British mother given weeks to live after NHS doctors miss cancer
Not one of TEN public servant doctors could be bothered to look into her symptoms. Now a relatively young woman has no chance of survival
A mother-of-three has been given weeks to live after ten hospital doctors and her own GP allegedly missed tell-tale signs of cancer. Angela Skeffington claimed medics continually misdiagnosed her stomach cancer as period pains, depression and even indigestion. She also claims one A&E doctor told her to just ‘eat more bananas’ during her continued cries for help, which went on for five months.
The 43-year-old has now been told her cancer is so advanced that doctors cannot operate.
The terminally-ill grandmother of five said she was treated like a ‘nuisance’ after making cries for help with medics at Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham, and her own GP since April. She said was suffering with severe stabbing pains to the stomach, blood in her vomit and stools, plus a loss of appetite.
Mrs Skeffington claimed she was not given a specialist CT scan until a week ago, when the killer disease was finally discovered. Her stomach cancer has now spread to her liver and lymph nodes, and she has been told there was little hope of recovery.
Medical records show she was seen by ten doctors during 12 visits to Heartlands Hospital A&E, but suffered repeated misdiagnoses including anorexia, depression and indigestion.
Doctors prescribed her paracetamol, but never admitted her back in for more tests until last week – by which time the lethal illness could not be stopped.
Mrs Skeffington, a former warehouse worker from Yardley, Birmingham, said: “I was made to feel like a nuisance by all the doctors because I kept going back telling them I was still in pain. “I knew something was terribly wrong and needed help. After a while, my GP told me there was nothing wrong with me and said the staff in A&E were very busy people and I shouldn’t keep going there. “A doctor at A&E advised me to eat more bananas. Now I find out my body is riddled with tumours and the cancer is terminal. “I feel like they never gave me any chance to survive.”
Mrs Skeffington, who lives with partner John and has five grandchildren all under the age of six, has lost seven stone because of the debilitating illness.
Cancer specialists at Heartlands told her the disease was so advanced that they could not operate to remove it.
She added: “They wouldn’t listen to me and I was treated worse than an animal. It makes me so angry that I won’t see my grandchildren grow up. That breaks my heart and is the worst thing in all of this. “My daughter is pregnant and due to give birth in January. It upsets me that I will probably never get to see that grandchild and they won’t know who I am. “I had all the classic symptoms of cancer but no-one did any thing about it and now it is too late.”
Mrs Skeffington criticised her GP, who works for NHS Birmingham East and North Primary Care Trust (PCT), for not taking her complaints seriously. A referral that he booked in June after months of requests has not resulted in an appointment as yet.
Dr Doug Wulff, medical director at NHS Birmingham East and North, speaking on behalf of the GP and the PCT, said: “Due to patient confidentiality, we are unable to comment on individual cases. “However, NHS Birmingham East and North is not aware of having received any complaint from the patient concerned. “We would encourage the patient to contact us should they wish to take the matter further and we will undertake a full investigation.”
A spokeswoman for Heart of England Foundation Trust, which runs Heartlands Hospital, said: “We are very sorry to learn of Mrs Skeffington’s concerns and, based on the information we have already been given, we are looking into the issues raised and welcome the opportunity to meet with her to address the matters further.
“The safety and care of all our patients is a priority for our doctors and nurses and if there is a case where we have not delivered the best care possible, we will always investigate into why and how we can do things better.” [They’re good at bullsh*t. If only they were good at diagnosis too!]
I disagree with many of his teachings. But it’s those who oppose Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain who are the real bigots
By Stephen Glover
When Pope Benedict XVI touches down in Edinburgh next Thursday at the start of a four-day state visit to Britain, he may be forgiven for thinking he is not particularly welcome. The Devil himself could hardly have got a worse press.
For the first time in my memory, there has been constant coverage in parts of the media, especially the BBC, about the costs to the taxpayer of such a visit, put at some £10 million. At a time of belt-tightening this expenditure is considered by some to be scandalous.
Yet I can’t recall many people querying the costs of previous state visits to Britain. President Jacob Zuma of South Africa is a misogynist polygamist, whose corrupt government is now bearing down on a free Press. Very few complained that the red carpet was being rolled out for him, and the fine wines uncorked, when he came here in March.
Worse still, Pope Benedict is being treated in some quarters as though he were a war criminal.
In a newspaper article yesterday, the well-known Leftist barrister Geoffrey Robertson suggested that instead of offering him a state visit we should be preparing a legal case against him because he has not dealt with sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church as robustly as he should have.
In an even more extreme — if not lunatic — vein, the militant atheist and Christian-hater Richard Dawkins suggested a few months ago that he might orchestrate a ‘citizen’s arrest’ of Pope Benedict during his visit to Britain for ‘crimes against humanity’.
Mr Dawkins was only 37, and perhaps too young to contemplate a citizen’s arrest, when the blood-soaked tyrant President Nicolae Ceausescu made a state visit to Britain in 1978, staying at Buckingham Palace with the Queen. But I can’t remember anyone else advocating locking up Mr Ceausescu.
Many of the things being said and written about Pope Benedict XVI are not merely discourteous to an 83-year-old man who is leader of more than a billion Catholics in the world, not to mention six million in this country. They are also nasty, and reveal disturbing traits of intolerance among this country’s supposedly liberal intelligentsia.
Let me declare that I am not a Roman Catholic. If I am wholly honest, I suppose that, like many Englishmen brought up on tales of the Spanish Armada and the Roman Catholic Queen ‘Bloody Mary’, I retain a few traces of anti-Catholicism that are largely irrational. More rationally, as an Anglican whose father was a clergyman in the Church of England, I resent the Roman Catholic view, promulgated as recently as 1896, that Anglican orders are invalid.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is by this definition little better than a witch doctor. As for the doctrine of ‘Papal Infallibility’, first proclaimed in 1870, that seems barmy.
Nor do I agree with some of the moral teachings of this Pope, or his charismatic predecessor, Pope John Paul II, on matters such as birth control or women priests or homosexuality, which Pope Benedict once described as a tendency towards an ‘intrinsic moral evil’, though he has on other occasions demonstrated some understanding for gays.
Despite these reservations, which will be shared in varying degrees by lots of people, including many Roman Catholics, I nonetheless acknowledge that Pope Benedict expounds what he believes is Christian doctrine in a courageous way.
Unlike many bishops in the Anglican Church, he does not bend to fashionable secular trends, and holds fast to beliefs which are those of the traditional Church. Isn’t that admirable?
And before he is dismissed as a fuddy-duddy ultra conservative, we should remember that he criticised the Anglo-American imbroglio in Iraq, and recently spoke out against the sudden forced expulsion of Roma gipsies by the French Government. Whatever else, Pope Benedict is a humane man.
As for the countless heinous cases of child abuse involving Catholic priests, it can certainly be argued that, like his predecessor, Pope Benedict was slow to grasp the severity and extent of the problem. But despite ingenious attempts to implicate him in some way, there is no evidence at all that he condoned what took place. I believe in the sincerity of his expressions of regret.
Here, surely, is a good, clever and holy man with whom we can disagree on some, or even many, issues. But he is not a monster and child abuser to be vilified as though he has deliberately committed acts of evil.
In his newspaper article Geoffrey Robertson imagined the Pope ‘engaging in hate-preaching against homosexuals or allowing the Catholic Church to operate a worldwide sanctuary for child abusers’. Who is the extremist here?
I have been trying to puzzle out the sheer bloody mindedness and unreasonableness of some of the Pope’s critics. In part it must arise from ancient feelings of fear and hatred about the Vatican and the Papacy which run very deep in this country for well-known historical reasons, and which I have owned up to sharing, albeit in a tiny degree.
But there is something else at work, even more intolerant. It is the voice of secular humanism. I accept, of course, that lots of secular humanists are tolerant and reasonable people. But there is a hard-core which embraces and promotes atheism with the blind fervour of religious zealots. Richard Dawkins is my prime exhibit, but there are many others.
Such people can just about put up with wishy-washy Anglican clerics who substitute fashionable secular platitudes for traditional beliefs, and often display a very faint faith in God.
What these zealots find detestable in Pope Benedict is not only his utter refusal to buy into their secular liberal beliefs, but also his power and effectiveness in sustaining an alternative, God-based moral system.
Parts of the BBC — the Today Programme on Radio 4, for example — offer the secularist zealots an ever-increasing platform from which to undermine Christian belief. Mr Dawkins is a great favourite. So is a philosopher called Anthony Grayling, who campaigns against Christianity. He was at it again on the Today Programme yesterday morning.
It is difficult to disagree with Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, who recently accused the BBC of ‘a consistent anti-Christian bias’.
The Cardinal noted that the BBC — whose director-general Mark Thompson is, strangely, a Catholic — is broadcasting a programme on the eve of the Pope’s arrival called Trials Of A Pope. He suggested, rightly I am sure, that this will be a ‘hatchet job’.
Notwithstanding all the hatchet jobs that have been executed and others that are planned, Pope Benedict’s visit will probably make a deep impression on many people, including non-Christians.
We may not agree with everything he says, or even with his most fundamental beliefs. But his visit should be welcome because he is something rare in the modern world. A decent man of principle.
Racist attack on white boy by Muslim gang at British school
Every playground tiff should be investigated for elements of racism, a report has recommended. The warning follows a hammer attack by an Asian [Pakistani] gang on a 15-year-old white boy on his school’s tennis courts which left the victim with brain damage. Henry Webster’s skull was fractured when he was punched, kicked and hit with a claw hammer by a group calling themselves the Asian Invaders. They left him for dead.
A serious case review of events surrounding the attack found that his school had failed to tackle escalating racial tensions between Asian and white teenagers – even after a riot on the playing fields. It warned that schools should record the ethnicity of bullies and victims and act if a pattern of racism arises, including liaising more closely with police.
According to the review, Ridgeway School in Wroughton, Wiltshire, did not prepare for the arrival of a ‘significant number’ of British Asian students in September 2005 – less than two months after the 7/7 Tube and bus bombings in London. Some problems between white and British Asian pupils were not recognised as racist by the school, near Swindon.
Henry had agreed to fight ‘one on one’ with an Asian boy to end the harassment he thought he and his friends were experiencing. But he was ambushed by a group of youths and young men in January 2007.
The attack led to the 2008 conviction of seven young men for wounding Henry with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm.Six more were convicted of conspiracy.
Henry, now 18, still suffers short-term memory loss. He had accused the school of failing to discipline Asian pupils who abused or intimidated their white classmates.
Last year, his family launched a High Court challenge claiming the school had been negligent, failed to maintain proper discipline or deal with racial tension. The school denied liability. But in February, Mr Justice Nicol rejected their claims and said the school did not breach its duty to take reasonable care to keep Henry reasonably safe while on its premises.
Following his ruling, the Swindon Local Safeguarding Children Board commissioned a serious case review. It found that not only should playground bullying be monitored for racism, but schools should also appoint ‘different race’ mentors for new pupils to help them settle in.
And teachers should consult parents about whether their approaches to religious and cultural requirements are ‘continuously appropriate’.
But Henry’s mother, Liz, 47, said the review confirmed her belief that his school was responsible for the assault. She criticised the report as a ‘whitewash’. ‘Whilst Henry has been the primary victim, we are – and always have been – of the firm belief that this school also let down the young Asian pupils who were eventually prosecuted. They have been criminalised and demonised.
‘Had their integration been properly handled we are certain this attack would not have happened. All anybody needed to do was simple community work – to get the Asian kids playing football with the white kids, or any kind of integration. Let’s hope every teacher in this country examines why this happened.’
The school said: ‘We have noted the recommendations and we always look to improve our practice and will continue to ensure our community which remained incredibly strong after the incident, continues to do so.’
Guidance recommends schools report all bullying. Schools nationwide will not be forced to adopt the 32 recommendations from the Swindon LSCB.
Selective classes based on ability are best for dim kids too
Says Harry Mount. I am not sure what he thinks the end result for the dim ones should be however. Should they spend more years at school or be satisfied to finish school without any qualifications or skills? — JR
Normally, I rate Frank Field for his unsentimental attitude to the problems of the welfare state and the education system. This time, though, I fundamentally disagree with him. Field is suggesting that children who fail exams should be kept back, to repeat the school year until they pass them.
I’m all for being tough on children, but this one just won’t work. Some of them are so stupid that they’ll never catch up with their peers; and so they’ll be consigned to a strange, sad future – like something out of a Roald Dahl short story, where they keep on ageing while younger and younger children join them every new school year.
However stupid, or clever, you are, it’s vital to be educated alongside people who are your age. At my school, you could be “accelerated” by a year if you passed an exam in your first term. It was fine, academically speaking – the bright children did better than the dimmer ones, despite being a year younger. But what was the point of throwing us together with children who were a year older – a big difference in your teenage years. The gap in sophistication immediately threw up communication barriers, particularly with girls who were only a year older but seemed like they’d been sent from the adult world to terrify us callow boys.
The answer is the obvious one, the one that state schools still shy away from: a combination of selection on entry and streaming. Dim children may fail their exams but they will be kept among their contemporaries and won’t feel the inadequacy of being left behind. Bright children can flourish, unashamed to work hard, spurring each other on to better intellectual performance.
Throw in good teachers and you have all you need for an excellent education. Surely wise Frank Field can see the sense in this?
High dosage vitamin pill reduces Alzheimer’s symptoms
But it may give you cancer. The Oxford group have been focusing on homocysteine for many years (e.g. here) and they do now seem to have some solid results. The results do seem to vary a lot with the patient concerned however.
That vitamins are involved in Alzheimers is, additionally, counter-intuitive. We are better nourished than ever yet Alzheimer’s incidence seems to be rising. If vitamins were the issue, we would expect Alzheimer’ levels to be falling.
There is obviously much need for replication by groups less committed to the theory concerned. Note the caution in the final paragraph
A simple vitamin pill could prevent millions from suffering the agony of Alzheimer’s. The tablet, costing as little as 10p a day and made up of three vitamin B supplements, cut brain shrinkage linked to memory loss by up to 500 per cent.
Oxford University researchers behind the landmark study said it offered the ‘first glimmer of hope’ in the battle to find a drug that slows or stops the development of Alzheimer’s.
It and other forms of dementia blight the lives of more than 800,000 Britons, and the number of cases is expected to double within a generation.
No previous drug trials have been successful and, with around 500 new cases of Alzheimer’s diagnosed every day in the UK alone, anything that delays the development of the disease could improve the lives of millions.
The breakthrough centres on a compound called homocysteine which is naturally made in the body and, at high levels, has been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s. Vitamin B is known to break down homocysteine, so the researchers decided to look at whether giving patients the vitamin would be good for memory.
Working with colleagues in Norway, the Oxford team recruited 270 pensioners suffering from slight memory lapses that can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s. Known as mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, it affects one in six aged 70-plus, or 1.5million Britons. Half of those with MCI will develop dementia within five years of diagnosis. Half of those taking part in the trial took a vitamin B tablet a day for two years. The tablets contained extremely high doses of vitamins B6, 9 and 12.
For instance, the amount of B12 was up to 300 times higher than could be obtained by simply eating bananas, meat, wholegrains, beans and other foods rich in the vitamin. The others took a daily dummy pill with no active ingredients.
Brain scans were carried out to check if the pill reduced the shrinkage of the brain that happens naturally as we age and speeds up in memory loss. Vitamin B cut the amount of shrinkage by 30 per cent, on average, the journal PLoS ONE reports.
In those with the highest amounts of homocysteine in their bloodstream at the start of the study, it halved the shrinkage and in one extreme case, it cut it five-fold.
Those with the slowest rate of shrinkage did best in memory tests and in some cases their ability to recall lists was as good at the end of the trial as it was at the start.
Professor David Smith, one of the study leaders, said: ‘This is a very striking, dramatic result. It is our hope this simple and safe treatment will delay the development of Alzheimer’s in many who suffer from mild memory problems.’ Co-researcher Professor Helga Refsum added: ‘Here we have a very simple solution: you give some vitamins and you seem to protect the brain.’
The results suggest that a basic cocktail of vitamins can achieve results that have evaded pharmaceutical companies, despite billions of pounds being spent on experimental dementia drugs.
Professor Smith said: ‘This was a disease-modifying study. All other disease modifying trials have failed. What we can say is that this is the first one that shows a glimmer of hope and success.’
The professor plans to run a larger trial which will look at whether the vitamin cocktail actually affects the onset of Alzheimer’s. If the trial is successful, high dose vitamin B could be widely prescribed to those with mild memory loss in as little as five years. Those who do not want to wait can make their own vitamin cocktail with supplements on sale at health food stores.
But the researchers stress that people should not do this without speaking to their doctor first. High dose vitamins may trigger cancer and are known to fuel existing cancers. They may also react with medicines including arthritis and psoriasis drugs.
Despite this, Professor Smith says he ‘would not hesitate’ to take the cocktail of 20mg of vitamin B6, 0.8mg of vitamin B9, or folate, and 0.5mg of vitamin B12, himself, if he were diagnosed with MCI.
The Alzheimer’s Research Trust, which part-funded the study, said that delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years could halve the number of those who die with the condition. Rebecca Wood, the charity’s chief executive, said: ‘These are very important results.’
The Alzheimer’s Society gave the research a cautious welcome. Professor Clive Ballard said: ‘This could change the lives of thousands of people at risk of dementia. However, previous studies looking at B vitamins have been very disappointing and we wouldn’t want to raise people’s expectations yet.’