NHS calls in Nepalese nurses to plug holes in staffing

Nurses are being flown in from Nepal to work in the NHS despite a global ban on employing healthcare workers from the country because of its own staff shortages.

The state we’re in – Owl

Eleanor Hayward www.thetimes.co.uk

The Department of Health yesterday [Monday] signed a deal with the Nepalese government to recruit staff for the NHS, agreeing to pay for their air tickets, visas and registration fees.

About 100 nurses are due to work at Hampshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust under a pilot scheme running until the end of next year.

The UK has agreed to recognise Nepal’s nursing qualifications, saying these will automatically provide the right to work in the NHS. The bilateral agreement could pave the way for thousands more Nepalese nurses to join the health service.

Nepalese officials said all nurses aged 20 to 45 were eligible to apply for the scheme, adding they would not have to pay any fees and would get a salary of £27,000 to £32,000.

It is part of an international recruitment drive to address a shortage of 50,000 nurses and midwives.

Nepal is on a recruitment “red list”, drawn up by the World Health Organisation to prevent unethical recruitment from countries with shortages of health workers. Nepal has a health worker to population ratio of 0.67 doctors and nurses per 1,000. The WHO recommends 2.3 per 1,000.

A “memorandum of understanding” signed by Britain and Nepal gets around the red-list recruitment restrictions as it is a direct agreement between the two countries. The deal, the first on labour supply between Britain and Nepal, comes amid concerns over the NHS’s overreliance on foreign nurses. Almost half of the 48,436 people who joined the nursing and midwifery workforce in the past year were from overseas, mostly from India and the Philippines.

Pat Cullen, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Ministers must stop the overreliance on overseas staff and do more to invest in the recruitment and retention of the domestic workforce. This starts with pay. Nursing staff have endured a decade of real terms pay cuts.”

The Department of Health said: “Internationally trained staff have been part of the NHS since its inception in 1948 and continue to play a vital role.”


Inflationary trends in “cash for access”

The Conservatives have long held business days at their conference but the price tags have risen sharply since they started charging about £1,000 a head under David Cameron.

Tories offer access to new chancellor for £3,000

Rowena Mason www.theguardian.com

The Tories are selling access to the new chancellor and senior ministers ​at almost £3,000 a ticket for corporate leaders and lobbyists at their autumn conference, saying it will help firms “take your business to the next level”.

The party is advertising spaces for its “prestigious” annual business day at £2,990 a head, saying it will give attenders the chance to interact with “key decision makers in the party”.

The day involves roundtables with senior party figures, a lunch with ministers and then ends with a dinner addressed by the new chancellor, who is expected to be Kwasi Kwarteng if Liz Truss wins the Tory leadership. The dinner alone costs £400 a head to attend.

“This is your chance to hear from the Conservative party’s core team, put your questions directly to key decision makers in the party and network with other business leaders,” the party’s marketing material says.

Alongside the business day, the Tories are also selling companies the chance to exhibit at the party conference in Birmingham, which costs more than £51,000 for the biggest stands. Firms that go for that option are promised “ministerial visits from senior members of the cabinet”.

The party boasts that attending the conference gives businesses a “reach to thousands of party members, influential businesses, the senior Conservative team and more – both in-person in Birmingham, and globally online”.

The Conservatives have long held business days at their conference but the price tags have risen sharply since they started charging about £1,000 a head under David Cameron.

However, the price of the event and promise of access to ministers may reignite concerns about cash for access and ethical standards, which have arisen during the leadership of Boris Johnson.

Steve Goodrich, head of research and investigations at Transparency International UK, said: “Soliciting money for face time with senior government figures reinforces public concerns that cash buys privileged access and influence in our democracy.

“The way these top-tier stands are advertised as buying time with ministers may give rise to the perception that you must pay to be heard in politics. For individuals and businesses struggling with the rising cost of living, this could signal their voice is not worth being listened to.”

A Conservative spokesperson said: “This event is an important opportunity to engage directly with businesses and to highlight how we continue to back business and enterprise as we build back from the pandemic and tackle the economic challenges ahead. All political parties hold business events at their conferences, and we have been holding such events at our conference for decades.”

The concerns over access could be exacerbated by Truss’s plans to ditch ethical oversight for ministers by abolishing the post of independent adviser on ministerial interests.

After being pressed on the subject of a new ethics adviser multiple times at a hustings on Tuesday, Truss said: “I do think one of the problems we have got in this country in the way we approach things is we have numerous advisers and independent bodies, and rules and regulations.

“For me it’s about understanding the difference between right and wrong, and I am somebody who has always acted with integrity […] and that is what I would do as prime minister.”

Chris Bryant, the chair of the committee on standards and a Labour MP, said he feared Truss was setting herself up as “Boris Johnson mark two” on standards and ethics.

He said the credibility of ethical oversight in politics “is already hanging by a pretty thin thread as we have seen over the past few years and it feels like she wants to cut that final thread”.

“This would take us back to a time before cash for questions. If she wants to rewrite this story as a rerun of the 1990s, we know where that ends,” Bryant said.

‘Essential’ £200k storm repair work for Sidmouth

“Essential” storm repair work costing £200,000 will take place at a Devon seaside resort this autumn.


A photo of Sidmouth

The work will begin in September and is expected to end at the start of November – EDDC

The work in Sidmouth will repair the seawall and a ramp which has faced years of storm damage.

It will begin in September and is expected to end at the start of November.

The Millennium Walkway and Undercliff path will close and as the work progresses the closure will move eastwards towards Sidmouth.

East Devon District Council said: “The seawall and ramp have taken many years of storm damage and requires a new concrete face and replacement ramp to ensure the structures are safe and functional into the future.

“Due to repeated storm damage upgrading to some of the railing to a solid wall will take place.

“These works are essential, and we have timed them to avoid the best part of the year for residents and holidaymakers.

“However this needs to be done before the winter storms.”

Water companies in England ‘will take 2,000 years to replace pipe network’

Analysis of Water UK data from 2021 by the Angling Trust has found that on average, water companies replace 0.05% of their pipe networks a year.

European averages show that most European countries replace their pipes at about 0.5% a year.

Helena Horton www.theguardian.com 

It would take English water companies 2,000 years to replace their pipes at current rates, leaked data reveals.

Analysis of Water UK data from 2021 by the Angling Trust has found that on average, water companies replace 0.05% of their pipe networks a year.

Southern Water and Severn Trent are the slowest performers, with each having an average replacement rate of 0.03% of their pipe network a year. Northumbrian and South West Water top the leaderboard, each replacing about 0.2% of their network each year.

European averages show that most European countries replace their pipes at about 0.5% a year, giving each pipe an expected life of approximately 200 years. Modern PVC pipes can last between 50 and 100 years depending on ground conditions and other factors.

England’s crumbling pipe network is one of the causes of the vast volumes of water leaked each year, exacerbating droughts and leading to the implementation of hosepipe bans. Water companies in England and Wales lost more than a trillion litres via leaky pipes last year, according to the sector’s latest figures. The industry and its financial regulator, Ofwat, say the water companies lost an average of 2,923.8m litres of water a day in 2021-22, equating to 1.06tn litres over the year, although Ofwat said the figures remained provisional until it has completed validation checks.

Water industry insiders have blown the whistle on the poor state of the country’s pipe network, arguing that water companies are allowing sewers to crumble, leading to floods, sewage spilling into rivers and sewage leaking into the ground causing health and safety problems.

Martin Salter, the head of policy at the Angling Trust, said: “The available data on wastewater pipe replacement rates shows that the typical replacement/renewal rate in the UK is around 0.05% of the network per annum. This implies Ofwat and the water companies are expecting sewers to last for 2,000 years – 10 times longer than the European average. Our increasing concern in pollution situations like this is that any repairs to an already crumbling network will only last a short while before the next wipeout of fish and wildlife.”

Burst sewage pipes also damage wildlife and rivers, spilling raw effluent into waterways.

Last weekend, a sewage leak suspected to have been caused by faulty pipes at the River Ray near Swindon wiped out fish populations on a three-mile length of the Thames tributary.

An initial investigation by the Environment Agency fisheries team indicates that in the bulk of the river, down to the junction with the main River Thames, there has been an almost total wipeout of fish populations and other invertebrates. More than 2,000 dead fish were counted in the sampling area, including large chub, pike and barbel.

Salter added: “There’s clearly some deep seated problems in the sewerage network around Swindon which should have been resolved years ago. We have sought full incident reports from both Thames Water and the Environment Agency and have instructed solicitors to take whatever action is necessary to secure the funds to restore the river and its wildlife. This would be in addition to any criminal prosecutions which must surely follow such a serious pollution.”

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “Protecting the environment is fundamental to what we do and we are sad to say the pollution caused by a burst pipe near Haydon End sewage pumping station has caused the death of fish in the River Ray. We are working with the Environment Agency to make sure the river returns back to normal as soon as we can.

“The broken sewer pipe has now been repaired and we will soon start to move our tankers, which were deployed so we could remove wastewater while we fixed the pipe, out of the area.

“The pollution from the burst reached as far as the confluence between the River Ray and the River Thames, and we have put aeration cannons into the water to reduce any impact of the pollution. Our environmental scientists have found no evidence that the pollution has caused any environmental damage to the River Thames. They have been carrying out further tests from the River Thames back to the source of the pollution so they can see how the river is recovering.”

Water UK, the trade body representing water companies, has been contacted for comment about pipe replacement.

Jackie Weaver to star in Channel 4’s “Make Me Prime Minister”

Viral sensation Jackie Weaver will be seeing if she has what it takes to be the next Prime Minister in a new Channel 4 series.

Jack Peat www.thelondoneconomic.com 

Weaver took the internet by storm in February last year when footage of Handforth Parish Council’s heated Zoom meeting showed her booting out two troublesome council members and being famously told “you have no authority here”.

Now she will join a 12-strong line-up in the new Channel 4 series, Make Me Prime Minister, which will see the candidates showing if they have the mettle to lead the nation and battle it out to see if they have “what it takes to operate in the cut-throat world of politics”.

After trending on Twitter and becoming one of the most popular memes of 2021, Weaver has since released a book and been a guest on television shows including Channel 4’s Big Fat Quiz Of The Year 2021.

Speaking about the upcoming series, Weaver said if she was victorious she would “make decisions that people don’t like”, and believes that “national politics should not involve the rough and tumble that it currently does”.

She would also like to “focus funding away from central government and towards local government so that changes you care about can be made”.

Former prime ministers Sir Tony Blair and David Cameron will also appear in the six-part series, which is due to air later this year on Channel 4.

“Candid and personal advice”

Sir Tony and Cameron have both offered their “candid and personal advice” on what it is like to be prime minister and have also given advice to the candidates in the series, Channel 4 said.

With views across the political spectrum, the 12 “ordinary yet opinionated Brits” will be followed on the campaign trail in the programme, as they are put through their paces in a series of “prime ministerial-style tasks designed to test their leadership skills, resilience, and integrity”.

Weekly group challenges will be set and judged by Alastair Campbell, who was Sir Tony’s former press secretary, and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, former co-chairwoman of the Conservative Party and a member of the House of Lords.

In order to remain on the campaign trail and make it through the weekly vote, candidates will need to persuade and convince former politicians, experienced journalists and the British public, that they have the charisma, vision and political acumen to lead.

Throughout the course of the series the candidates will be whittled down until one is crowned Channel 4’s Alternative Prime Minister.

Levelling up bill does not include funding needed to make levelling up happen, say MPs

Another Conservative Con, just gaseous rhetoric:

“ ..one final ingredient, the most important factor in levelling up, the yeast that lifts the whole mattress of dough…”! – Owl


Although the House of Commons is not sitting over the summer, MPs who chair select committees are still doing some work and some of them have been sending out letters. Clive Betts, the Labour MP who chairs the levelling up committee, says that when Greg Clark replaced Michael Gove as levelling up secretary in July, he asked Betts to tell him over the summer what the committee thought of the levelling up and regeneration bill.

Not much seems to be the answer. Today Betts has released the letter he has sent to Clark on behalf of his committee giving an assessment of the bill and here is the key paragraph.

It is the committee’s view that the main tool to achieve levelling up will be through appropriate funding to those areas that need it most. This funding will help in making progress on the levelling up missions related to public transport and local connectivity; transforming digital connectivity; improving education outcomes; increasing the number of adults who complete high quality skills training; and increasing healthy life expectancy. None of the provisions in the bill will directly contribute to making progress towards achieving these missions – other than setting them. There is also no funding for levelling up associated with the bill.

Like all select committees, this one has a narrow Conservative majority.

And in a statement to journalists Betts said:

In its current form, the bill does little to reassure that levelling up will prove to be more than just a slogan and that we will have meaningful change in local communities across the country. In key areas, it is unclear how the government intends to drive change and they are yet to commit to the spending that is necessary to level up the country.

Our inquiry has focused on the planning provisions in the bill, which can be described as loosely-connected proposals to tinker with the current system, hopefully achieving some improvement. It has been difficult to conduct scrutiny due to a lot of the detail of the provisions having not yet been published.

“Stalling in the face of a national emergency” – Richard Foord MP

Tiverton & Honiton MP Richard Foord has called on the Government to spare people from soaring energy bills by cancelling October’s price cap increase, accusing the Conservatives of “stalling in the face of a national emergency”. The plan would save a typical household in East Devon an extra £1,869.88 a year, and a typical household in Mid Devon an extra £1,931.85.

Lewis Clarke www.devonlive.com

The 70 per cent increase in the energy price cap expected to be announced by Ofgem later this month would be cancelled, with the Government instead paying the shortfall to energy suppliers so that they can afford to supply customers at the current rates.

He says this would mean a total estimated saving £173 million off their electricity and gas bills across the two local authorities. £115 million in East Devon and £57 million in Mid Devon respectively. The Liberal Democrats say the estimated £36 billion cost should be met by expanding the windfall tax on oil and gas company profits, and using the Government’s higher-than-expected VAT revenues as a result of soaring inflation.

The party is also calling for more targeted support for vulnerable and low-income households. This would include doubling the Warm Homes Discount to £300 and extending it to all those on Universal Credit and Pension Credit, while investing in insulating fuel poor homes to bring prices down in the long term.

Richard Foord, Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said: “People across our part of Devon are already struggling to make ends meet. Many are deeply concerned about how they will cope with the predicted rise in energy bills – which are set to soar by almost 70 per cent.

“This Conservative Government is stalling in the face of a national emergency. Yet again they are neglecting their duty to the country and not doing enough to put money back into people’s pockets, so they can pay their bills. Countless families and pensioners across East and Mid Devon are already struggling. They need help now and cannot afford to wait weeks for a new Conservative leader to act. This is an emergency, and the Government must step in now to help families and pensioners across Devon by cancelling the planned rise in energy bills this October.”