Almost 100 victims of Staffordshire scandal receive payouts after unprecedented group claim
Too little too late
Nearly 100 bereaved relatives and victims of the Stafford NHS scandal are to be paid a total of more than £1 million following Britain’s largest ever group claim against a single hospital.
In total, 97 families of patients who died and victims who survived “appalling” standards of patient care will receive compensation payments, of up to £27,500.
Lawyers for the victims said the failings of Stafford Hospital left patients degraded and humiliated, and amounted to human rights’ abuses. The trust has offered a total compensation settlements of £1.1 million, which the families are expected to accept, and apologies in each case. It did not accept the failings were breaches of human rights.
A public inquiry into the worst hospital scandal in more than a decade opens next week.
Last year, inspectors found that hundreds more patients died than would have been expected at the hospital between 2005 and 2008, amid “appalling” conditions. Dehydrated patients were forced to drink out of flower vases, while decisions about treatment for Accident and Emergency patients were left to receptionists.
Up to 1,200 patients may have died needlessly over the period, as managers attempted to cut costs and hit targets.
The settlements for the group of 97 cases, including 84 deaths, covers failings as recent as this year, and dating back to 2002.
Among those to receive a payment is Heather Wilhelms, 55, who lost her mother, father, and husband at the hospital in the space of 18 months. Her mother’s ovarian cancer was missed, while her father was sent home without treatment days before he died, after blood poisoning went undetected.
Nine months later, her husband died from lung disease in wards which his widow described as “filthy”. She told how her loved ones went to hospital for treatment and one by one, came out in their coffins.
The compensation payouts range from £1,000 to £27,500, with an average payment of just over £11,000 for bereaved relatives and those who survived failings in care.
Emma Jones, from lawyers Leigh Day & Co, which represented the families, said the action was believed to be unprecedented, with the 97 cases representing the largest group to be offered payouts by one hospital. She said lawyers argued that the hospital’s failings were so basic and substantial, that they amounted to breaches of patients’ fundamental human rights.
Miss Jones said: “This was about basic neglect; food and drink placed out of reach, buzzers unanswered, people left after soiling themselves. “In some cases we argued that the poor treatment caused the deaths – in many, the argument was that basic fundamental human rights were being denied – that people were being degraded, neglected and humiliated.”
Often, when elderly people die following failings in hospital, compensation is low, especially if no spouse is bereaved.
The lawyers said the case was significant because the arguments had centred on how badly patients had been treated, rather than proving their deaths had been hastened. “For the relatives it was never about the money but more a recognition that their mum, or dad should never have been left to suffer in that way,” said Miss Jones. She added: “We don’t know of any bigger group claim against any one hospital, we think this is unprecedented.”
The Labour Government refused to hold a public inquiry to find out what went wrong, and to prevent a repeat of the scandal. Since taking power, the Coalition Government has ordered such an investigation – one of the key demands of The Sunday Telegraph’s Heal Our Hospitals campaign – which is due to start taking evidence next week.
On Saturday an inspection report revealed that the hospital is still failing to meet most basic standards of patient care. The Care Quality Commission said it had concerns about the care and welfare of patients, and respect shown to them, its safeguarding of patients from abuse, the management of medicines, the safety of premises and equipment, staffing and complaints.
Inspectors said the trust had made progress, and that some of the concerns involved changes which would take time to “bed in”.
Last week it emerged that the trust had paid a locum Accident & Emergency doctor more than £5,000 to work a single 24-hour shift, in response to a sudden staffing crisis.
Julie Bailey, who founded local campaign group Cure the NHS as a response to the standard of care given by the hospital to her own mother, who died in 2007, said: “The size of the group exposes the scale of this crisis; it is an absolute disgrace that in the 21st century, the most vulnerable people were treated so appallingly.” She added: “For relatives who have gone through this, no amount of money can ever compensate for what happened to their loved ones.”
Mrs Bailey said there were many more relatives and victims who had never received a penny. “Every day, someone comes to me who has never even spoken before about what they went through. “There are so many people suffering as a result of this scandal, and no one has been held to account for what we are going through.”
Antony Sumara, Chief Executive of Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: “As always, I offer our sincerest apologies to the families concerned, for the distress caused by the poor care their relatives received at our Trust in the past. “We have made a lot of progress over the last year in improving the care for our patients and will continue to focus our efforts on building on these improvements and making sure that they are sustained.”
Migrants to Britain took 9 out of 10 jobs created under Labour Party rule
Nearly nine out of ten jobs created under Labour went to foreign-born workers, astonishing figures revealed last night. Official statistics showed the vast majority of the rise in the employment total under the last Government was accounted for by workers born abroad.
Total numbers of those in work went up by two million during 13 years of Labour. But of those jobs, 1.8 million individuals were classed as ‘non-UK born’. Just a quarter of a million declared themselves to be born in the UK.
The figures, from the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey, are an indictment of the last Government’s failure to control the influx of migrants, train British workers and tackle welfare dependency. Just as startlingly, the figures also revealed that the proportion of the foreign-born workforce nearly doubled under Labour – from 7 per cent to 13 per cent.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the Migrationwatch think-tank, said: ‘This is stunning evidence of the need to cut back on the immigration of foreign workers. ‘As long as foreign skills can be obtained “off the shelf”, employers will have no incentive to train British workers.’
The figures were released in a written parliamentary answer to Tory MP James Clappison. He said: ‘This is a reflection of the huge increase that took place under the previous Government. It does nothing to lessen the case for a cap on migrant numbers.’
The data showed there were just over 26million people aged 16-64 in employment between April and June 1997. Of those 1,946,000 were foreign born, leaving 24,058,000 born in the UK. By the same period this year, the total in jobs was up more than two million, to 28,107,000. Of those, 3,787,000 were born abroad, and 24,314,000 born in the UK. It means 88 per cent of the rise in employment was accounted for by workers born abroad, and just 12 per cent by those born in the UK.
Immigration minister Damian Green said: ‘These figures show just why the Government is introducing a limit on immigration, so that new jobs are available for UK workers. ‘We need to control immigration and to improve our training and welfare systems and the Government is tackling all of these areas.’
As Prime Minister, Gordon Brown said economic migration would fall by up to 12 per cent. But his points-based system for overseas workers actually led to totals of foreign workers going up 20 per cent and foreign students by more than 30 per cent.
This week another hole in the points system was revealed as Home Office figures showed just one in four of the 18,780 ‘highly skilled’ migrants allowed in last year managed to find a highly skilled job.
There were also fears a new EU deal with India will lead to ‘British jobs for Indian workers’, by allowing Indian firms to transfer unlimited numbers of staff to the UK without first offering the posts to Britons.
David Cameron has pledged to limit the numbers of non-EU migrants allowed in, saying he wants net migration – the number of arrivals minus those departing – to fall from 196,000 last year to ‘tens of thousands’. The final details of the limit are to be revealed later this year and the cap will come into force in April.
Centrist British Prime Minister won’t make me a Minister… I’m a white, married, Home Counties Christian, says Tory MP
A new Tory MP has made a scathing attack on David Cameron for promoting women and people from the ethnic minorities over ‘white, Christian, married’ men.
John Glen, the party’s former head of research, said his background effectively ruled him out for a ministerial job under Mr Cameron. He said: ‘I don’t anticipate any early calls to Government. I’m a white, Christian, married bloke from the Home Counties so I probably don’t fit the description of what the leadership wants at the moment.’
The Salisbury MP, one of 147 new Tory MPs elected in May, should on paper be a potential high-flier in the Commons after running the respected Conservative Research Department following the 2005 General Election.
Previous Tory research chiefs who have gone on to top posts include Andrew Lansley, now the Health Secretary, and Chris Patten, who served as Conservative Party Chairman under John Major’s Government.
Mr Glen, 36, also accused Mr Cameron of ‘vetoing’ his bid to be Tory candidate three years ago and complained how he was initially left off the party’s controversial ‘A-list’ of fast-tracked candidates. And the Oxford-educated MP appeared to lash out at new Tory colleagues trying too hard to get noticed and ‘racing around and annoying everyone’.
Mr Glen said: ‘What is important is that you don’t lose your soul along the way. I’d rather be a damn good constituency MP and be known to speak the truth than someone who has got on the ladder too soon and is not experienced or able enough to deal with the pressure. I’ve noticed some colleagues out to make a name for themselves.’
His remarks, in an article for the Commons in-house journal The House Magazine, will revive the rows over Mr Cameron’s determination to rebrand his party by fast-tracking women and ethnic-minority parliamentary candidates over traditional Tory ‘pin-striped’ men prior to May’s General Election.
It led to the famous ‘Turnip Taliban’ revolt when Tories in South-West Norfolk unsuccessfully tried to deselect candidate Liz Truss over her failure to declare an earlier affair with married Tory MP Mark Field.
After the Election, many local activists who resented the ‘A-list’ priority candidates felt vindicated when a number failed to win. Five openly gay candidates were not elected, two of whom – David Gold in Eltham and Mark Coote in Cheltenham – were standing in seats pencilled in by Tory high command as easy wins.
Mr Glen complained that his political career suffered a ‘blow’ when he failed to be included on the first round of A-list candidates.
But even after he got on to a later priority list, he said the Tory leader blocked his bid to be the party’s candidate in Henley in 2008 – the safe seat vacated by Boris Johnson when he became London Mayor. Mr Glen said he was rejected even though his wife-to-be lived in the Oxfordshire town. Mr Glen wrote that ‘to his immense credit, David Cameron later apologised for what happened’.
However, he also complained that after Mr Cameron became party leader in December 2005, his career at Tory HQ ‘started to go wrong’ and that he was not appreciated by Steve Hilton, the new leader’s director of strategy and image guru.
‘I sensed that my days would be numbered, and in my early encounters with Steve Hilton and members of David Cameron’s office, I sensed a lack of esteem for what I could bring to the table,’ he said.
The MP also attacked the decision by close Cameron ally Francis Maude, now a Cabinet Office Minister, to abolish the Conservative Research Department as ‘very short-sighted’.
Last night, a fellow Conservative MP privately accused Mr Glen of ‘sour grapes’, saying that out of more than 100 Ministers in the Coalition, only 19 were women and only ‘a handful’ were from ethnic minorities.
The three-page health and safety form which is paralysing Britain’s police
The questionnaire is only three pages long yet nothing illustrates more effectively how health and safety regulations have blighted the emergency services.
Last week, former Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner David Gilbertson wrote about the corrosive effect of the ‘risk avoidance’ culture that now takes precedence over public duty. As Mr Gilbertson explained, the problem lies with the RA1, the emergency services’ risk-assessment form which is used to identify potential dangers of any operation.
And two episodes this week illustrate his point. At the inquest into the 7/7 London bombings, in which 52 people died, firefighters were forced to defend their decision not to enter a Tube tunnel until ‘protocols’ had been observed.
And at another inquest in Kettering, Northants, last Thursday, it was revealed that two men drowned in an icy lake as firefighters stood by, unable to help because they had only ‘basic water awareness training’. The fire services have a version of the RA1 form, as do each of the different police forces.
The Metropolitan Police’s RA1 requires officers to assess a checklist of 238 possible hazards before conducting any sort of planned operational activity, such as security at a football match, or any operation that is spontaneous but requires the intervention of a senior officer, such as a bombing or a riot.
The Mail on Sunday has obtained one of these forms, which is not made available under the Metropolitan Police Freedom of Information Publication Scheme. It is an astonishing document which covers every conceivable eventuality – and more.
The potential hazards are divided into 13 categories including the place in which the operation will take place (Access and Place of Work), the means by which officers will travel to their operation (Transport) and even the threat posed by the required uniforms (Work Equipment).The senior officer must tick the relevant boxes, fill out an inventory of ‘risk activities’ (RA2), calculate levels of risk (RA3) and submit their recommendation (RA4) for the assessment to be confirmed and signed.
According to the RA1 form, potential dangers of ‘uncomfortable seating’, ‘slippery surfaces’, ‘sunburn’ and ‘passive smoking’ must all be considered. One senior police officer, who asked not to be named, said: ‘The thing is they have thought of every possible danger you could ever imagine.
‘With uncomfortable seating, for instance, it might be that an officer is on an operation which will require hours of watching and staying in the same place. With sunburn, if you are policing something like the Notting Hill Carnival for 12 hours it could potentially be a problem.
‘There’s nothing they haven’t thought of so the risk of “fluid injection” or “HIV” – which is very real if you are raiding a drug den – is on the same form as “traffic equipment/cones etc”. It’s the same with equipment, if you haven’t got access to the right transport, officers might have to take their riot gear on the bus with them, which is very heavy and could potentially hurt their back.’
Every department in the police force now has a risk assessment advisor. Every operation has a file opened, every file should have an RA1, two, three and four. The forms must be kept for ten years in case of any legal action.
The unnamed officer added: ‘There is an entire department processing the RA1s. Every one has to be signed off by a commander or chief constable. Technically, if you have got bombs going off you should complete these forms before sending your officers in. However, it’s a grey area. The line would be that you must complete one “wherever practicable”.
‘The difficulty is that it’s a question of judgment. Are you likely to save lives without one of the forms being completed? In a situation like that, you would probably not fill in the form and account for your actions in your subsequent report.
‘For instance, if a bomb goes off in the Tube, you would send in your officers but fill in the form before sending in forensics. But the thing with these forms is that it places the onus on the senior officer to fill it out. And if you don’t, you will have to explain why you haven’t.’
If it is deemed that a senior officer has not done enough to identify potential risks they face legal action. In 2003, then Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir John (now Lord) Stevens and his predecessor Lord Condon faced prosecution for alleged breaches of health and safety rules after two incidents in which officers fell through roofs while pursuing suspected burglars. Both were acquitted.
New grammar (selective) schools could be built in Britain after all
Grammar schools could soon be given the green light to expand under the Government’s flagship education reforms. Michael Gove, the education secretary, has signalled to campaigners that existing grammars will be able to create more places but also, crucially, could be given permission to build new premises and start “satellite” schools.
The move is a significant shift for David Cameron who controversially ruled out building new grammar schools before the election. The Prime Minister has repeatedly said there will be no expansion of selective education in the state sector.
But ministers now accept that Mr Gove’s free schools policy – allowing parents and teachers to start their own establishments – has “let the genie out of the bottle”.
A senior Government source said that where there was increasing demand from parents in areas of population growth, existing grammars would be able to expand places.
One option being considered is to allow existing grammars to build new premises and expand into additional sites. In this way, they might set up and run “satellite” schools that are also selective.
The move is bound to increase tensions in the coalition as the Liberal Democrats oppose grammar schools and vowed in their manifesto to oppose the setting up of new ones.
However, after a growing campaign by Tory MPs, Mr Gove last week signalled a possible u-turn at a packed reception held by the Friends Of Grammar Schools group at the House of Commons.
He told the meeting that his foot was “hovering over the pedal” of allowing parents more access to selective education. MPs present, including Graham Brady, chair of the powerful 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, seized on Mr Gove’s remarks.
Dozens of MPs, teachers and governors attended the meeting, including Katharine Birbalsingh, the teacher who was suspended from her job after describing Britain’s education system as “fundamentally broken”.
Speaking at the gathering, Mr Brady, who resigned from the front bench in 2007 over Mr Cameron’s policy on grammar schools, applauded the Government for pushing ahead with free schools and more academies but asked Mr Gove to go further with the expansion of selective education where parents wanted it.
Mr Gove said: “My foot is hovering over the pedal. I’ll have to see what my co-driver Nick Clegg has to say.”
Last night Mr Brady said: “I was hugely encouraged by what Michael Gove had to say. There is enormous demand for selective education.
“The new government’s commitment to extending parental choice, allowing parents to set up new schools where they want them and to enhance local decision-making, is extremely welcome.
“I hope that all parties who believe in localism will accept that they should not be standing in the way where parents, schools or local authorities want to offer more choice of academically selective schools.”
There are 164 grammar schools in England but the demand for places far outstrips capacity and competition is becoming ever fiercer. In a ruling last week, the schools adjudicator backed three “super-selective” grammars which admit only those children with the very highest 11 Plus scores, sometimes from outside the county.
The decision of the adjudicator to back the head teachers using such strict admission criteria was seen as a major victory for selection. Many areas are demanding more grammar schools be built to cope with rising demand.
In Kent, the county with the largest remaining concentration of grammars, this year’s 11 Plus results, published last week, show that the number of children from outside the area, mostly from London and East Sussex, who passed the test rose by 16 per cent this year as parents nearby scramble to get their children admitted.
Support for grammars remains strong in the Conservative Party. Over 50 MPs attended the meeting last week including Michael Fallon, the Conservative deputy chairman, Lord Ashcroft, and many MPs from the new intake.
Frank Field, the former Labour welfare secretary who is conducting a social justice review for Mr Cameron, was also present.
The Prime Minister has been under growing pressure to change his mind on the issue since May 2007 when he ditched his party’s traditional support for selective education, declaring: “It is delusional to think that a policy of expanding a number of grammar schools is a good idea.” He said then that a pledge to build more grammar schools “would be an electoral albatross. Labour want to hang it round our neck.”
The Sunday Telegraph led the way in campaigning to overturn the decision. The row threatened to engulf Mr Cameron at the time, with some even describing it as his “clause four moment”.
But Tory MPs say the game has been changed by legislation allowing parents, charities and businesses to set up new schools – similar to systems in the US and Sweden – which was passed in the summer. “It would be very odd if we were saying to parents ‘you can set up any kind of school you want so long as it’s not like a grammar school'”, said one Tory insider.
As part of the first wave of the free schools programme, Mr Gove said he expected 16 new schools to open by September 2011.
However he faces an uphill battle to convince Liberal Democrat members of the coalition opposed to selection to back grammars. The party was explicit in its opposition to selection in its manifesto, although the issue was not mentioned in the coalition agreement.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said last night: “There are no plans to increase selection.”
British death rates at record low ‘due to rise in statins use’
This is sheer unsubstantiated propaganda. Lifespans were steadily increasing long before statin use
Death rates in Britain have fallen to record lows, official figures have shown, amid claims the introduction of cholesterol-lowering statins is largely responsible for the fall.
Last year the number of people who died in England and Wales fell by 3.5 per cent to almost 492,000, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found.
The latest figures showed that over the past five years deaths resulting from heart disease and cerebrovascular diseases had fallen by a third.
The ONS said the “age-standardised mortality rates” had not been so low since 1952 when the population was smaller and relatively healthy. The infant mortality rate in 2009 was also at its lowest point, it found.
Experts said the introduction of statins, which combat cardiovascular diseases, had contributed to the dramatic fall in deaths.
The drugs are taken by millions of Britons to lower their cholesterol in order to cut their risk of having a heart attack or stroke. It is estimated that about five million people in Britain are on statins, which are credited with saving 7,000 lives a year.
They also said that it was also in part to the NHS’ determination to become a world leader in heart treatment. “We should be celebrating the wonderful news that the number of people dying from coronary heart disease is continuing to fall,” said Prof Peter Weissberg, the British Heart Foundation medical director.
“The decline is due to a whole host of reasons including a better public understanding of heart disease risk factors, important government policies aimed at improving lifestyles and more effective treatments.
According to the ONS, there were 6,573 deaths per million population for males and 4,628 deaths per million for females. Over the whole year 491,348 people died in England and Wales compared to 509,090 the previous year. Over the past 10 years the highest death rate among males was for circulatory diseases despite a fall of 42 per cent in the rate, to 2,078 deaths per million. The female death rate for circulatory disease also fell over the same period by 40 per cent to 1,312 deaths per million.
But the fall in age-standardised mortality rates for cancer was more gradual, with death rates 15 per cent lower for males and 13 per cent lower for females in 2009 than a decade earlier.
The leading cause of death for both sexes was ischaemic heart diseases, which accounted for about one in six male deaths and one in eight female deaths last year.
Lung cancer was the second leading cause of death for males, accounting for more than seven per cent of male deaths.
More than one in 10 females died from a stroke, which was the second highest cause of deaths.
“Since more people are surviving their heart attacks and living longer, the burden of heart disease is actually rising,” Prof Weissberg said. “We can’t afford to take our eye of the ball because heart disease is still the UK’s biggest killer. “We have a long road and a lot of hard work still ahead of us.”