‘Growing pains’ girl, 11, dies from tumour after waking up paralysed

A scan would have saved her but the NHS is very miserly with scans

A girl of 11 has died from an undiagnosed tumour after waking up paralysed the day after starting secondary school. Courtney Runciman’s family said she had seemed fit and healthy and showed no signs of the disease, which had spread all the way up her spine.

She had been to the doctor in the summer holidays with neck and back aches but they were dismissed as growing pains.

Her mother Shelly, 35, from Hove, East Sussex, said: ‘We can’t believe it could happen so quickly. ‘She went to school on her first day and was absolutely fine. ‘After school she went to her friend’s house but then started to have neck pains and by the morning she was paralysed.’

A scan revealed a tumour from the bottom of her spine to two inches from her neck. Courtney was taken to London’s King’s College Hospital but her condition deteriorated after emergency surgery.

Mrs Runciman said: ‘At the hospital she was 90 per cent paralysed and she couldn’t understand why her legs weren’t working. ‘I tried to explain to her that she had a bug in her back and that her legs had gone to sleep.’

Her family made the agonising decision to switch off her life-support machine but Courtney survived for another 19 hours before dying on Wednesday.

Her grandmother, Brenda Van-der-Stein, said: ‘She seemed like a healthy 11-year-old girl. She really enjoyed her first day but it was her first and last.’

Janet Felkin, headteacher of Blatchington Mill School where Courtney was a pupil for just one day, said: ‘Courtney had a good first day. She met her tutor group and was involved in activities all day. ‘When we heard the news we were absolutely shocked. We had counsellors on hand for the youngsters who were deeply shocked and affected.

Carol Grey, headteacher of West Blatchington Primary School, where Courtney had been a pupil since Year 5, said: ‘Our school community has been greatly saddened by the tragic death of Courtney. ‘It is clear from the reaction of staff, pupils and parents that Courtney was a very special young girl. ‘We have cherished memories of her kindness, sweet nature and generosity of spirit. ‘Our thoughts are with Courtney’s family at this difficult time. Her loss will be greatly felt by those whose lives she has touched.’


More than 70 British children may have died needlessly after heart surgery in NHS hospitals

Dozens of babies and children may have died needlessly following operations in paediatric heart units, an investigation has found. Researchers have identified 76 “excess” deaths which occurred at four centres for paediatric heart surgery in England. Patients’ groups described the findings as “deeply alarming” and called for an investigation.

A report into death rates at all 11 of England’s paediatric heart surgery units reveals that Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust in London had 24 excess deaths over an eight year period to 2008. Leeds General Infirmary had 20 excess deaths over the same period, Glenfield Hospital in Leicester had 23 and the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford had nine.

Leeds General Infirmary last night admitted to problems performing one type of open heart surgery on children. The death rate for the procedure was more than five times that of other units.

The report was submitted to an inquiry into children’s heart surgery at the the John Radcliffe where surgery remains suspended following an inquiry into a spate of recent baby deaths. However, the findings about the other ten hospitals were kept secret until The Sunday Telegraph obtained them through Freedom of Information disclosures.

All the units are currently under review. In November, an NHS committee will name several surgical units earmarked for closures, while others will be expanded.

The study was carried out by Professor David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, who led the statistics team at the Bristol Inquiry into dozens of needless baby deaths in the 1980s and 90s when the children’s cardiac unit at the city’s Royal Infirmary was dubbed “the killing fields”.

His research found that death rates were highest in Leicester, with 65 per cent more deaths than expected, followed by the Radcliffe, with 50 per cent “excess” deaths, and Leeds, with a rate of 43 per cent and Guy’s with a rate of 29 per cent. Currently units only publish mortality rates for specific procedures.

Professor Spiegelhalter’s research is the first to both establish how many deaths were above the norm for each procedure, and to pool the figures to show the number of excess deaths and death rates at each unit.

Prof Spiegelhalter said: “I think it is very unfortunate that parents aren’t given access to these figures, it is fairly basic information. If I was a parent in that situation, I’d want it.” He urged hospitals to probe the findings thoroughly. The professor said: “These are alerts, they raise questions. The trusts need to undertake further investigation to establish the reasons why.”

Katherine Murphy, from the Patients’ Association, described the findings as “deeply alarming” and urged the Government to investigate the issues exposed.

Cecilia Yardley, from The Children’s Heart Federation, an umbrella body of 22 specialist heart organisations, urged units “not to close ranks” in the wake of the findings. She said: “We appreciate that rating the performance of surgical teams is complex, given that the children whom these statistics represent are often gravely ill. “But the figures raise questions about what accounts for the range of outcomes,” she said.

Professor Spiegelhalter’s study also provided figures for the seven other paediatric surgery units in England.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital – which treated more cases than Guy’s Hospital over the same period – had 32 fewer deaths than would have been expected; Great Ormond Street had 20 fewer; and Alder Hey and Bristol Children’s Hospital each had eight fewer. The Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, Southampton General Hospital and Brompton hospital all had results in line with expectations.

Dr Peter Belfield, the medical director of Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust said the figures for its unit reflected problems performing one type of open heart surgery, called repair of Tetralogy of Fallot, which is the most common congenital heart problem. Following efforts to “concentrate expertise” at the hospital, results from 2007 onwards were in line with other centres, he said.

Separate data discloses 13 deaths – six babies and seven children – between 2000 and 2008 at the unit following the procedure, a death rate of around 10 per cent, for an operation which had an average mortality rate of 2 per cent across the rest of the country. Outcomes for other operations were in line with the rest of the country throughout the period.

A spokesman for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said its unit operated on particularly sick and young babies because the hospital operates a large programme to detect congenital heart defects before birth. In addition, 17 per cent of cases were referred by other centres, because cases were particularly ill or complex.

Dr Kevin Harris, medical director of University Hospitals of Leicester Trust, said its unit ran the largest type of cardiac life support unit in the country, meaning the hospital took some extraordinarily ill children, who were more likely to die. He said the results from 2006 onwards, where the trust’s mortality rates were closer to average, were “a real testament” to the cardiac team.

Paediatric cardiac surgery remains suspended at John Radcliffe Hospital, following the inquiry earlier this year into four deaths in 10 weeks, including Nathalie Lo, who died 23 days after her birth last November, following a heart operation.

In July, an NHS inquiry said there was no evidence of surgical failings in the particular cases, but criticised the way the small unit was run, and said surgery should not be allowed to continue unless major changes were made to the unit.

The NHS team responsible for specialist services said Dr Spiegelhalter’s figures showed improvement in the last two years of the period examined, from 2006 to 2008, and did not suggest “any immediate safety concerns”.

Dr Martin Ashton-Key, medical advisor for the NHS National Specialised Commissioning Team, said the data had “limited application” as a way to compare centres, because of the lack of risk adjustment, and the low volumes of procedures which could be directly compared.

Prof Bruce Keogh, NHS Medical Director said the data covering the period up till 2008 did “not reflect the current standard of practice which is now as good as anywhere in the world.”


An inspiring and famous poem you are unlikely to have encountered at school

Why? Because it is patriotic, though in an understated British way. It is about the attitudes that built the British empire. It points out the transferability of attitudes learnt in elite private school sport (in this case cricket) to the wider world. The allusion to a Gatling (an early machine gun) probably places it in the days of the Boer war. In one word, it is about doggedness or “sticking to it” in the face of difficulty: Never give up. I hope some readers like the poem as much as I do. It is at least a glimpse into another world

Vitai Lampada

(“They Pass On The Torch of Life”)

There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night —
Ten to make and the match to win —
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote —
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

The sand of the desert is sodden red, —
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; —
The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England’s far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the School is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind —
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

By Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938)

The Airbrushing of Middle East History

In the Guardian, Giles Tremlett writes about Europe’s first Christian theme park in Mallorca. He writes:

Exact details are scant, but the Buenos Aires park offers its re-enactments of the creation of mankind, the birth of Christ, the resurrection and the last supper eight times a day. With a cast of extras in the costumes of Romans and early Palestinians, the park advertises itself as ‘a place where everyone can learn about the origins of spirituality..

‘Early Palestinians’, eh? And just who were these ‘early Palestinians’? Well, they were what we would otherwise call… Jews. Jesus was a Jew. The ‘last supper’ was the Jewish Passover seder. The land of the New Testament was called Judea and Samaria. The people who lived there and were persecuted by the Romans were not called Palestinians. They were Jews.

Yet Jews do not figure at all in Tremlett’s story (whether they figure as such in Mallorca’s theme park itself is not clear). This is not some idle mistake. This is the wholesale adoption of the fictional Arab narrative which airbrushes the Jews out of their own story and claims, falsely, that Jesus was a Palestinian.

Much of this rewriting of history comes from Arab Christians based at the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem under the aegis of Father Naim Ateek (who is such a personal favourite with so many in the Church of England), and which is a crucial source of systematic, theologically-based lies and libels about Israel. Ateek has revived the ancient Christian doctrine of supersessionism, or replacement theology – the doctrine which said the Jews had forfeited all God’s promises to them which had been inherited instead by the Christians, and which fuelled centuries of Christian anti-Jewish pogroms — and fused it with ‘Palestinianism’ to create the mendacious impression that the Palestinian Arabs were the original inhabitants of the land of Israel and that Jesus was a ‘Palestinian’.

Ateek has sought to plant the impression that the Jews are crucifying the ‘Palestinians’ just as they helped crucify Jesus. In December 2000, he wrote that Palestinian Christmas celebrations were ‘marred by the destructive powers of the modern-day ‘Herods’ in the Israeli government.’ In his 2001 Easter message, he wrote: ‘The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.’ And, in a sermon in February 2001, he likened the Israeli occupation to the boulder sealing Christ’s tomb. With these three images, Ateek has figuratively blamed Israel for trying to kill the infant Jesus, crucifying him and blocking the resurrection of Christ. And in 2005 Sabeel issued a liturgy titled ‘The Contemporary Stations of the Cross’ that equates Israel’s founding with Jesus’ death sentence and the construction of a security barrier with his crucifixion.

It is a narrative which gives the lie to the naive belief that the Middle East impasse is a fight over land boundaries. It is instead an attempt to excise from the region not just the Jewish state of Israel, not just every single Jew from a future state of Palestine, but the historical evidence that this land – including Judea and Samaria – was the Jewish national home centuries before Arabs invaded and conquered it, and many more centuries before Arabs started to style themselves as Palestinian. It is an attack on Jewish historical national identity in order to justify the attempt to destroy the Jewish nation state.

That is why the Arabs have destroyed so much archeological evidence of the ancient kingdom of Judea gathered from excavations on the Temple Mount. That’s why the Jews are being airbrushed out of the history of the region, the origins of Jesus and of their own story.

Isn’t it wonderful to have quality newspapers written by educated writers?


British Airways caterer dishes up plans to make most of its meals halal

Cringing nonsense — but it could be worth it if it leads to some good Balti curries

The world’s largest independent airline caterer has announced plans to make the majority of its meals halal. GateGourmet, which provides meals for all long-haul British Airways flights from Heathrow, wants to standardise production to drive down costs and boost profits.

The caterer has been tempted into the switch by lucrative business available from Middle Eastern and Asian airlines. Most carriers currently offer a halal option, but these meals need to be prepared, stored and transported separately in order to comply with Muslim dietary rules – making them more expensive.

Removing halal meals from the menu is not an option for a company serving airlines across the globe, but managers at the Swiss-based catering giant believe it makes financial sense to ensure most meals meet with the strict Islamic rules.

‘My aim is to make our large hub operations halal compliant,’ said Guy Dubois, GateGroup. Mr Dubois said the plans were not driven by social or religious considerations, but simply by cost. He said: ‘If I produce everything according to halal standards, I will reduce complexity and increase cost effectiveness.’

The catering firm is about to open a dedicated halal kitchen at Heathrow – where meals are prepared for 14 airlines including BA. The specialist kitchen will be smaller than the main kitchen that already exists at the airport, but could be the first stage in a gradual switch.

The move follows the sharp growth of carriers such as Emirates, of Dubai, and Etihad, of Abu Dhabi, which require all meals to be halal. But GateGourmet caters for numerous airlines from non-Muslim countries, which would also be affected by the changes. The company prepares more than 200million meals a year from its 100 flight kitchens in more than 25 countries.

Compelling customers to eat food prepared in accordance with the Muslim faith could be controversial in some countries, including the UK.

Yesterday British Airways played down the significance of the catering firm’s proposals. A spokesman said: ‘British Airways has no plans to change its current menus or halal meal process.’

Peter van Niekerk, head of GateGroup in the UK, said: ‘We are at the moment competing for some more halal business and when we make that, the scale tips.’ He said the company would consult with customers such as BA and Cathay Pacific to ‘manage perceptions and manage such a transition’.


How can a nation ring fence foreign aid but slash defence? How the British taxpayer’s money is misspent… and even makes poverty worse

As an idea, it is beyond reproach. An end to child labour, education for all and free school books for every Indian primary school pupil. It is called Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan — Education For All — and the logo for the project is a jaunty cartoon of two tiny Indian children sitting astride a giant pencil, happily learning to read.

The reality, however, leaves a lot to be desired. This Indian development programme has been tragically pillaged by officials, who have robbed impoverished children of their hopes. Auditors have discovered that around £70 million of aid money has gone missing from the gigantic scheme, which was designed to fund schools for India’s 350 million children.

A report by India’s Auditor General, seen by the Daily Mail, reveals widespread ‘diversions and mis-utilisations’, showing that almost £14 million has been spent on items that have nothing to do with schools. Instead, corrupt officials bought cars and other luxuries. In one instance, aid money was used to buy four luxury beds, at a cost of £17,754.

In the state of Andhra Pradesh, money was wasted on 7,531 colour televisions — despite the fact that many of the classrooms have no electricity. Computers were bought and now lie idle in stockrooms.

Tens of thousands of pounds were allocated to 2,369 schools in the district of Jharkhand that do not even exist, and £150,000 was paid into a mystery bank account with no reason given.

In Muzaffarpur, Bihar state, it was found that only £400,000 out of an allocated £1.1 million had gone to schools. One woman involved in the widespread fraud has been accused of siphoning off up to £6 million from the funds, reportedly even using £44,000 of it to make a movie directed by her son.

Money was also used by officials to finance religious festivities. Auditors checking individual state accounts found sums of up to £4.8 million missing from the books — although an investigation into the precise figures involved is ongoing.

And who is paying for the Education For All project? You are, of course — and it is your money that has gone missing.

Surprised? Don’t be — this extraordinarily ill-advised million-pound expenditure is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Britain’s multi-billion-pound overseas aid bill.
Indeed, our country’s vast aid budget has just been ring-fenced by the Conservative Government, despite the swingeing cuts facing ordinary Britons.

This week, the Mail revealed the same spend thrift attitude extended to overseas aid officials, who are living the high life at taxpayers’ expense. Devastating documents showed that executives at the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) stayed at luxury hotels and dined in London’s finest restaurants.

Taypayers paid more than £700 for the bosses of the CDC fund to dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant, and one official claimed £336.54 for a taxi from Brussels to Paris.

So just how much is Britain spending on foreign aid, where is it spent and why? And can the country really afford to lavish such largesse around the world as it confronts its own huge national debt?

This year, Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) has spent a staggering £9.1 billion on aid, funding 90 different countries.

Some money goes to nations which are desperately in need of help, such as impoverished African states on the brink of famine. Here, the concern is often not just whether the money is needed, but whether it is getting to those in need. Every year, millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money leaks into the pockets of corrupt officials and warlords.

In other cases, however, Britain is paying huge amounts in aid to projects of questionable worth. In South America, for example, DFID indirectly funds an organisation which represents sex workers called RedTraSex. It refers to itself as ‘a movement in high heels’.

Then there is China. Last year, Britain paid £32 million to the Communist superpower, which is now officially classified by the World Bank as a middle-income country.
Britain has given Beijing on average £34.5 million a year since 2004 to fund schools, fight Aids and provide fresh water.

Ironically, as we face hard times in Britain, China is forecast to become the biggest economic power in the world within five years. Indeed, the latest figures from the World Bank show China’s GDP was £2.8 trillion in 2008 — eclipsed only by the U.S. and Japan. So why on earth are we giving them aid?

Even the Left-wing Baroness Symons, Tony Blair’s former Middle East envoy and an ex-Foreign Office minister, has questioned the Government’s priorities on aid to China. She acknowledged parts of China had ‘real poverty and deprivation’, but added: ‘I would not have thought by any standards that China can resile (step back) from the responsibility of dealing with its own poverty, given its enormous, and growing, wealth.’

She added: ‘The primary responsibility for dealing with that poverty should be with the government, which is now presiding over a huge and growing economy, an enormous sovereign wealth fund and which is such a strong competitor to our own companies when they are doing business abroad.’

The Tories now plan to bring the Chinese programme to an end in 2011 — but by then many more millions of pounds will have been spent on the Chinese economy.

And then there’s India, the single largest recipient of UK overseas aid — between 2003 and 2008, it benefited from £1 billion in aid. And two years ago, Gordon Brown agreed to give the former colony another £825 million by 2011.

In the past ten years, British development aid to the country has almost trebled — despite the fact the Indian economy is ranked 11th in the world and is predicted to overtake the British economy as the world’s fifth largest by 2015.

Canit be right that British taxpayers give such vast sums to a nation that can afford nuclear weapons, a space programme and has a defence budget of £25 billion?
Of course, India has hundreds of millions of poor people. But it is now so well-off that it has started an overseas aid programme of its own.

Indeed, MPs on the International Development Select Committee recently said India ‘seems to have become tired of being cast in the role of aid recipient’.

And on a visit to India in July, even our own Prime Minister suggested Britain should bend its knee to the former colony. He said: ‘I have come to your country in a spirit of humility. I know that Britain cannot rely on sentiment and shared history for a place in India’s future. Your country has the whole world beating a path to its door.’ The Indian government now refuses to allow DFID to work directly with most local charities, insisting that payments be processed through official channels.

This, said the MPs, caused ‘ difficulties in tracking money trails, and problems in determining outcomes’. One might ask why Britain gives such huge amounts in the face of such an attitude. The majority of DFID’s spending — although at 56 per cent, perhaps less than you might expect — does go to what are known as the ‘least developed countries’, mostly in Africa.

Here, the problem is often what happens when the aid reaches these desperate countries. Earlier this year, for example, the House of Commons Public Affairs Committee (PAC) looked at the case of Malawi, in southeast Africa.

Britain has spent £312 million helping the country since 2003, despite evidence of widespread corruption.Indeed, a commission has recommended 118 cases for prosecution for aid fraud in the past year alone. MPs also expressed concern that around £23 million had been wasted buying surplus fertiliser at peak prices. The chairman of the PAC cited it as a case of ‘gross mismanagement’.

There were questions over whether the matter was down to corruption or sheer ineptitude. Either way, the money has gone.


Qualifications chief attacks ‘diseased’ British exams system

The article below blames the British system of competing exam providers for a race to the bottom but ignores the pressure from the former Labor government to maximize pass rates at all costs. If government had stressed quality rather than quantity, the boards would have competed in that arena

Schoolchildren are being short-changed by a “corrupt” examinations system, according to a former Government advisor. The creation of multiple exam boards is fuelling unhealthy competition between providers as they effectively make their tests easier to win business from schools, it was claimed.

Mick Waters, a former official at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, suggested that it was in examiners’ interests to help pupils pass to make a profit. The claims are made in a new book – Reinventing Schools, Reforming Teaching – which charts how the education system has been undermined by political and commercial pressures.

Mr Waters, who quit as the QCA’s director of curriculum last year, told researchers: “The system is diseased, almost corrupt. We’ve got a set of exam bodies who are in a market place…. I’ve seen people from awarding bodies talk to head teachers implying that their examinations are easier. “Not only that, they provide the text book to help you through it.”

Currently, Britain has multiple examination boards that sell course syllabuses and exam papers to individual schools. Head teachers can choose which syllabuses to follow in qualifications such as A-levels and GCSEs. In many cases, examiners write text books linked to the test syllabus and provide pointers to help teachers maximise pupils’ results.

Although they are vetted by Ofqual, the exams regulator, critics claim that unhealthy competition between boards distorts the education system, with schools opting for tests that produce the highest grades. In the book, Mr Waters accused chief examiners of “insider trading”.

John Bangs, visiting professor at London University’s Institute of Education, and one of the book’s authors, said examiners wrote the “textbooks, as well as the questions, and Ofqual does not have the nerve to regulate them”. “It’s a great problem,” he said. “This is a major finding.” He called for the creation of a single examination board. [He would]

Prof Maurice Galton, from Cambridge University, who co-authored the book, said: “If I’m at a board and I’ve got less people getting As than another board, I’m going to bump my As up because otherwise the schools will look at it and think ‘I’ll use this board, it’s easier to get any A’.”



About jonjayray

I am former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody
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