Investigation into baby and child deaths at three MORE heart surgery units
After defeats of NHS secrecy and attempted coverups
An investigation has been launched into the number of deaths at three of England’s units for children’s heart surgery. The probe was triggered after The Sunday Telegraph disclosed that the centres had far higher death rates than other units performing paediatric cardiac operations. At one hospital, death rates for one type of operation were ten times those elsewhere.
Research found that over eight years, units at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust, Leeds General Infirmary and Glenfield Hospital in Leicester all had more “excess deaths” than at the John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxford, where surgery was stopped in February amid safety concerns.
Now, NHS authorities are to announce that an expert team is to examine the deaths of babies and children who underwent four types of heart operations at the hospitals in Leicester, London and Leeds, during specific periods of heightened mortality between 2000 and 2009. The investigation will look at deaths in Leeds between 2003 and 2006, following a procedure to repair Tetralogy of Fallot, the most common congenital heart problem.
In total, six of 47 children who underwent the operation at the Leeds hospital died during the three years. During the same time, just seven of more than 550 children who had the procedure at all 10 other units died.
A national review, which had been due next month to recommend the closure of some of England’s 11 units in order to improve safety has been put on hold until the investigation reports. Documents seen by The Sunday Telegraph disclose that an independent panel assesssing all the units has demanded the probe.
A report for the NHS Safe and Sustainable programme, dated 28 September, and marked confidential, says an expert team will now be asked “to establish the reasons for the higher than expected mortality that was reported” at the three centres.
Incredibly, until now, the national review had not taken any account either of published data comparing death rates for specific operations, or recent unpublished analysis – disclosed by The Sunday Telegraph in September – comparing the units’ overall mortality rates.
The analysis, by Professor David Spiegelhalter, who led the statistics team at the Bristol Inquiry into baby deaths in the 1980s and 1990s, had identified “excess deaths” at four units. His findings were submitted into an inquiry into a spate of deaths at the Radcliffe, which was published in July, but kept secret until this newspaper obtained them under Freedom of Information disclosures.
Prof Spiegelhalter’s report compared the number of deaths at each unit, with the number which would have been expected for operations performed between 2000 and 2008. It found 24 “excess deaths” at Guys, 23 such deaths in Leicester, 20 in Leeds and 9 in Oxford over the period.
Overall, the highest death rate was at Leicester, with 65 per cent deaths above the average, followed by the Radcliffe, with 50 per cent more, Leeds with 43 per cent more and Guys with 29 per cent.
On Friday, NHS Safe and Sustainable, the programme to reorganise the hospitals providing heart surgery, said the review would not recommend any options which would allow the Radcliffe to provide surgery in future. The hospital came worst in a ranking of the 11 units carried out by the review’s independent panel, led by Sir Ian Kennedy, former chairman of the 2001 Bristol Inquiry into baby deaths.
The same process is understood to have named the units at Guy’s and St Thomas’, Southampton General Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Brompton Hospital in London as the best units to remain and expand. The units were rated against standards such as the number of operations they performed, the size of their teams, and the quality of leadership. The Radcliffe is understood to have performed poorly on these three measures.
But death rates were not examined in the review.
Findings from the investigation into Guy’s and St Thomas’, Leeds and Leicester will be reported to the national review by December, when it will be decided whether or not to change the rankings, which will determine each unit’s chance of survival.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, which runs Leeds General Infirmary, said its service has some of the best results in the country, but that concerns with one operation had been identified in 2005. Changes were made to concentrate expertise [Translation: They had surgeons operating who didn’t know what they were doing], and from 2007 on its results for repair of Tetralogy of Fallot were in line with the rest of other centres, the trust said.
A spokesman for Guy’s and St Thomas’ said the hospital would co operate fully with the review, and was fully supportive of close scrutiny of data. University Hospitals of Leicester Trust, which runs Glenfield Hospital, made no comment.
A spokesman for the NHS Safe and Sustainable programme said there was no evidence to suggest any immediate safety concerns about units which are currently operating.
British police red tape revealed: reams of paperwork to look through a window
Detectives carrying out surveillance on criminals must complete a 16 page form before they can look through a window, an official report will reveal this week. It is the most basic piece of detective work – but police officers who want to watch a suspect through a window must first fill in a 16-page form to seek permission. The volume of paperwork needed to carry out this simple task has been exposed in an official report which will be published by the Government this week.
Jan Berry, hired two years ago as a Home Office “tsar” charged with combating red tape in the police service, discovered the form created by one force for officers carrying out surveillance. “One superintendent pointed out to me very poignantly that he could sign a piece of paper to authorise someone to be shot, but has to fill in a 16-page form for someone to look through a window,” she said.
Mrs Berry, former chairman of the Police Federation, will conclude that police officers spend a third of their time on pointless bureaucracy. Other examples she will cite include:
* A police officer who makes an arrest must enter the suspect’s details in at least four separate databases, or as many as eight in some forces;
* When a member of the public reports a crime, it is assessed by four different officers before an investigation even begins;
* A student constable investigating a straightforward burglary will have nine other officers supervising their work.
In an article for this newspaper today Nick Herbert, the police minister, says: “The police must be crime fighters, not form writers.”
The minister also reveals that the Coalition will introduce requirements on individual police forces to buy equipment such as cars and IT at a national level to save money.
Mrs Berry has not identified the force which requires a 16-page permission form for surveillance operations. She said the document was in two sections. In the first, to comply with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), officers must log details of the investigation, justify the need for surveillance and explain why they cannot pursue an alternative course of action.
In the second, the “operational order”, they must record how many colleagues will be joining the operation, the ranks of all the participants, and how they will be deployed. “This could just involve simple surveillance such as going to look whether a suspect is at home, by peeking through the glass,” she said. “Clearly, I think this is unnecessary. “We can’t have a Big Brother policing with unregulated surveillance, but at the same time most members of the public will think that level of bureaucracy is totally ludicrous.”
Other police forces impose similar volumes of paperwork on officers taking part in surveillance operations, but ask officers to complete two separate documents – a RIPA form of around seven pages, and an operational order of eight to 10 pages.
All of the paperwork must be approved by a superintendent. Failure to complete it properly could lead to a prosecution collapsing in court when defence lawyers claim surveillance was carried out without authorisation.
Mrs Berry, a retired police inspector, will warn in her report that British policing sometimes gives “greater attention to recording than investigation”, and wasteful practices still exist despite being first identified more than a decade ago.
She said: “We have whole armies of people filling in spreadsheets trying to prove their force meets this or that different standard. “There is one third of policing that we could cut out. I suggest an estimate that one third of work is added by duplication, over-engineering and risk assessments at every level of policing. “Over the last 10 years there have been so many initiatives to cut red tape but if we are honest some of the barriers that were there 10 years ago are still there now.”
Further examples of red tape cited by Mrs Berry include:
* An offender accused of a simple shoplifting offence can be held in custody for up to 14 hours in one police force area, because the arresting officer has to hand the case over to a specific team rather than handle the case themselves;
* About 80 per cent of guidance given to officers on how to handle different crimes is duplicated;
* In major crime investigations and other activities known as “protective services”, forces have to answer 1,099 questions to prove they are meeting standards;
* Officers spend 30 to 45 minutes a day ploughing through internal emails because bureaucrats send communications to everyone in the force;
* Supervisors can spent two to three hours per shift preparing for daily intelligence meetings.
The report will conclude that a prime problem is that no single person is responsible for the police nationally, or for overall control of the criminal justice system. It will recommend creating a job with “clout” to have that wide oversight, claiming that otherwise reforms will never happen.
Mrs Berry, who was hired as “independent reducing-bureaucracy advocate” by then-home secretary Jacqui Smith in 2008, said: “In the current economic climate we cannot afford for this to get worse.
“Forces are going to have their budgets cut and they are going to have to look at what roles people are playing. “At the moment, when someone reports a crime, one member of staff receives the call, it goes to someone else for assessment, then to someone else for another assessment, then someone will decide if it should be a priority and another person will put together an investigation plan. This must be simplified. “Performance culture is huge and, while the government has rightly removed a lot of the targets, at a local level targets are alive and well.”
Other main recommendations include allowing officers to use common sense, reducing the use of “gatekeepers” who are nominated to handle certain types of crime or processes, and reviewing structures and departments to streamline investigations.
Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, which represents front line officers, said: “There will be fewer police as a result of cuts, and we must have a huge reduction in bureaucracy to help make up the shortfall.”
The British police must have power to stop and search ethnic groups
By Brian Paddick (Paddick was formerly Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London’s Metropolitan Police Service)
Suppose two Asian gangs from different parts of the country have agreed over the internet to settle their differences in a street fight. Armed with knives and baseball bats, they make their way to your high street only to find that the police have organised a blanket ‘stop and search’ operation in order to disarm them.
So why are the officers telling white passers-by to open their bags and empty their pockets? Such a state of affairs might seem bizarre, but it is all too common. Police officers fear they will be accused of discrimination if they target people on the basis of their appearance, a form of political correctness which can only damage their ability to uphold the law.
Why, then, has there been such an outcry at Government proposals to bring back a bit of common sense and allow officers to stop some suspects rather than others? It has been claimed that the proposals – draft guidance from the Home Office – are a return to the ‘sus laws’. They are setting the clock back, it is said, and will allow the police to directly discriminate on grounds of race.
I am a firm believer in civil liberties and a great admirer of the Liberty campaign group. However, as a former police officer, I believe such criticisms are entirely misguided, in particular the claim that the proposals amount to a return of ‘sus’.
‘Sus’ – or being a suspected person loitering with intent to commit an indictable offence – is discredited legislation from 1824 that has long since been repealed. It was a criminal offence, not a power to stop and search, and it was at the heart of poor relations between the police and black people in Britain for good reason.
The usual evidence given in court in a ‘sus’ case was no more impressive than ‘three car door handles, your worship’. If a police officer saw – or said they saw – a suspect looking for an unlocked car door in order to steal, this would be sufficient to prove they were up to no good.
Regrettably, some police officers would invent evidence in order to secure a conviction. In 1978 I was at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court when one of my colleagues put a young black man in the dock. The accused man pleaded guilty to ‘sus’. Yet when I spoke to the arresting officer he told me in hushed tones that the ‘guilty’ man had done nothing. ‘He just ran away when we came around the corner and when we caught him we said he could either have an attempted burglary or ‘sus’ and he went for ‘sus’.’
As there was no need for any corroborative evidence, it was a law open to abuse, which is why it has been consigned to the legislative dustbin.
These new Home Office guidelines are nothing to do with ‘sus’ and everything to do with practical policing. Of course it is wrong to pick on black people simply because an officer might associate being black with criminality.
That is a matter of straightforward prejudice. The overwhelming majority of black people are law-abiding. It is equally wrong for the police to target Muslims in the crude and misguided belief that Muslims are likely to be terrorists.
What does a Muslim look like, anyway? The ‘shoe bomber’, Richard Reid, was born in the London suburb of Bromley to a white British mother and a Caribbean father. He looked neither Middle Eastern nor South Asian. So, yes, I have sympathy for the civil libertarians. But in this case they are wrong, as a matter of principle and of detail.
The new Home Office guidance suggests no more than a modest rewording of Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, a piece of legislation originally aimed at gangs of rival football supporters but which is now used to counter violence of all sorts.
Before Section 60 can be used, a senior police officer must reasonably believe that there is going to be serious violence or that people are carrying weapons. Only then are the police authorised to stop and search anyone. The powers come with strong safeguards. They can be used only within a specific area and for only a limited time, initially no longer than 24 hours.
When I was the police commander in Wimbledon, South London, in the late Nineties, we sometimes received intelligence that rival Asian gangs from different parts of London were preparing to fight on the streets.
If we had specific information about where and when the fight was going to take place, we could use Section 60 to prevent it. The new Home Office guidance is saying no more than this: that if the police believe the fight will take place between two Asian gangs, it makes sense to stop and search Asian people.
In 1999, the white supremacist and nail-bomber David Copeland was targeting busy shopping areas at weekends. In the absence of anti-terrorism legislation at that time, we used Section 60 to try to catch him. Officers were given authority to stop and search and were told that we were looking for a white man carrying a sports holdall. Copeland had been caught on poor-quality CCTV but we could still make out his ethnic origin, if not his identity.
Police at that time did not racially stereotype all white people as terrorists. They did, however, target their stop and search on a particular ethnic group and in this case the people of interest happened to be white. Any reasonable person can see the merits of the police having such powers.
The proposed new guidelines state that officers should take care not to discriminate, but say: ‘There may be circumstances…where it is appropriate for officers to take account of an individual’s ethnic origin in selecting persons and vehicles to be stopped in response to a specific threat or incident…’
Bear in mind, too, that some potential crimes, such as a fight between neo-Nazis, would probably exclude people from minority ethnic backgrounds from suspicion. Far from jeopardising race relations, such a commonsense approach could actually promote them.
If serious violence can be prevented, then police officers must be empowered to conduct blanket stop-and-search operations which target the most likely individuals. Yes, it is a draconian power; yes, its use should be limited. But there are circumstances where such powers are absolutely necessary.
‘You’re not on welfare so we can’t help’: What a British job centre told mother trying to return to work
A mother-of-two claims a job centre told her they couldn’t help her find work – because she didn’t want to claim benefits. Lynne Dawson, 32, had taken a career break to raise her two children while engineer husband Anthony brought in an income. But now daughters Deanna, six, and Keira, three, are older she felt she should find work as well as help the family.
Intending to work part-time from home Mrs Dawson said she was having trouble finding the right job and decided to seek help at her local job centre.
Shockingly despite contacting the her local centre in Derby Lynne claims she was told without claiming benefits she couldn’t get an interview. She even tried a different branch and another member of staff but was still turned down.
The former medical inspector, from Chaddesden, Derbys, said: ‘There is a recession on and a lot of people out of work. ‘It’s quite shocking that you have to sponge off the state to qualify for some personal advice in getting back into work. ‘I couldn’t believe it. It was the first question they asked me: ‘Are you claiming any benefits?’.
‘I don’t want to claim benefits. I’d rather do things on my own. All I wanted was some advice on putting a CV together and finding work by sitting down and talking with someone. But they wouldn’t do it.
‘I wanted a part-time position I could do from home and I started to check job websites but it was quite confusing. ‘So I decided to go and ask the job centre, to get some help putting a CV together, I haven’t done one for years.’
Taxpayer’s watchdog the Taxpayer’s Alliance branded the job centres actions as outrageous. A spokesman said: ‘This is a total outrage and just goes to show how topsy turvy our welfare system has become. ‘Someone willing and able like Mrs Dawson should be encouraged into work, not on to benefits. ‘Her commitment to finding work is admirable but it’s a complete disgrace that she’s being denied help.
‘Real reform is desperately needed if we’re to get people back into employment and break open the benefit trap.’
Job centres offer advice in getting back to work and compiling a CV via the Directgov website but Lynne said she was not made aware of this when speaking to staff. A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: ‘We are sorry that this information was not offered to the lady who approached us for help.
‘Jobcentre Plus prioritises its services by offering support mainly to people who receive welfare benefits and to those who have experienced long-term problems in getting back into employment.
‘Our online and telephone services are convenient to use and provide extensive advice. The Directgov website, available to anyone, offers help and information about looking for work as well as providing access to the UK’s largest jobs database.’
Conservative Minister for Employment Chris Grayling said the coalition Government had no plans to change Jobcentre rules. However, he did highlight Government proposals to set up ‘work clubs’. He said: ‘We are setting out this week radical plans for welfare reform to break the culture of welfare dependency which is present in too many communities around the country, but we are also stepping up the support to newer job seekers through job centre Plus and work clubs.’
George Cowcher, chief executive of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, said it seemed ‘counter-productive’ to turn somebody away who wanted to find employment. He said: ‘Nobody who is actively seeking work should be denied such help and support.’
Is university really such a good thing? I spent three years learning to be a Trot
Peter Hitchens comments from Britain
What are universities for anyway? I went to one and spent the whole time being a Trotskyist troublemaker at the taxpayers’ expense, completely neglecting my course. I have learned a thousand times more during my 30-year remedial course in the University of Fleet Street, still under way.
I am still ashamed of the way I lived off the taxes of millions of people who would have loved three years free from the demands of work, to think and to learn, but never had the chance.
We seem to accept without question that it is a good thing that the young should go through this dubious experience. Worse, employers seem to have fallen completely for the idea that a university degree is essential – when it is often a handicap.
For many people, college is a corrupting, demoralising experience. They imagine they are independent when they are in fact parasites, living off their parents or off others and these days often doomed to return home with a sense of grievance and no job. They also become used to being in debt – a state that previous generations rightly regarded with horror and fear.
And they pass through the nasty, sordid rite of passage known as ‘Freshers’ Week’, in which they are encouraged to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol and to lose what’s left of their sexual inhibitions after the creepy sex educators have got at them at school.
If they have learned self-disciplined habits of work and life, they are under pressure to forget all about them, suddenly left alone in a world almost completely stripped of authority.
And if they are being taught an arts subject, they will find that their courses are crammed with anti-Christian, anti-Western, anti-traditional material. Proper literature is despised and ‘deconstructed’.
Our enviable national history is likewise questioned, though nothing good is put in its place. Even if they are studying something serious, their whole lives will be dominated by assumptions of political correctness, down to notices in the bars warning against ‘homophobia’ and other thought crimes.
I think this debauching of the minds and bodies of the young is more or less deliberate.
The horrible liberal Woodrow Wilson, who eventually became President of the United States, was originally an academic who once blurted out the truth as seen by many such people. He said in a rare moment of candour: ‘Our aim is to turn out young men as unlike their fathers as possible.’
Well, look at the modern world as governed by graduates who despise their fathers’ views, and what do you see? Idealist wars that slaughter millions, the vast corruption of the welfare state, the war on the married family – and in this country the almost total disappearance of proper manufacturing industry.
Rather than putting an entire generation in debt, the time has come to close most of our universities and shrink the rest so they do what they are supposed to do – educating an elite in the best that has ever been written, thought and said, and undertaking real hard scientific research.
Or do these places exist only to hide the terrible youth unemployment that is a result of having a country run by graduates?