Staff crisis shuts emergency room at NHS hospital serving more than a million people
The people’s money has been spent on an army of bureaucrats so now there is not enough money to hire the needed medical staff
One of Britain’s largest hospitals has been forced to shut its emergency department and maternity unit for the winter over fears that lives will be put at risk due to staff shortages. Queen Mary’s Sidcup NHS Trust, which serves more than a million people in South London, has been ordered to make the closures to protect patient safety.
Managers admitted that a drastic shortage of A&E doctors meant the unit would not be able to cope with the expected surge in admissions over the winter months. They also said were not enough midwives working in the maternity unit to ensure babies could be delivered safely.
But leading doctors warned this closure is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and dozens of other overstretched hospitals may be forced to shut their doors over the coming months.
Managers at Queen Mary’s said half of the posts for ‘middle grade’ doctors – the level between junior doctors and consultants – in its A&E unit were vacant. As a result, there were concerns it would not be able to cope with the surge in patients suffering from flu, chest infections and norovirus expected over the winter.
The trust’s maternity unit also has a total of 42 vacant posts for midwives, because many recently left their jobs fearing they would be made redundant. As a result, the Department of Health ordered the hospital to shut both its A&E and maternity unit for the winter months.
But doctors warned that many other trusts will be forced to follow suit over the coming weeks. In particular, there are concerns that many casualty departments are operating with fewer than half the number of doctors they need to cope with increasing demand. The number of A&E admissions in winter soars by as much as 12 per cent.
John Heyworth, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, which represents doctors working in casualty departments said: ‘This is only the tip of the iceberg. There is a real crisis in many hospitals across the country. On average, A&E units are staffed by just four doctors and they admit 75,000 patients in a year. They are far too overstretched. ‘Not enough doctors are being trained and in addition the Home Office has imposed strict visa requirements which mean we cannot recruit as many from overseas.
‘We desperately need more doctorsin A&E to ensure departments are run safely. ‘Many trusts are going to have to make important decisions over the coming weeks to ensure the safety of their patients.’
Chris Streather, chief executive of the South London Healthcare Trust, which manages Queen Mary’s Sidcup, said: ‘I asked my medical director and the director of nursing to look at A&E and maternity very carefully to see if they are safe now and whether they can be kept safe for the whole of the winter period.’ He added: ‘The reason why we can’t guarantee safety over the winter is the shortage of staff.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Patient safety and high quality care must remain the priority for the NHS. ‘The A&E and obstetric services at Queen Mary’s should temporarily close while there are concerns that they don’t meet the high standards that patients deserve.
‘The secretary of state has pledged that, in future, all service changes must be led from the bottom-up by clinicians, patients and local authorities with an improved focus on quality.’
Royal Airforce hero, 86, with three forms of cancer ‘refused NHS nursing care because he’s not ill enough’
At 18 he joined the RAF to defend his country in the Second World War. Shot down in 1944, the rear gunner had to parachute out of his Lancaster bomber and endured a year as a prisoner of war in Germany.
Today, former RAF sergeant Bernard Warren has just weeks to live, suffering from cancer of the stomach, liver and lungs and dementia. But despite the severity of the 86-year-old’s condition, the NHS has refused to meet the full cost of his care, saying he does not ‘tick enough boxes’.
Yesterday, his son Simon, 37, said: ‘My dad’s dying. He fought for his country and was a prisoner of war and never asked for a penny. ‘Where is the justice, where is the reward? Especially as this country celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.’
Mr Warren, who worked as a brewery area manager after the war, started showing signs of dementia a number of years ago, although he was officially diagnosed only three years ago. He became increasingly confused and agitated and would often forget conversations, so Tricia, his wife of 46 years, took charge of his care.
After his weight began to plummet last month, she took him for a check-up and he was diagnosed with cancer and given just eight weeks to live.
However, Mrs Warren, who had nursed her husband for six years, began struggling to provide the care he needed, so she took the difficult decision to move him from their home in Henleaze, Bristol, into a nursing home where he could receive professional help.
A social worker advised her that they would be eligible for financial assistance and contacted NHS Bristol who assessed Mr Warren under the Continuing Healthcare scheme. However, although the NHS trust told her he was too ill to go into a council-run care home, they refused him care under that scheme.
Incredibly, officials told his wife that he did not meet the criteria for funding as he could walk unaided, manage his own medicine and wash himself – tasks that she had doing for him for years. As a result, the family must pay two-thirds of the £3,500- a-month care fees at the Westbury Nursing Home in Bristol, through Mr Warren’s pensions and their savings. NHS Bristol funds less than a third of the cost of his carehome place through another scheme.
Mrs Warren, 69, said: ‘It’s frankly insulting to say to somebody who has just weeks to live, who is on their deathbed, that they do not tick all the boxes on a silly form. ‘It is too late for us, but this can’t be allowed to happen to other people.’
She explained how she was told NHS Bristol had refused to contribute further towards her husband’s care. ‘It was a very emotional time for me,’ she said. ‘I was told my husband, who I have dearly loved for all my entire adult life, was dying. ‘A social worker told me we would not need to worry about paying for fees due to the nature of his condition.
‘But then an NHS worker came to me and said it was a complex process of assessment and unfortunately he didn’t tick enough boxes. Those were the exact words used.’
Julie Hendry, of NHS Bristol, said: ‘Mr Warren receives NHS-funded contribution for nursing care within a care home. ‘We are very sorry to hear about the concerns of this couple. There are clear national guidelines to assess levels of need against specific criteria. ‘Patients have the right to appeal or to apply for reassessment at any time if their needs change.’
She said a decision was taken to reassess Mr Warren on Tuesday, when his story first came to light, and that his family could also apply to be assessed for other types of funding, including nursing contribution or social care. The reassessment could takeup to 28 days. [By which time he will be dead]
Black children in Britain don’t fail due to racism, says black academic
Black children fail at school because they do not concentrate, not because they are the victims of ‘institutional racism’, a leading black academic claims today. Tony Sewell, the son of Caribbean migrants, attacks the view that black pupils are held back by teachers who see them as ‘miniature gangster rappers’.
The former teacher, who runs an educational charity for black children, instead blames poor parenting and the youngsters’ own lax attitude.
In a blistering article for the Left-of- centre magazine Prospect, Dr Sewell says that while it was once true that black pupils were held back by racism, ‘times have changed’. He writes: ‘What we now see in schools is children undermined by poor parenting, peer-group pressure and an inability to be responsible for their own behaviour.
‘They are not subjects of institutional racism. ‘They have failed their GCSEs because they did not do the homework, did not pay attention and were disrespectful to their teachers. ‘Instead of challenging our children, we have given them the discourse of the victim – a sense that the world is against them and they cannot succeed.’
The view that black children are being held back by racism was reinforced by the last Labour government. Labour leadership hopeful Diane Abbott has said that ‘black boys do not have to be too long out of disposable nappies for some teachers to see them as a miniature gangster rappers’.
Mr Sewell – director of the Generating Genius charity and a consultant at Reading University – says that Miss Abbott and researchers imply that white teachers have low expectations of black boys and this is partly why they underachieve.
He admits evidence proves that ‘African-Caribbean boys are still at the bottom of the league table for GCSEs’. They start school at roughly same level as other pupils, but then fall further and further behind their peers.
However, he also writes: ‘I believe black underachievement is due to the low expectations of school leaders, who do not want to be seen as racist and who position black boys as victims.’
In 2008, the Department for Education reported that only 27 per cent of black boys achieve five or more A*-C GCSE grades. African-Caribbean boys are also the group most likely to be excluded from school
Malthus not a good guide for population policy
Jessica Brown talks about a Greenie idol in the context of a debate in Australia about cutting back immigration
Thomas Malthus, the eighteenth century British thinker who predicted that over-population would lead to global famine, has lately had something of a resurgence. With everyone from Bob Brown to Bob Carr in wild agreement that Australia’s population growth must be cut, Malthusian prophecies of doom are back in fashion.
But a new book by Fred Pearce, Peoplequake: Mass Migration, Ageing Nations and the Coming Population Crash, highlights just what a nasty character Malthus actually was.
Malthus’ issue wasn’t really with the growth in England’s population but the growth in the number of poor people. His solution was to stop them from marrying and, therefore, procreating. He was virulent in his opposition to charity on the grounds that giving food to the poor would just prolong their inevitable deaths.
Malthus was immortalised as the detestable ‘Scrooge’ in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
But his legacy did not only live on in literature. His teachings informed officials in charge of coming up with a solution to the Irish potato famine of 1845 to 1849. Spurred on in part by hatred of the Irish and in part by Malthusian logic, one English Treasury official argued that the famine was a good ‘mechanism for reducing surplus population’ and ‘a direct strike of an all-wise and all-merciful Providence.’ In what became a self-fulfilling prophecy, an estimated one million people died.
While this example is perhaps extreme in the context of Australia’s current population debate, it nevertheless highlights why liberals should be wary of the new Malthusianism.
At its heart, the theory is profoundly illiberal. Malthusian thinking has spawned countless policies across the globe – forced sterilisations in India are the best known example – that have tossed aside the rights of the individual in order to achieve some perceived greater good.
It’s also fundamentally pessimistic. It assumes that catastrophic consequences of population growth are inevitable, so we shouldn’t bother looking for solutions.
Malthus was an eighteenth century country pastor who didn’t get out much. In a sense, it’s not surprising that he took such a dim view of the world.
But this is 2010, and we live in an open, successful and entrepreneurial country. Surely, in our population debate, we can do better.
The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 17 September. Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.
The “good old days” for kids have gone forever in Britain
It’s now illegal to play in the street near their homes — something kids did for generations
Police were accused today of being ‘heavy handed’ after three officers were dispatched to issue a ticking off to two boys – for playing football in the street.
Henry Worthington, 12, and his brother Alex, 11, were told their kick-abouts in a cul-de-sac outside their home after school were illegal and could result in them getting anti-social behaviour orders. Their father Anthony, 43, of Timperley, Greater Manchester, was also sent a letter from officials at Trafford Council warning him his two sons could be in breach of the 1980 Highways Act which outlaws ball games.
The incident comes after Greater Manchester Police revealed it was preparing to cut more than 3,000 jobs due to the government’s anticipated 25 per cent cut in spending.
Today, Mr Worthington, an engineer, said: ‘Sending three officers over simply to give a warning about kids playing football in the street is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
‘My boys are not hooligans. They are good lads who cause no trouble and I prefer them to play outside the house so I know they are safe. They haven’t interfered with a car or any pedestrians so I don’t see what the problem is.
‘They play for a local football club on the weekend and they just want to practise their skills outside their house with their friends. It’s not as if they’re out all hours 24/7, it’s just half an hour after school.
‘I’m absolutely appalled that the police are not out there catching real criminals. I feel like my family is being persecuted. ‘When I was a lad the police were not out persecuting children for playing football. Now you get three policemen coming to my door to tell us off for it.
‘It’s a joke-and a total waste of police resources given that they are facing massive cuts. ‘At this rate the England soccer squad will never get better if the future team can’t practise playing football anywhere.’
Mr Worthington added: ‘It’s a quiet street, and we live on the corner of a close. They’ve been playing out since the year dot, and since they’ve got a bit older they’ve started playing football.
‘About three months ago, the boys got stopped by officers driving a patrol car up the street and they told them not to play football in the street. A few weeks later they came round to my house.
‘The first time there was only one uniformed officer, in his patrol car. He was polite and just said it’s against the law to play football in the street and that they were monitoring the situation.
‘I thought fair enough, I’m not going to argue with a police officer, but I did say I couldn’t see why it was a problem when it is a quiet street.
‘Apparently it is illegal under the Highways Act 1980. I told the boys not to play, but the other kids on the road are still playing, and from the next road so it’s the same situation for them. ‘Then three officers turned up. One stayed in the patrol car and the other two came to my door. I couldn’t believe it. They have always been very polite, and I told them that I had asked the boys not to play in the street.
‘Two weeks ago I had a letter from the council regarding street football outlining what anti-social behaviour is and referring to an on-going problem regarding street football.
‘It also talked about section 161 of the Highways Act 1980. But I don’t see how it is anti-social behaviour. I feel the police and the council have been very heavy handed, and that they are not using their common sense at all.
‘It is not like my lads are out 24/7 and it’s not like they’ve kicked a ball at a pedestrian or at a car. There are areas where we could take them to play but you can’t take them all the time when it’s only going to be for half an hour.’
Inspector Simon Wright from Greater Manchester Police said: ‘Playing football in the road obviously has clear dangers and the man in this case was simply reminded of this by officers looking out for his children’s safety.
‘It is actually a criminal offence and is often perceived as a nuisance to local residents, especially as there are plenty of parks for the children to go and play in a safe environment.
‘I am not aware of a complaint being made to police but would be more than happy to discuss any concerns the father has with him.’ He added: ‘I think the police action amounted to common sense. You should not let your kids play on the road – it is not a playground.’
Jonathan Coupe of Trafford Council said: ‘Anti-social behaviour is defined as any behaviour that causes alarm or distress to another person. ‘In this particular case a letter has been sent to the parents to explain that a complaint has been received about their child’s behaviour with a request to address the issues outlined in the complaint.
‘This is in no way a formal warning or prosecution. Through action such as this, issues can be resolved in an appropriate manner through the parents themselves without having to involve the authorities.’
We have let yobs rule streets, says top British cop
Police have staged a 30-year ‘retreat from the streets’, allowing the ‘disease’ of anti-social behaviour to blight Britain, a devastating report reveals today. Millions of acts of drunken loutishness and vandalism are going unreported as they have become ‘normalised’, it claims.
Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Denis O’Connor said the basic task of keeping the peace had been relegated to a ‘second-order consideration’ for officers who were obsessed with meeting targets for actual crimes. This had led to officers being pulled off the beat, handing control to yobs and allowing anti-social behaviour to ‘gather momentum’, he said.
Sir Denis pointed to the rise of ‘happy slapping’ attacks – where yobs hit strangers, often filming it on a mobile phone – as evidence that random street violence had become commonplace and acceptable.
The ‘Stop the Rot’ report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary showed that last year, 3.5million incidents of anti-social behaviour were reported. But this represents only one in four of the estimated real total, meaning an astonishing 14million acts of antisocial behaviour were carried out – one every two seconds.
The landmark report warned that police forces are routinely ignoring thousands of repeat victims of harassment and thuggery. Forces often mark such calls as ‘low priority’ because they do not qualify as crimes. As a result, no action is taken.
Worryingly, less than a third of forces use systems to identify both repeat victims whose lives have been made a misery by a string of incidents, and those such as the disabled who are particularly vulnerable.
Sir Denis said a ‘strategic error’ was made in the 1970s that downgraded the importance of street patrols. From the late 1990s, the relentless focus on crime statistics led to forces neglecting their core duty to keep the peace, he added. ‘The truth is that despite its high public profile in recent years, anti-social behaviour does not have the same status as “crime” for the police,’ he said.
‘The police record of accomplishment and failure has been expressed, increasingly strongly, in terms of crime statistics.
‘Meanwhile, the “non-qualifying” antisocial behaviour issue, and its variants, that signal lack of control on our streets, have grown and evolved in intensity and harm. ‘Anti-social behaviour matters a lot to people but it doesn’t count in the formal system in the same way crime does. ‘That retreat from the streets has, in some senses, undermined [the police’s] connection with the public, and allowed some of these things to gather momentum.’
The report contains a series of victims’ accounts which Sir Denis described as ‘harrowing’. One unnamed man endured 400 incidents including stones being thrown at his wife. Despite making 200 reports to the police and the council, he said ‘no action’ had been taken.
The report revealed a growing gap between what the public wanted, namely ‘boots on the ground’, and what the police were delivering.
Sir Denis added: ‘The public do not distinguish between anti-social behaviour and crime. ‘For them it’s really a sliding scale of grief.’ Despite the scale of the problem, some officers don’t think dealing with it is ‘real policing’, Sir Denis said.
He called for early intervention to ‘nip in the bud’ problems so they did not spiral out of control, and an end to underestimating anti-social behaviour. He added: ‘Make no mistake. It requires feet on the street.’
Sir Denis repeated his fears that as in earlier recessions, front-line officers would be the first to go as spending cuts bit.
A HMIC report in July found that just 11 per cent of officers are visible and available to the public at any one time, and more were available on Monday morning than when they might most be needed, on Saturday nights when there is more drunken aggression.
A study commissioned by HMIC for the Stop the Rot report found nearly one in three victims surveyed were unaware of any police action taken in response to their complaint. One in three victims also reported reprisals from their tormentors after complaining to the police, according to the Ipsos Mori poll.
Among the most damning conclusions were those reserved for Community Safety Partnerships, introduced by Labour, which were supposed to ensure co-operation between councils, police and other Government agencies. The report said that academics at Cardiff University found that significant numbers of partnerships were ‘problematic’, despite tens of millions spent on them. They ‘lacked focus’ in helping victims, were swamped in red tape and a ‘meetings culture’, and showed little evidence of value for money.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the report showed that ‘ antisocial behaviour ruins lives and scars communities’. She said: ‘This report, yet again, shows that for too long this problem has been sidelined and victims, especially those who are vulnerable, have been let down.’
Labour introduced a multitude of policies aimed at combating antisocial behaviour, including Asbos. But last year then Home Secretary Alan Johnson admitted Labour had ‘coasted’ on the issue.
More action was promised following the inquests into the deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her disabled 18-year-old daughter Francecca, who were tormented by a gang of youths despite making 33 desperate 999 calls over seven years.
Miss Pilkington was accused of ‘over-reacting’ and, unable to bear the torment any more, she killed herself and her daughter by setting fire to their car near their home in Barwell, Leicestershire, in October 2007.
Blair Gibbs, head of crime and justice-at the Policy Exchange thinktank, said: ‘Tolerating anti-social behaviour lets down victims of crime and breeds more serious criminality.’
Assistant Chief Constable Simon Edens from the Association of Chief Police Officers said: ‘Tackling antisocial behaviour must be achieved alongside keeping people safe through less visible parts of policing such as tackling serious organised crime or terrorism.’
I have put up a fair bit lately on my Paralipomena blog — including one of the great scenes from British TV comedy. But you may have to “get” British humour to see how utterly mad it is