2008年2月28日 星期四

investing in your musical taste

spawn (START)

Make money by investing in your musical taste

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By Jennifer Hill

LONDON (Reuters) - The digital revolution might be making it harder for record labels and retailers to make money out of music, but the decline in album sales has spawned a new type of investment that is attracting fans and investment banker types alike.

Slicethepie.com has financed 13 bands, earned 40,000 "scouts" more than 40,000 pounds and landed hundreds of investors some rosy returns since its launch seven months ago.

"The problem the industry is struggling with is that the cost of producing new artists is phenomenally high," the company's founder and chief executive David Cortier-Dutton, tells Reuters.

"With music sales dropping -- physically, that is, and digital sales not making up (for that) -- it means the industry has to find a way to make music at a much lower cost.

"We effectively turn every music fan into a record label. Everyone can invest in new artists on an economically attractive basis."

Members, he says, include avid music fans who simply want to make some beer money from reviewing new artists, people whose main desire is to get close to the bands, investment professionals looking to diversify their portfolios and others still, who want to do the whole thing: discover new music, invest and make money out of their position.

The site adopts a "wisdom of crowds" philosophy. Some 7,500 artists have signed up to be independently and anonymously reviewed by members and, every month, the 20 with the top ratings go forward to try to qualify for funding.

Typically, one or two receive the required level of backing from investors who want to buy "contracts" in them, generally costing 50 pence each -- and secure 15,000 pounds to record and release an album.

Whereas a musician would need to shift at least 100,000 albums for a major record label to break even, those who sell just 1,000 will make money for their Slicethepie investors.

Two years after investment, investors receive one pound per album and 10 pence per single sale for every contract they hold. If the Arctic Monkeys had started out on Slicethepie, for example, investors would have received just over 100 pounds for every share bought, based on album sales of 1.1 million. So a 20 pounds investment would be turned into 2,000 pounds.

Artists retain copyright on their work and are free to sign to a traditional label at any time, provided it is willing to pay a 50 percent premium.

Next month, indie-rock starlets The Alps will become the first band to release an album via Slicethepie. The fan-funded four-piece, from Greenwich will release "Something I Might Regret" on March 10.

"Slicethepie is perfect for a band like us," says lead singer Daniel Heptinstall.

"It gives us the best of both worlds. We have complete control over our sound and a direct connection with our fans -- the very people who gave us a chance to record this album."

Investors can also buy and sell contracts in artists on what is effectively a music stock exchange.

Some artists have so far made sparkling returns (either real or paper) for investors: Scars on 45 is trading at around 250 pence, five times up on an initial price of 50 pence, while investors received 187 pence per contract, again on an initial 50 pence, when Gilkicker bought itself out to enable it to sign a major record deal.

Others are not faring quite as well.

Shares in Katrina Bello at one time had lost around 20 percent of their value but have since bounced back to stand 10 percent up at 55 pence.

Would-be traders can try their hand on a virtual exchange. Wannabe music moguls are given 1,000 pounds of imaginary money, with the top 10 traders every week receiving 20 pounds each.

As for Slicethepie itself, it earns commission on funds raised, trades and receives a small share of royalties.

It expects to finance more new artists than EMI, Sony BMG or Warner in 2008, bucking the trend for poor major label hit-rates and roster downsizing.

That would net it a pretty penny and come as music to the ears of those fans and investors hoping that their belief in these unsigned bands will pay off.

"Like investment in wine or (classic) cars, it's an alternative investment," adds Cortier-Dutton. "The industry isn't big enough to make it a major asset class, but that doesn't mean that it can't be a bit of fun -- and earn (people) some money, whether you invest a few pounds or a few thousand."

(Editing by Stephen Addison)

2008年2月26日 星期二








生產百優解的美國禮來公司(Eli Lilly)則說,"大量的科學和醫學實踐顯示,"百優解"是一種有效的抗抑鬱藥物"。










Google knocks the BBC off top spot to take first place in Superbrands survey

GOOGLE, the American internet search giant, has been voted the UK's number one brand in the latest annual Superbrands survey.
The company knocked the BBC off top position and into fourth slot, while Microsoft took second position and oil giant BP snatched third place in the annual snapshot.

Stephen Cheliotis, chairman of the Superbrands council which oversees the survey, said the list was intended to reflect brands which have "established the finest reputations."

The full article contains 87 words and appears in Edinburgh Evening News newspaper.
Last Updated: 25 February 2008 12:26 PM

2008年2月24日 星期日

Cycling Turns Fashionable in London

EuroVox | 25.02.2008 | 05:30

Cycling Turns Fashionable in London

London’s cycling community gets fashion conscious as they ride the streets in style.

London is fast becoming a Mecca for cyclists. The city has seen a massive increase in cycling over the last few years and the mayor has just announced major new plans to support cycling including new bike lanes and a city bike hire system.

Now, London is also seeing a revolution in cycling fashion. Young trendy types wheel around London hotspots on vintage bicycles almost as if they were the latest handbag. And cycle clothing is getting a makeover, too.

Report: Martin Vogl

2008年2月21日 星期四

Paying Patients Test British Health Care System

Paying Patients Test British Health Care System

Jonathan Player for The New York Times

Britain’s National Health Service would not let Debbie Hirst, who has breast cancer, pay privately for extra cancer drugs that she needed without paying privately for all of her treatment.

Published: February 21, 2008

LONDON — Created 60 years ago as a cornerstone of the British welfare state, the National Health Service is devoted to the principle of free medical care for everyone. But recently it has been wrestling with a problem its founders never anticipated: how to handle patients with complex illnesses who want to pay for parts of their treatment while receiving the rest free from the health service.

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Jonathan Player for The New York Times

Debbie Hirst with her husband, Ian, on the beach at Carbis Bay in Cornwall, England.

Although the government is reluctant to discuss the issue, hopscotching back and forth between private and public care has long been standard here for those who can afford it. But a few recent cases have exposed fundamental contradictions between policy and practice in the system, and tested its founding philosophy to its very limits.

One such case was Debbie Hirst’s. Her breast cancer had metastasized, and the health service would not provide her with Avastin, a drug that is widely used in the United States and Europe to keep such cancers at bay. So, with her oncologist’s support, she decided last year to try to pay the $120,000 cost herself, while continuing with the rest of her publicly financed treatment.

By December, she had raised $20,000 and was preparing to sell her house to raise more. But then the government, which had tacitly allowed such arrangements before, put its foot down. Mrs. Hirst heard the news from her doctor.

“He looked at me and said: ‘I’m so sorry, Debbie. I’ve had my wrists slapped from the people upstairs, and I can no longer offer you that service,’ ” Mrs. Hirst said in an interview.

“I said, ‘Where does that leave me?’ He said, ‘If you pay for Avastin, you’ll have to pay for everything’ ” — in other words, for all her cancer treatment, far more than she could afford.

Officials said that allowing Mrs. Hirst and others like her to pay for extra drugs to supplement government care would violate the philosophy of the health service by giving richer patients an unfair advantage over poorer ones.

Patients “cannot, in one episode of treatment, be treated on the N.H.S. and then allowed, as part of the same episode and the same treatment, to pay money for more drugs,” the health secretary, Alan Johnson, told Parliament.

“That way lies the end of the founding principles of the N.H.S.,” Mr. Johnson said.

But Mrs. Hirst, 57, whose cancer was diagnosed in 1999, went to the news media, and so did other patients in similar situations. And it became clear that theirs were not isolated cases.

In fact, patients, doctors and officials across the health care system widely acknowledge that patients suffering from every imaginable complaint regularly pay for some parts of their treatment while receiving the rest free.

“Of course it’s going on in the N.H.S. all the time, but a lot of it is hidden — it’s not explicit,” said Dr. Paul Charlson, a general practitioner in Yorkshire and a member of Doctors for Reform, a group that is highly critical of the health service. Last year, he was a co-author of a paper laying out examples of how patients with the initiative and the money dip in and out of the system, in effect buying upgrades to their basic free medical care.

“People swap from public to private sector all the time, and they’re topping up for virtually everything,” Dr. Charlson said in an interview. For instance, he said, a patient put on a five-month waiting list to see an orthopedic surgeon may pay $250 for a private consultation, and then switch back to the health service for the actual operation from the same doctor.

“Or they’ll buy an M.R.I. scan because the wait is so long, and then take the results back to the N.H.S.,” Dr. Charlson said.

In his paper, he also wrote about a 46-year-old woman with breast cancer who paid $250 for a second opinion when the health service refused to provide her with one; an elderly man who spent thousands of dollars on a new hearing aid instead of enduring a yearlong wait on the health service; and a 29-year-old woman who, with her doctor’s blessing, bought a three-month supply of Tarceva, a drug to treat pancreatic cancer, for more than $6,000 on the Internet because she could not get it through the N.H.S.

Asked why these were different from cases like Mrs. Hirst’s, a spokeswoman for the health service said no officials were available to comment.

In any case, the rules about private co-payments, as they are called, in cancer care are contradictory and hard to understand, said Nigel Edwards, the director of policy for the N.H.S. Confederation, which represents hospitals and other health care providers. “I’ve had conflicting advice from different lawyers,” he said, “but it does seem like a violation of natural justice to say that either you don’t get the drug you want, or you have to pay for all your treatment.”

Karol Sikora, a professor of cancer medicine at the Imperial College School of Medicine and one of Dr. Charlson’s co-authors, said that co-payments were particularly prevalent in cancer care. Armed with information from the Internet and patients’ networks, cancer patients are increasingly likely to demand, and pay for, cutting-edge drugs that the health service considers too expensive to be cost-effective.

“You have a population that is informed and consumerist about how it behaves about health care information, and an N.H.S. that can no longer afford to pay for everything for everybody,” he said.

Professor Sikora said oncologists were adept at circumventing the system by, for example, referring patients to other doctors who can provide the private medication separately. As wrenching as it can be to administer more sophisticated drugs to some patients than to others, he said, “if you’re a doctor working in the system, you should let your patients have the treatment they want, if they can afford to pay for it.”

In any case, he said, the health service is riddled with inequities. Some drugs are available in some parts of the country but not in others. Waiting lists for treatment vary wildly from place to place. Some regions spend $280 per capita on cancer care, Professor Sikora said, while others spend just $90.

In Mrs. Hirst’s case, the confusion was compounded by the fact that three other patients at her hospital were already doing what she had been forbidden to do — buying extra drugs to supplement their cancer care. The arrangements had “evolved without anyone questioning whether it was right or wrong,” said Laura Mason, a hospital spokeswoman. Because their treatment began before the Health Department explicitly condemned the practice, they have been allowed to continue.

The rules are confusing. “It’s quite a fine line,” Ms. Mason said. “You can’t have a course of N.H.S. and private treatment at the same time on the same appointment — for instance, if a particular drug has to be administered alongside another drug which is N.H.S.-funded.” But, she said, the health service rules seem to allow patients to receive the drugs during separate hospital visits — the N.H.S. drugs during an N.H.S. appointment, the extra drugs during a private appointment.

One of Mrs. Hirst’s troubles came, it seems, because the Avastin she proposed to pay for would have had to be administered at the same time as the drug Taxol, which she was receiving free on the health service. Because of that, she could not schedule separate appointments.

But in a final irony, Mrs. Hirst was told early this month that her cancer had spread and that her condition had deteriorated so much that she could have the Avastin after all — paid for by the health service. In other words, a system that forbade her to buy the medicine earlier was now saying that she was so sick she could have it at public expense.

Mrs. Hirst is pleased, but up to a point. Avastin is not a cure, but a way to extend her life, perhaps only by several months, and she has missed valuable time. “It may be too bloody late,” she said.

“I’m a person who left school at 15 and I’ve worked all my life and I’ve paid into the system, and I’m not going to live long enough to get my old-age pension from this government,” she added.

She also knows that the drug can have grave side effects. “I have campaigned for this drug, and if it goes wrong and kills me, c’est la vie,” she said. But, she said, speaking of the government, “If the drug doesn’t have a fair chance because the cancer has advanced so much, then they should be raked over the coals for it.”

2008年2月20日 星期三

Naked "Venus" Gets Free Ride in London

From the Fringe | 18.02.2008

Naked "Venus" Gets Free Ride in London

Venus has gone nude for more than 450 years. And prudish public officials could not convince her to cover up on the London Underground.

Topless would've been okay, officials for Transport of London said. But the poster for an upcoming Lucas Cranach the Elder exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London went too far. The German master's "Venus Standing in a Landscape" depicts an unclothed, golden-haired woman cocking her hips behind a transparent veil.

Transport officials demanded the bottom half of the picture be cropped before it could go up in the London Underground. The advertisement was originally nixed for going against a rule prohibiting pictures which depict "men, women or children in a sexual manner, or display nude or semi-nude figures in an overtly sexual context."

Museum officials expressed shock that the "Venus" painting, completed in 1532, could be seen as problematic.

"We wouldn't have put a poster design forward if we thought it was offensive," academy spokeswoman Jennifer Francis said.

Decision reversed

Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: She does have a veil

John Whittingdale, an influential legislator, described the original ban as "absolutely bonkers."

On Saturday, Feb. 16 transportation officials admitted they had made a mistake and reversed their decision.

The exhibition on the German artist's work is scheduled to open March 8 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. "Venus" is one of 70 works of Lucas Cranach the Elder which will be displayed in London.

DW staff (th)

Suspected suicides in Bridgend area reach 17

《衛報》報道,一名16歲的花季少女在英國南威爾士小鎮布裡真德(Bridgend)自殺,成為該鎮自去年以來第17名自殺的女孩。 文章說,上周該地區就出現了兩起青少年自殺事件,自今年以來該地區共有5名年齡在15至20歲之間的青少年結束了自己的生命。由於連連出現青少年自殺事件,南威爾士小鎮布裡真德已經成為國際媒體和警方關注的焦點。 文章說,目前,警方將調查重點放在這些年輕人之間的通訊聯繫上。但也有家長認為,媒體對"結伴自殺"事件的大肆報道,更助長了一些青少年潛在的自殺情緒。為了預防類似現象的再度發生,英國政府呼籲學校和家長密切關注孩子的情緒。--這句是 BBC編譯添加或誤解原文

Suspected suicides in Bridgend area reach 17 as schoolgirl found hanged

· About this article

This article appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday February 20 2008 on p2 of the Top stories section. It was last updated at 10:09 on February 20 2008.

A 16-year-old schoolgirl was found hanged yesterday, bringing to 17 the number of apparent suicides among youngsters in the Bridgend area since the beginning of last year.

South Wales police said Jenna Parry was discovered at 7.45am in woods near her home at Cefn Cribbwr, a small village north-west of the town.

Her death is the latest in a spate which has made Bridgend the focus of national scrutiny and the centre of a police investigation to discover possible links between the suicides. Speculation originally centred on the internet and social networking websites but police and grieving relatives moved yesterday to quash rumours of such links.

The parents of 15-year-old Nathaniel Pritchard, who apparently killed himself last week, went further and blamed their son's death on press coverage. Nathaniel's mother, Sharon, said: "It has glamorised ways of taking your life as a way of getting attention without fully realising the tragic consequences."

Last week, two cousins died within two days of each other and five people aged between 15 and 20 have died in the area this year.

"A number had access to social networking sites but there's no suggestion that anybody used these sites as a means to take their lives," said assistant chief constable Dave Morris, who is leading an investigation into the deaths. "I would like to put to bed any suggestion within the media that we are investigating suicide pacts or suicide internet links. They were all young people with big issues. There are a constellation of factors influencing these young people." These included relationship break-ups, friendship issues and family problems, he said.

Philip Walters, the coroner for Bridgend and Glamorgan Valleys, said he was convinced there was "not one great conspiracy" linking the 17 deaths, although he said there was clear evidence that the first three suicides and two subsequent pairs were linked by the victims knowing each other. "Apart from the three groupings, there are no links that I can see," he said. "Parts of the media have claimed there is an internet connection but there has been no evidence of that apart from internet tributes after the deaths."

The number of suicides in the last 12 months is above average for the area. In Bridgend, three men aged between 15 and 24 committed suicide on average every year between 1996 and 2006. Last year there were at least nine.

"Media coverage put the idea into Nathaniel's head," said Sharon Pritchard. "We never believed his death was linked to other deaths and never believed there was an internet pact. We are certain it never had anything to do with living in Bridgend."

Nathaniel died in hospital after "harming himself" last week. His cousin Kelly Stephenson, 20, was found hanged hours later while on holiday in Kent.

The police also criticised reporting of the suicides and said Bridgend is becoming "stigmatised" by the coverage.

"We are speaking to young people in Bridgend and what we are getting from them is that the media is starting to contribute to their thoughts in terms of how they feel, pressures they are under," said Morris.

A friend of Jenna's, Daniel John, 20, said: "It has been an absolute shock. She was so bubbly and carefree. I can't imagine why she would take her own life."

The Welsh assembly yesterday announced plans for a suicide prevention strategy. It wants to reduce suicides in the principality by 10% over the next four years. Suicide rates among men in Wales are the highest in the UK and plans for a national school-based counselling service will be published this spring.

The assembly's health minister Edwina Hart said: "I have also agreed that there will be some early pilot projects in suicide prevention work in those areas with the highest suicide rates and am aware that the rates vary across Wales and are not associated with one area."

2008年2月8日 星期五

Our children tested to destruction


Our children tested to destruction
English primary school pupils subjected to more tests than in any other country

By Sarah Cassidy, Education CorrespondentFriday, 8 February 2008
Primary school pupils have to deal with unprecedented levels of pressure as they face tests more frequently, at a younger age, and in more subjects than children from any other country, according to one of the biggest international education inquiries in decades.
The damning indictment of England's primary education system revealed that the country's children are now the most tested in the world.
From their very earliest days at school they must navigate a set-up whose trademark is "high stakes" testing, says the report which is published today.
Parents are encouraged to choose schools for their children based on league tables of test scores. But this puts children under extreme pressure which could damage their motivation and self esteem as well as encouraging schools to "teach to the test" at the expense of pupils' wider learning, the study found. The findings are part of a two-year inquiry – led by Cambridge University – into English primary schools. Other parts of the UK and countries such as France, Norway and Japan used testing but it was, "less intrusive, less comprehensive, and considerably less frequent", Cambridge's Primary Review concluded.
England was unique in using testing to control what is taught in schools, to monitor teaching standards and to encourageparents to choose schools based on the results of the tests, according to Kathy Hall, from the National University of Ireland in Cork, and Kamil Ozerk, from the University of Oslo, who conducted the research.
"Assessment in England, compared to our other reviewed countries, is pervasive, highly consequential, and taken by officialdom and the public more generally to portray objectively the actual quality of primary education in schools," their report concluded.
Teachers' leaders said the testing regime was "past its sell-by date" and called for a fundamental review of assessment.
Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said England's testing system was having a "devastating" impact on schools. "Uniquely, England is a country where testing is used to police schools and control what is taught," he said.
"When it comes to testing in England, the tail wags the dog. It is patently absurd that even the structure and content of education is shaped by the demands of the tests.
"I call on the Government to initiate a full and independent review of the impact of the current testing system on schools and on children's learning and to be prepared to dismantle a system which is long past its sell-by date."
John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, warned that the tests were having a damaging effect on pupils. "The whole testing regime is governed by the need to produce league tables," he said. "It has more to do with holding schools to account than helping pupils to progress."
The fear that many children were suffering intolerable stress because of the tests was voiced by Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers. "There are schools that start rehearsing for key stage two SATs [Standard Assessment Tests] from the moment the children arrive in September. That's just utterly ridiculous," he said.
"There are other schools that rehearse SATs during Christmas week. These are young children we are talking about. They should be having the time of their lives at school not just worrying about tests.
"It is the breadth and richness of the curriculum that suffers. The consequences for schools not reaching their targets are dire – heads can lose their jobs and schools can be closed down. With this at stake it's not surprising that schools let the tests take over."
David Laws, the Liberal Democrat schools spokes-man, said: "The uniquely high stakes placed on national tests mean that many primary schools have become too exam focused.
But the Government rejected the criticism. "The idea that children are over tested is not a view that the government accepts," a spokesman said.
"The reality is that children spend a very small percentage of their time in school being tested. Seeing that children leave school up to the right standard in the basics is the highest priority of government."
The report comes after a week in which both Labour and the Conservatives announced plans to make Britain more child-friendly following a report by Unicef last year which ranked the UK the worst place to be a child out of 21 rich nations.
Parents were warned that they risked creating a generation of "battery-farmed children" by always keeping them indoors to ensure their safety. The Families minister, Kevin Brennan, called for an end to the "cotton wool" culture and warned that children would not learn to cope with risks if they were never allowed to play outdoors.
The Conservatives also launched their Childhood Review which included plans to reclaim parks from teenage gangs.
The Government has already announced that it is considering moving to "age not stage" testing where pupils will sit shorter but more frequent exams. But it insists that school league tables are here to stay.
The plan could see key stage tests disappear as early as 2009 if a trial in 500 schools is successful. But critics of the scheme argue that the changes will make matters worse. Instead of taking three sets of tests at seven, 11 and 14, children would sit up to seven exams as they progress through the education system. Pupils would have two chances a year to attempt to move up a level which critics fear would lead to even greater pressure on them.
Helen Saunders, mother: 'I really didn't like all the testing'
Helen Saunders was so appalled by the amount of testing at her local primary school that she made an extreme decision. In October, she took her three school-age children, Elizabeth, five, Rebecca, seven, and Matthew, nine, out of their school and began to teach them herself at home.
"Enough was enough," says Mrs Saunders, who lives in Hildenborough, Kent. "I really didn't like all the testing and homework, and after a month back at school I thought, 'It doesn't have to be like this'. They're children, and yet they didn't have enough time to play. Our children were all excelling at school, but... I wanted them to get out before all that stress and pressure affected them.
"I know I've made the right decision. One of my friends called me yesterday and said her son had been in tears because he had a test that day. Now that my children are learning at home it's so relaxed; they spend so much time laughing, and we don't have to chivvy them to do their homework.
"Periodically I ask them if they want to go back to school, and they always say no."
How Europe compares
French primary school education remains tightly focused on facts and basic skills. Spot tests are common, especially dictations to check a child's knowledge of French grammar and spelling.
However, formal testing is relatively sparse. All children are given a national test of basic skills and knowledge at about eight years old. The test occurs – crucially – at the beginning of the third year of primary school, not at the end. There is, therefore, little pressure on the children. The main aim is to check the standard of the school.
Otherwise, most primary schools have internal tests, or contrôles, in maths, French, geography and history, and English at the end of each of the five short terms that make up a school year. A child who is struggling can be asked to redoubler, or go down a year. A brilliant child can sauter, or go up.
There is no national examination to move from primary to secondary education, simply a recommendation by a conseil of teachers and parents.
Pupils at Italian schools are tested on average about one test per subject per term, which goes towards the continual assessment of their performance, but does not count all that much. But for serious, GCSE-type, make-or-break exams, from the age of 13 to 18 Italian students enjoy a long exam holiday, all the way up to the maturita exam which they take at the end of liceo, the senior schools in the Italian system. On the other hand, the continual assessments can be rigorous, and if students at the top high schools score less than six out of 10 in two or more subjects they run a serious risk of having to take the year again.
Germany's state-run primary school pupils start their education at the age of five or six. For the first two school years, they are not given marks for their academic performance. Parents are merely handed a school report on their child's abilities and behaviour at the end of each school year.
From the age of seven, pupils are subjected to continuous assessment. Every piece of work, including tests and homework, is marked on a 40/60 per cent oral/ written basis. The marks go towards an annual school report.
When pupils leave primary school at 10 or 11, they are provided with a recommendation, based on continuous assessment, to decide what type of secondary school they attend.
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2008年2月6日 星期三

NHS closes its doors to foreign doctors 誤判


Doctors from India, South Africa and other Commonwealth countries are to be barred from the NHS in an attempt to preserve health service jobs for British graduates.

For generations the health service has been sustained by immigration but yesterday the Home Office moved to end a crisis that has prevented thousands of highly trained British doctors from advancing their careers. Last year the system for selecting doctors for higher training collapsed in what was described as the greatest disaster for medical training in a generation.

The change will end a long tradition of importing doctors to the NHS. Among the 277,000 now registered with the General Medical Council, almost half got their first medical qualifications abroad — the majority from India, Pakistan, South Africa and Australia. Without them the NHS could not have run a service since the 1960s.

Since 1997, however, the number of medical school places in Britain has almost doubled. There are now enough home-grown graduates to fill training posts, reducing or eliminating the need to import doctors.

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Last year many UK-trained doctors were denied initial posts, or won only short-term positions, as 10,000 overseas doctors joined the queue for 20,000 posts. The chairman of the British Medical Association had to resign after writing to The Times to defend the system of applying for training posts, in the face of widespread fury.

The Home Office announced yesterday that, from next month, doctors living outside the European Union will not be eligible to apply for posts through the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme — hitherto an open door to migrants with the right qualifications.

From April 1, the door will also be closed to migrants from India who are applying under a new points system. So-called Tier 1 migrants — those with the highest qualifications — will be barred from applying for higher medical training posts. Non-EU doctors already in Britain as Highly Skilled Migrants, or those seeking leave to remain as Tier 1 migrants, will still be free to apply.

The new rules are expected to cut the pool of potential applicants by between 3,000 and 5,000 by 2009. But the Government has admitted that this will still not be enough to ensure that all British graduates who are good enough will get posts. Between 700 and 1,100 young doctors will be denied jobs in 2009 and beyond.

So the Department of Health yesterday announced that it would consult over proposals to impose additional limits on foreign applications.

Its preferred option is to tell NHS trusts that international medical graduates should be eligible for posts only if there are no suitable applicants from Britain or the EU. That would exclude almost all of them.

An earlier attempt to implement such guidance was challenged in the courts by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), which won a Court of Appeal ruling that it was unlawful. The department appealed to the House of Lords, which is expected to reach a decision in May.

If the Government wins, it could exclude all graduates from medical schools outside the EU from training posts with immediate effect. If it loses, it will have to find a way of implementing such guidance within the law.

The new immigration rules gained approval yesterday. Dr Ramesh Mehta, a consultant paediatrician and President of BAPIO, said: “This should have happened four years ago. We don’t have enough training posts and our UK doctors should have opportunities.”

The British Medical Association was less impressed, however. Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA Council, said: “This is a confusing move, which seems to achieve little apart from adding to the uncertainty for overseas doctors in the NHS.”

Matthew Jamieson-Evans, a spokesman for RemedyUK, a pressure group set up by young doctors last year, said: “They should have done this years ago. If they had done it sooner, it would have avoided a lot of trouble.”

The changes will have no effect this year, when there are expected to be at least three applicants for each training post, with as many as 20 per post for the more favoured specialities such as surgery.


2008年2月3日 星期日

公共服務電腦化問題等(BBC 報摘)

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