able to show they have used the duties to make a real difference to the health outcomes of particular groups.

“Acting upon the equality duty will help health organisations to develop effective services that meet patients’ needs, improve the health of the population and tackle disadvantage faced by particular groups.”

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Cameron's Social Policy Review

David Cameron has chaired the first meeting of the social policy review launched in the wake of the riots earlier this month. The prime minister announced in the aftermath of the disturbances that an internal review of every government policy would take place to ensure they were bold enough to fix a "broken society".

Ministers from the Home Office, the work and pensions department and the communities and local government department are taking part in the review, which is expected to last until October.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said it would look at whether current government plans and programmes are "big enough and bold enough to deliver the change the country now wants to see".

The spokeswoman said the policy review would "see whether it addresses the demands that were made by the public in the wake of the public disorder. It's to do that check on where we are in terms of existing policy development and whether it continues to meet the demands that have been made."
The meeting set out the process of the review, which will look at the wide range of issues around what the government terms the "broken society".

The spokeswoman added: "It looks at the whole set of issues regarding broken society; it could be schools, family policy, parenting, communities, human rights, health and safety, cultural, legal, bureaucratic problems, services the government provides and how they are delivered and the signals that government sends about the kind of behaviours that are encouraged and rewarded."

Resuscitation Orders

There is a worrying article in the Guardian: Patient Concern demands national policy on 'do not resuscitate' orders

Patchy Healthcare Adds to Miseries of Women and Girls

A Human Rights Watch report, "Nobody Remembers Us: Failure to Protect Women's and Girls' Right to Health and Security in Post-Earthquake Haiti," documents the lack of access to reproductive and maternal care in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

According to Klasing, the government should adopt a strong gender policy across ministries and programmes to ensure women's rights are considered in all matters.

"It also should take steps to make sure women and girls at public facilities understand what programmes and services are available for free and necessary to continue treatment," she said.

"With almost 260 million dollars earmarked for health care, no woman should have to give birth on the street," Roth said. "Women and girls have a right to life-saving care, including in adverse circumstances."

Read more:

Friday, 26 August 2011

Human Rights in Healthcare Conference

I have just discovered a recent conference report (May 2011) on Human Rights and Healthcare held by the Mersey Care NHS Trust (Liverpool). The Trust has recently set up a Human Rights in Healthcare website as part of their Human Rights in Healthcare programme. According to their webpage, their aim is to 'promote a human rights based approach in health and social care.'

The conference report can be found at:

The slides used for the background presentation are also available:

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Single Sex Wards

Some positive news! It appears progress is being made...

Further falls in the number of patients kept on mixed-sex wards has prompted ministers to suggest single-sex accommodation is now the norm in the NHS in England. In July there were 1,126 breaches - a drop of 90% since December 2010. More than two thirds of hospitals reported zero breaches with the north east becoming the first region to report no breaches at all.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "The NHS has done a fantastic job getting to grips with this. Single-sex accommodation is what people can now expect."  They apply to all trusts from acute hospitals to mental health units. Only intensive care and A&E are excused. Read more:

I remember the Health Minister, back in 2008, stating that 'single sex wards were not possible.'  I've found the 2008 article at Here is an extract:

"The only way we're going to have single-sex wards within the NHS is to build the whole of the NHS into single rooms. That is an aspiration that cannot be met."

In the article, Kate Jopling, of the charity Help the Aged, said:

"Dignity in care should be paramount, and privacy goes hand in hand with this. Sharing mixed sex wards remains an ongoing concern for many older people who may find the experience distressing and an inappropriate infringement of their privacy, and therefore dignity.

Of course, as Ms Jopling is speaking for Help the Aged, her focus is on older people, but the points she makes about the importance of dignity and privacy, and the distress mixed wards have caused (and continue to cause in some areas) extend to all age groups. I am, therefore, pleased by this news (even if it has taken the government far too long to implement it...)


N.B. For all its failings, the Daily Mail has consistently fought to bring to an end the NHS practice of mixing men and women patients.

CEDAW: Brazil

In the first-ever maternal death case to be decided by an international human rights body, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women established that governments have a human rights obligation to guarantee that all women in their countries—regardless of income or racial background—have access to timely, non-discriminatory, and appropriate maternal health services. Even when governments outsource health services to private institutions, the committee found, they remain directly responsible for their actions and have a duty to regulate and monitor said institutions.

Today’s decision is a groundbreaking victory that will benefit women worldwide, says Center for Reproductive Rights, a global legal advocacy organization that filed the case with the United Nations.
Read more at:

Monday, 15 August 2011

UK Bill of Human Rights

There is an intersting article on the proposed Bill of Rights on the UK Human Rights Blog and some thought-provoking comments in response to Adam Wagner's article in the Guardian on this topic:

It seems to me that much of this concern about the 'dangers' of the Human Rights Act 1998 is unfounded.

The Act was defined as inter alia giving further effect to rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) BUT it is subject to limitations and controls:

-          Does not grant the courts the power to strike down domestic legislation that is inconsistent with the Convention
-          Parliament is free, if it chooses, to enact legislation that is not compatible with the Convention
-          Act is not entrenched against appeal.

This extract from the conclusion of R v Mental Health Tribunal (2001) gets to the point:

“The United Kingdom has of course been signatory to the European Convention since its outset in 1951. Since 1966, it has granted the right of individual access, and there have been a considerable number of cases against the United Kingdom before the court. We now have incorporated the Convention into our law by the Human Rights Act of 1998. But, as it seems to me, the view that that makes a sea-change is an erroneous one. We have had, over the years since 1951, to comply with the terms of the Convention. Sometimes, as decisions of the court have made plain, we have not succeeded in doing so. But for the most part, the practices and procedures carried out in this country do comply with the terms of the Convention, and it is wrong to approach the matter with a view that there may be a breach. Rather, as it seems to me, the approach should be that the court will not accept a breach unless persuaded and satisfied that there is one.”

There is, generally within the UK, overriding compliance with Convention rights. Therefore, whilst the HRA assists access to these rights (at least procedurally) it is actually a fairly superfluous piece of legislation. As long as we are party to the ECHR, the rights we have protected now will remain protected, whether through a British instrument (the HRA or the proposed Bill of Rights), through the judicary or the court in Strasbourg.

Tom Condliff: PCT U Turn

Heard on the news this evening that, despite the court rejecting Tom Condliff's appeal (see previous posts), the NHS IS now funding the necessary surgery. This is due, so it appears, to a recent change in his medical situation. In a statement, the PCT said: "The request and the new supporting medical evidence was thoroughly examined by our clinically led panel and Mr Condliff's clinical circumstances were found to be exceptional as outlined in our policy."

Maternal Health: Africa

During the past week or so the spotlight has been placed on the state of maternal health in South Africa. There has also been lots of coverage on Twitter helping to raise awareness of this important issue.

The most recent Human Rights Watch newsletter  ran an item entitled 'South Africa's Failing Maternity Care' (  The experience of Abeba, and other women interviewed by HRW, makes for extremely disturbing reading. According to teh recent HRW report the ratio of death from childbirth are four times more likely than ten years ago. This is a shocking statistic, especially considering that one of the UN Millennium Development Goals is the improvement of maternal health. There is so hope, however, as HRW suggests that measure to improve oversight and accountability in public hospitals and among health workers could reverse this trend.

This item has also been covered by Times Online, 'Healthcare system fails pregnant mothers'. It makes the important point that:
"Women do not know their rights, and often don't know that they can complain because of that the health system doesn't benefit from this information."

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said that plans to overhaul the healthcare system were passed last week and new posts had been created:
"We need health workers that respect the basic rights of patients, and these new posts will provide competent people who will be responsible and accountable for instances of abuse."

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who has sent supportive emails and to those who are now following my blog and twitter feed.

Please do get involved in the discussion!


I mentioned the brilliant item on the One Show re whistleblowers in a previous post. The gentleman interviewed by the presenters made some important points concerning the safeguarding of patients. He argued that:
- doctors and nurses have an ethical duty to act if they think their patients are being harmed
- managers should not ignore whistleblowers
I completely agree. He also provided some guidance as to where concerns should be taken:
- feedback to the hospital
- contact the care quality Commission
- contact the patients association

This is all well and good. But do we not just return again to the question: what about the people raising the concerns? Will they have to worry about their job security? 'The Small Places' has raised an other interesting point on Twitter:

"Another perverse effect of closing Rose Villa may be to discourage whistleblowers: all staff would lose their jobs when services are closed."

The whole idea of a 'need' for 'whistleblowing' at all seems wrong to me; something is wrong at a fundamental level. What do you think?

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Winterborne View: Article 8

There is an excellent post on UK Human Rights Blog which discusses the potential of Article 8 (esp. privacy and autonomy) in cases in which individuals have been mistreated/abused in healthcare settings.