Scandal of NHS patients sent home in the middle of the night to ‘free up hospital beds’
Hundreds of thousands of patients are being sent home from hospital in the middle of the night to relieve pressure on beds, a report has found.
Some 3.5 per cent of all hospital discharges took place between 11pm and 6am, a rate that has held steady for the last five years, according to data collected from Freedom of Information requests.
All 170 NHS hospital trusts in England were contacted, asking for details of patients discharged between those hours.
Some 100 trusts responded, saying that 239,233 patients had been sent home at that time last year. Hospital managers conceded discharging patients this late could be an ‘under the radar’ way of freeing beds.
If all other trusts were discharging at similar rates, this would add up to 400,000 such discharges every year, almost 8,000 a week.
Rates varied between 8.7 per cent for Derby hospitals and below one per cent, according to The Times who made the requests. Newcastle and Southend hospitals claimed they never did it.
It quoted patient campaigners saying that the elderly were often worst affected as they are abruptly sent home to empty houses without proper planning.
The medical director of the NHS has promised action following the report. Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS, said: ‘I am concerned to hear that some patients may be being discharged unnecessarily late. ‘Patients should only be discharged when it’s clinically appropriate, safe and convenient for them and their families. ‘It is simply not fair to be sending people home late at night. We will look at this.’
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association said she had heard reports of patients turfed out with no warning.
‘Patients complain to us that they are sometimes not even given time to phone relatives to let them know what is happening,’ she said.
Hospitals discharge vulnerable patients in their pyjamas
A 94-year-old man discharged alone at 1am and an 80-year-old man sent home wearing just pyjamas, who died several hours later, are two examples of worrying night-time discharges on a patients’ feedback website.
A whistleblower, describing herself as a “staff member”, wrote about three cases of elderly patients being sent home “in the middle of the night” from the Diana Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby.
Writing on the Patient Opinion website, where patients and medical staff write about good and bad experiences, the woman wrote:
‘(1) An 82-year-old lady fell and broke her wrist, she was taken to A&E and it was x-rayed and set in a pot. ‘The lady was sent home at 3am to her flat where she lived alone. The lady had no relatives and was expected to manage all alone with no care.
‘(2) A 94-year-old gentleman was sent home from hospital at 1am after being taken in earlier by ambulance with breathing problems, on arrival back at his flat it became clear that he could not get out of car without his wheelchair, that was locked in his flat on the 10th floor. ‘The taxi driver refused to go and get it and a support officer from the building had to be called out.
‘(3) An 80-year-old gentleman was sent home in the early hours of the morning after suffering chest pains. ‘The staff of A&E felt it was appropriate to give the gentleman morphine and put him in a taxi with just a thin pair of pyjamas. The gentleman died several hours later of a heart attack.’
One patient in the Isle of Wight wrote that he was treated well in hospital but criticised the discharge procedure in which he was sent home barefoot. ‘After a period of observation while my condition stabilised I was told I was fit for discharge at 4.30am,’ he wrote. ‘I was barefoot in my night clothes and had no money, having been brought in by ambulance.
‘The buses weren’t running and I eventually had to go home by taxi and pay a £40 fare as I live in West Wight. ‘I think more consideration could be made to discharging people in the middle of the night who have no transport and are not clothed appropriately as it was very undignified.’
‘A danger to patients’: Twice suspended doctor who prescribed wrong drugs and did unauthorised operations back at work
A twice suspended doctor banned for prescribing the wrong drugs and carrying out unauthorised operations is back at work. London GP Arun Raunier also failed basic exams but to the fury of former patients has been allowed back into medicine by the General Medical Council (GMC).
Rauniar was suspended in 2008 and then again in 2010 after it was found he had not improved as a doctor.
Originally he had performed ‘inappropriate’ operations, including circumcision, at his Leyton surgery in east London while also falsely claiming to be a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.
Dr Rauniar had also failed to assess and examine patients properly, held out-of date emergency drugs and believed it was not his job to deal with mental health issues.
90-year-old mother Lydia Sandford was prescribed drugs used to treat dementia patients by the bungling GP, but in fact had suffered a mini stroke.
Her son Geoff Sandford made a formal complaint against Rainiar claiming his actions sped up her death and he has maintained for a decade that he should have been struck off for what he did to his mother. ‘It’s absolutely outrageous,’ he told The Sun. ‘This man is a liar and a danger to patients. The GMC attitude seems to be that he hasn’t killed anyone.’
The Sun claim that he is now back at work under supervision at a different east London surgery. Back in April 2008 he was found guilty of multiple failings by the GMC. At that hearing he was ordered to retrain and blocked from practising without supervision for two years.
In the same year he was asked to sit medical exams testing his judgement and problem solving. But he fell short, scoring 381 points when he needed 480 to pass.
Two years later the GMC said he had made no progress and suspended him for again for a further 12 months.
A new GMC panel considered his case last month and has said that as long as he shows he has improved as a doctor they will allow him to take a new GP’s job in the UK.
Chairman Dr Robin Knill-Jones said: ‘The Panel considers that a period of three years will be needed for you to address your retraining issues and give you sufficient time to prepare for and undergo a further performance reassessment, before your case is reviewed. ‘The Panel is encouraged by your efforts and now expect you to embark on a more formal approach to your retraining.’
Hundreds of foreign criminals are still not being deported from Britain
Two-thirds of the foreign prisoners who were mistakenly released back onto the streets are still in Britain, six years after the scandal cost the home secretary Charles Clarke his job.
The much criticised UK Border Agency promised to toughen up its procedures after it was revealed 1,013 immigrants had been released from jail without being considered for deportation in 2006.
But hundreds are still being allowed to remain while thousands more are taking years to process, a House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has discovered.
The report found that only 397 had been removed, 57 had completely gone missing and the rest had been allowed to stay or were still being dealt with.
“Six years is far too long for this situation to be resolved and these cases should have been concluded long ago,” the committee concluded.
A year after the debacle, in which Mr Clarke resigned, the UK Borders Act introduced an “automatic deportation” provision for any non-EU citizen who has served a 12-month sentence or more to be receive a removal notice.
Yet the report, the third into the UKBA, also found that 10 per cent of the 5,010 foreign national prisoners released last year were allowed to remain.
More than a 1,000 were still fighting deportation although on what grounds it was not known.
It also found that 2,670 released prisoners were still fighting deportation after being released more than two years ago.
Almost 20,000 asylum cases also remain unresolved and some 120,000 immigration cases are being written off because the applicant can no longer be found, it added.
Keith Vaz, the committee’s chairman, said: “The reputation of the Home Office, and by extension, the UK Government, is being tarnished by the inability of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to fulfil its basic functions.
“The foreign national prisoner issue and the asylum backlog were scandals which first broke in 2006, six years ago.
“UKBA appears unable to focus on its key task of tracking and removing illegal immigrants, overstayers or bogus students from the country.”
The agency was also criticised for its “bunker mentality” and its confusing and misleading method of recording data.
“The ‘agency’ must rid itself of its bunker mentality and focus on ensuring that Parliament and the public understands its work,” the MPs said.
“Confusion over figures only risks suspicion that the ‘agency’ is attempting to mislead Parliament and the public over its performance and effectiveness.
“The only way the Home Office can allay and remove these fears is to clean up and clarify all the figures that are used in these reports.”
The committee called for the authorities to ensure foreign defendants have the necessary travel documentation as soon as they are sentenced in a bid to see them deported once they have served their jail term.
Immigration minister Damian Green said the UKBA had improved from a state of “complete chaos” when the Government took office two years ago.
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Green said: “It is getting better slowly, probably too slowly than most people would want – some areas are getting better faster than other areas.
“The asylum service is immeasurably much better than it was three or four years ago.
“We start deportation action on foreign national prisoners now 18 months before the end of their sentence. As a result of that, last year we removed over 4,500 foreign criminals, and 45% of those were by the end of their sentence.”
“In the coming months, we will be changing immigration laws to cut the abuse of the Human Rights Act, which has been used by far too many people to delay the process of removal.”
UK lawmakers: Olympics could overwhelm Heathrow
British lawmakers have questioned Heathrow Airport’s ability to cope with an influx of passengers during the London Olympics this summer, warning that long lines at immigration could force planes to sit on runways or even circle Europe’s busiest airport.
The concerns were expressed in a letter to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt from the chairman of House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee, John Whittingdale. It was published Wednesday.
Whittingdale wrote that lawmakers had met with Heathrow operator BAA on its preparations for Olympic games and “did not leave the briefing confident” that Heathrow was ready to cope with huge numbers of arrivals around the Olympics in a “timely fashion.” The games run from July 27 to Aug. 12.
“We understand that significant preparations have been made to accommodate unusual sporting equipment, special lanes for the Olympic family, welcoming arrangements for competitors and additional Olympic ambassadors,” Whittingdale wrote. “However, far less thought seems to have been given to the issue of how to deal with long queues at immigration.”
Whittingdale said those lines could push terminals over capacity, forcing planes to circle in the air, sit on runways or block gates if they can’t unload their passengers.
Last year, even without the crush of the Olympics, Britain’s former border chief relaxed some passport checks during the busy summer tourist season just to handle the demand.
Long immigrations waits could deter tourists from returning to Britain, Whittingdale added.
Heathrow typically handles an average of 190,000 passengers arriving and departing each day, with 69.4 million total in 2011.
BAA noted that Whittingdale’s concerns related to immigration — which is the U.K. Border Agency’s responsibility — and criticized the agency.
“Immigration waiting times during peak periods at Heathrow are frequently unacceptable and we have called on Border Force to address the problem as a matter of urgency,” BAA said. “There isn’t a trade-off between strong border security and a good passenger experience — Border Force should be delivering both.”
The U.K. Border Agency responded to the letter by saying it is “well prepared” for the Olympics and has additional staff available for busy periods.
“We will not compromise on border security,” it said.
The day after the closing ceremony — Monday, Aug. 13 — is set to be the airport’s busiest ever, BAA estimates, more than its previous record of 233,561 passengers on July 31, 2011. Heathrow is forecasting it will handle 35 percent more baggage for departing flights on Aug. 13 than on a normal day, which sees about 150,000 items.
Heathrow is creating a special terminal for Olympic athletes, coaches and sponsor to fly out of Britain after the end of the games. Airport officials say 10,000 athletes and support staff will go through the “Special Games Terminal” in the three days after the closing ceremony to process the exodus.
Minimum alcohol pricing: Better England free than England sober
Sean Gabb might also have mentioned below the inevitable result of all price control: Blackmarkets. And blackmarket goods can be inferior or even dangerous. So again the poor will take a hit
The Libertarian Alliance, the radical free market and civil liberties institute, today condemns proposals to make it harder for poor people to buy alcohol. The proposals include higher taxes, compulsory minimum prices for drink, further controls on advertising, and power to close down retailers. The only disagreement between the three main parities is how far they wish to go. Speaking today in London, Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, comments:
“These measures, if adopted, amount to an attack on the poor. The ruling class politicians who continually whine about alcohol will not be affected by minimum pricing or the abolition of special offers. I might add that none of them can be affected by such laws. Income aside, anyone who lies his way into Parliament can look forward to round the clock drinking in the Palace of Westminster of untaxed alcohol.
“But the measures will hurt poor people, for whom alcohol will become cripplingly expensive and hard to find. They have the same right to drink as the rest of us. Bearing in mind the problems willed on them by our exploitative ruling class, they often have a greater need to drink.
“The claim that drinking ’causes’ public disorder is nonsense. Alcohol does not run about the streets. People do. If people are making nuisances of themselves, the police should be instructed to stop behaving like some equivalent of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and to start protecting life and property again.
“The claim that drinking makes people unhealthy is irrelevant, where not a lie. People must be regarded as responsible for their own mistakes. Anyone who bleats about increased cost to the National Health Service should consider that drinkers already pay more in taxes than the alleged cost of treating their specific illnesses.
“We oppose all controls on the availability of alcohol to adults. Better England free than England sober.”
The Libertarian Alliance believes:
* That all the licensing laws should be repealed;
* That all controls on the marketing of alcohol should be repealed;
* That alcohol taxes should be reduced to the same level as the lowest in the European Union, and that there should be no increase in other taxes;
* That not a penny of the taxpayers’ money should be given to any organisation arguing against the above.
New “Free” schools proving popular in Britain
They are government funded but under control by community groups rather than local authorities
Twenty-two of the 24 Free Schools which opened last September responded to a Department for Education (DfE) survey, with 19 reporting being over-subscribed for the coming school year starting this September.
On average, primary Free Schools attracted more than twice as many applications for the number of places available.
The secondary, or all-through, Free Schools, on average received well over three times as many applications for the places available.
Free Schools are being set up by teachers, parents and charities where there is parental demand and, in the main, in areas of deprivation.
Schools Minister Lord Hill said the figures underlined the popularity of Free Schools with parents. “These figures show how keen parents are to send their children to Free Schools,” he said.
“They provide the answer to the naysayers who said that Free Schools weren’t wanted or needed – or that no one would be bothered to set them up. “They are also providing a spur to other local schools to do the best they can.”
Tania Sidney-Roberts, principal of Free School Norwich, said: “The Free School Norwich is three-and-a-half times over-subscribed again for this September and we are currently operating waiting lists of at least 18 children in all year groups across the school. “This demonstrates just how desperately needed the service our school provides is.
“A recent parent feedback survey carried out by the school also indicates that 100% of our parents are very happy with the service and that their children love coming to the school and are making excellent progress.
“I am obviously delighted to have confirmed in this way what we always knew was the case – that the freedom given to Free Schools to be innovative and to meet the needs and preferences of parents was long overdue and it works.”
Dr Brinder Singh Mahon, chairman of the Nishkam School Trust, in Birmingham, added: “We have been very disappointed to turn away over 50 families who could not be accommodated in the school.”