Family’s fury as hospital releases dementia patient, 89, at 2am and claims it was ‘in her BEST INTERESTS’
An elderly dementia patient was discharged from hospital at 2am after hospital bosses declared it was ‘in her best interests’.
Eileen Hansbury, 89, had been admitted nine hours earlier after suffering a suspected broken nose in a fall. But despite being made comfortable in bed, she was woken up in the middle of the night, put in an ambulance and sent home.
Her appalled family say hospital bosses simply threw the confused old lady out in the early hours so they could free a bed. Her daughter, Marjorie Hamblin, said: ‘I was furious. Older people should be kept in overnight. ‘I complained to the hospital immediately.
‘After six months I had a letter saying my mum was discharged because they thought it was “in her best interests”.
‘How is that the case when she was asleep and comfortable in bed at 2am? They just wanted to get her out of the bed so someone else could have it. ‘It is outrageous that elderly and often confused patients are shunted out of hospitals in the early hours of the morning. ‘It is okay to discharge at a reasonable hour, but not in the middle of the night. ‘I think it is preposterous and it is time this practice is stopped.’
The incident happened last November when Mrs Hansbury, a grandmother of three who served with the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes during the Second World War, suffered a fall. Extremely confused, she was unable to tell staff at Green Park Care home in Penketh, Cheshire, if she was seriously injured, but they suspected she had a broken nose and called an ambulance.
She was admitted to Warrington Hospital at 5pm where she was treated for her injuries and made comfortable in a bed. After initially believing her mother would be staying in overnight, Mrs Hamblin, was stunned to find Mrs Hansbury, who died earlier this month from bronchial pneumonia, had been discharged at 2am.
Yesterday a Warrington Hospital spokesman defended their decision to wake the old lady in the middle of the night and discharge her. He insisted patients can be released at any time once staff had decided that no further treatment or hospital admission is required.
The spokesman said: ‘On review by the doctor, a decision was made that no further treatment was required and Mrs Hansbury could safely return to the nursing home and be more comfortable in familiar surroundings. ‘The nursing home was notified and an ambulance was arranged to take her as soon as possible.
‘We do everything possible to minimise discharges out of normal hours and in Accident and Emergency try to assess patients as quickly as possible so they can return home if no further treatment is required.’
Last week Warrington Hospital was criticised after figures revealed it had one of the highest rates in the country for discharging patients during the night. Five per cent of its patients – 3,621 people – were discharged between 11pm and 6am last year, although the hospital said the figures included women on the maternity unit who preferred to go home after giving birth.
The Department of Health says patients must not be sent home between 11pm and 6am unless it was ‘clinically appropriate, safe and convenient for them and their families.’ The move came after figures showed up to 400,000 patients were discharged overnight from wards throughout the country last year.
‘Lying doctor failed to spot meningitis’ that wrecked a girl’s life: Now she is set for a seven-figure sum
Yes: ANOTHER “overseas trained” doctor
A baby suffered catastrophic brain damage after a junior doctor failed to spot she had meningitis and lied to her parents that he had sought a second opinion from a consultant, a court heard yesterday. Dr Halenahalli Vijayakumar told Mark and Diane Pierce their daughter Kate was merely suffering from viral tonsillitis.
But when they requested a second opinion, he disappeared for 45 minutes before returning and, they say, informing them that his ‘boss’ agreed with his diagnosis. But the junior hospital doctor had not sought the second opinion of a senior doctor and had simply lied to the couple, it is alleged.
Nine-month-old Kate was wrongly sent home, but hours later she was taken back to the same hospital where she was correctly diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis. Doctors battled to save her life and although she survived, she suffered serious brain damage.
Kate, now six, has breathing difficulties, epilepsy and other health problems and needs round-the-clock care at her home.
The Pierces’ ordeal began in March 2006 when Kate fell ill and they contacted an out-of-hours GP, who told them to take her to hospital.
Mrs and Mrs Pierce, who live in North Wales, launched legal action against Betsi Cadwalader University Health Board. Yesterday a compromise was reached, with the board accepting 75 per cent responsibility for the brain injuries Kate suffered. The family are in line for a compensation payment of more than £1million to help fund care for Kate in the coming years. The case, at Mold County Court, was adjourned to agree the payout.
Last night Mr Pierce, a senior police officer, said: ‘It has been horrific for us. Although an internal hospital review found the doctor had not sought a second opinion, they have done absolutely nothing about it. ‘The doctor concerned has not faced any sort of disciplinary action. We feel a complete breach of trust on the part of the hospital.
‘We have absolutely no confidence that the hospital or doctor concerned have learned any lessons from this.
‘Kate is brain damaged, she is registered both deaf and blind, she is fed through a tube in her stomach, she has chronic lung disease, she has severe epilepsy and sleep apnoea which means someone has to be with her 24 hours of each day. ‘She has no control of her head. As a family we need support and carers who know Kate.’
Mrs Pierce, who works in human resources, has had to reduce the hours she works so she can look after Kate and her older sister, Ellen, nine.
Dr Vijayakumar, who qualified in India in 1990, is still practising as a doctor at a GP surgery, without any restrictions on his licence. Last night the practice manager at the Dr Asokan and Partners surgery in Mold, North Wales, said Dr Vijayakumar was on holiday.
A health board spokesman said: ‘It is conceded by the board that aspects of the care provided by the hospital were not of an acceptable standard. Sincere apologies have been extended to the family and lessons have been learned.’
Obsession with safety is risking our children’s well-being
A decade after child protection checks began, common sense and compassion have been sidelined
Imagine living in a society governed by fear: fear of the authorities, fear of your fellow citizens’ covert suspicions and overt accusations, fear of having even your most decent human impulses twisted into an unthinkable crime.
It’s the stuff of police states, of Kafka and the Communist revolution and the Stasi-dominated dystopia of the DDR. It is also, experts warn, a damning snapshot of Britain today.
Take the example of tousle-headed toddler Abigail Rae, who died because the passing adult who could have – should have – saved her, was too frightened to stop his van, scoop her up in his arms and take her to safety, lest he be branded a pervert.
The two-year-old, who had strayed from her Warwickshire nursery and was spotted toddling along a village road by a bricklayer driving past, was later found, drowned, in a pond. Commenting at the inquest of the case, which took place in 2002, the coroner remarked that: “This is perhaps a sad reflection on our society, but you may well understand the circumstances.”
We can understand, perhaps – the unpalatable truth is that the driver’s fears were far from unfounded – but surely we can’t condone his inaction?
Much is made of the “crisis of childhood” besetting youngsters growing up in our over-sexualised culture. Perhaps it’s time we asked ourselves whether there isn’t an even greater crisis in adulthood.
A decade after the introduction of Criminal Records Bureau checks, we have developed such a preoccupation – some would say out-and-out hysteria – about rooting out paedophilia that common sense and compassion have been sidelined, to everyone’s cost.
“There’s been a shift towards a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach towards those working or involved with children that isn’t based on logic,” says Helene Guldberg, Open University psychologist and author of Reclaiming Childhood: Freedom and Play in an Age of Fear. “We have absurd situations where you can’t take photographs of your own child in public places, or a man isn’t allowed to sit beside an unaccompanied child on an aircraft, and this assumption of guilt, of sinister motivation, is really corrosive to society.”
The CRB system was established in the wake of the Soham murders of 2002, when Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, both aged 10, were murdered by Ian Huntley, who had been employed as a school caretaker, despite having faced a number of accusations of sexual assault.
Few dispute that its introduction has weeded out unsuitable candidates who previously gravitated towards jobs working with children. But there are those who believe its widespread (mis)use has brought more losses than gains.
Guldberg argues that it is impossible for any sense of community to exist without trust. If all other adults – particularly men – are perceived as a potential risk to children, then we reach a situation where only the parent is responsible for a child, and other adults shy away from intervening, even where a child is in danger.
“One study found that 75 per cent of men admitted they would not help a child in distress, for fear of what it might look like to others,” says Guldberg. “A total of 23 per cent would ignore the child completely, the others would find a woman to assist.”
That level of fear may be shocking – but the high tidemark of mistrust isn’t far behind. Of those men, 67 per cent said they themselves would be concerned about the intent of another man who approached a distressed child.
According to libertarian campaigners, The Manifesto Group, CRB checks – all 32 million of them to date – are no guarantee of safety. On the contrary, mass vetting leads to an abdication of personal responsibility and an assumption that child safety is the sole preserve of the state.
Nor is the “better safe than sorry” ethos confined to children’s welfare. Risk aversion and an almost farcical over-reliance on regulations is fast becoming ingrained in our psyche.
Last week saw the comi-tragic instance of 25 firefighters too entangled in red tape to wade into shallow water and rescue a seabird trapped in a plastic bag. They were, understandably, labelled “ridiculous”.
But what words are there to describe the scenario in 2007, where police support officers stood by, uselessly, as courageous 10-year-old Jordan Lyon dived into a pond to save his younger sister? She lived, but he drowned, because not one grown-up was willing to help. And who can forget the appalling fate of Alison Hume, the Ayrshire woman who fell down a mineshaft in 2008? She languished underground for eight hours, and died of a hypothermia-induced heart attack, despite a winch being available – because the regulations stated it was only for the use of official rescue workers.
However, it took the death of a charity shop worker in a 3ft deep boating lake to bring about real change. Simon Burgess, 41, suffered an epileptic fit in March 2011 and died as emergency crews looked on. Police and paramedics were specifically ordered not to enter the water, a shocking revelation that led the Government to dispense with the health and safety barriers that have been hindering emergency workers. As of last April, officers who carry out “heroic acts” without regard to their own safety are now protected from prosecution. But in the wider community, goodwill and good sense are still open to almost wilful misinterpretation.
In November year, a Tyneside supply teacher was suspended on the grounds of “gross misconduct”. Martin Davis’s “crime”? He gave a stranded 17-year-old pupil a lift home. The student made no complaint and Davis, 59, was cleared of any wrongdoing, but he has struggled to find employment since.
No one disputes that young people need to be protected from predatory adults, but the CRB checks, which were originally a safeguard used in the context of professionals working unsupervised with children, have proliferated exponentially.
They are carried out by a private company, Capita, at a cost of £1.5 billion, as increasing numbers of organisations insist that virtually anyone carrying out community work – whether arranging flowers at church or taking elderly people to the shops – must be vetted.
Local councils have subjected tree surgeons and a burger van operator to CRB checks, on the grounds that they work near schools. Even the Duchess of Cambridge underwent a CRB check before beginning volunteer work with the Scouts on Anglesey, presumably to reassure any parents worried about the intentions of the future Queen of England.
Older people are disproportionately affected by the checks carried out on the one million people a year who apply to do voluntary work. Often, they find themselves footing the bill, which is £26 for a standard check and £44 for an enhanced check.
“What our members really object to is the application of the law,” says Geraldine Bedell, editor of the social network site Gransnet. “They don’t have some rosy notion that checks aren’t needed, but they are irritated and exasperated by the number of them; some have had half a dozen or more CRB checks. There’s an absence of common sense.”
A childminder will have a CRB check to work with children, but if she also wants to be a classroom assistant, she will need a second check, and a third if she wants to help out with the Brownie pack.
According to Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, disproportionate anxiety is destroying the quality of our children’s early years. Our perception of danger has been distorted by our exposure to technology. “Because we have such a screen-based culture, and watch rolling news and are bombarded by pictures on the internet, we are being emotionally hijacked by imagery that bypasses the rational centres of the brain and makes us fearful,” she says.
“Reading a newspaper means we have to process information through words, which enables us to assess the risks. But we are losing that common sense and our sense of commonality, which makes it more and more difficult to trust people.”
The growing influence of Twitter and instant messaging means that negative opinions and emotions can be expressed and conveyed at the touch of a keypad. We assimilate other people’s views with little thought and become accustomed to spectating rather than instigating. That acquired passivity has a trickle-down effect, says Richard House, a senior lecturer in psychotherapy and counselling at the University of Roehampton.
“Twenty or 30 years ago, if someone saw a child either in trouble or causing trouble, a grown-up wouldn’t have thought twice about getting involved,” says House. “Nowadays, people have a greater tendency to play the bystander; rather than responding instinctively, they are more worried about negative repercussions and possibly being seen as an abuser.”
But this tendency to hang back, governed by fear, until someone “more appropriate” comes along, ideally waving their CRB certificate, may not be in our best interests after all. The uncomfortable fact is that if we don’t step in to save someone else’s child, then how can we complain when nobody steps in to save ours?
More pupils in Britain’s private schools despite fees hike
Parents are being forced to pay almost £13,800-a-year to put children through private school following a rise in the cost of independent education, it emerged today.
Average fees increased by 4.5 per cent this year, figures show, adding another £600 to the bill for each pupil. The average price of boarding topped £26,000 for the first time, it emerged.
Over the last decade, the cost of independent schooling has now soared by more than 75 per cent – or £6,000 – far out-stripping the rise in earnings over the same period.
The disclosure – in data published by the Independent Schools Council – comes just days after the former headmaster of one of Britain’s top schools claimed that fee-paying education was increasingly becoming the preserve of the “super-rich”.
Martin Stephen, the ex-High Master of St Paul’s, said independent schools were now as “socially exclusive” as they were in the Victorian era.
But the ISC insisted that the latest figures showed continuing strong demand from parents.
According to organisation’s annual census, fee rises at schools this year were among the smallest levied since the early 90s, with schools spending record sums on means-tested bursaries for poor students.
The overall number of pupils in private education also increased for the first time in three years.
But a comparison of schools on a year-by-year basis shows a small drop in the number of British students, suggesting the overall increase in admissions is being driven by demand from foreign families. [China]
Barnaby Lenon, the ISC chairman and former headmaster of Harrow, insisted schools “should be very proud of the results”.
“At a time of recession, when very many parents are struggling financially, it is clear that finding fees for their children’s education remains a priority for very large numbers,” he said.
The ISC said that some 1,209 schools completed its annual census in both 2011 and 2012. Among these schools, the overall number of pupils increased by 0.1 per cent to 504,949.
But among British students alone, the number of pupils in like-for-like schools dropped by 0.1 per cent to 479,009 in 2012.
Figures also showed:
* Eleven schools belonging to the ISC shut in the last 12 months, following 14 closures a year earlier;
* The number of pupils coming from abroad increased by 5.8 per cent to 26,376;
* Hong Kong, China and Germany sent the most pupils, although the number of Russian students has more than doubled in five years;
* Fewer pupils were in boarding schools in 2012, with numbers falling by 0.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis to just under 68,000;
* Rising numbers of ISC students are choosing to take university degrees overseas, with 27 per cent of schools reporting a rise in pupils shunning British universities in favour of countries such as the US.
In a further disclosure, it emerged that the average annual fee increased from £13,179 to £13,788 this year, although the 4.5 per cent rise was the second lowest since the mid-90s.
Average annual costs stood at just £7,824 in 2002 – representing a 75 per cent increase in 10 years.
Day fees rose from £11,208 to £11,709 in the last 12 months and boarding fees increased from £25,152 to £26,340.
But figures show a third of pupils gained some form of assistance with fees in 2012, with a record £284.7m spent on means-tested bursaries – up by 9.4 per cent in a year.
Kenneth Durham, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents 250 leading schools, said: “Even in deep recession, parents recognise excellence in education. Despite increasing financial pressure, families are determined to find the best and broadest opportunities for their children in the independent sector.”