Scandal of great-grandfather left to die of dehydration by ‘neglectful’ hospital staff
Don’t get old in Britain
A coroner has attacked ‘neglectful’’ hospital staff after a patient was allowed to die – of dehydration. David Game, 87, was recovering from a routine hip operation when he died of kidney failure caused by a lack of water.
Shockingly, nurses failed to alert doctors when Mr Game’s blood showed it was clogged with the waste chemical urea – a major symptom of dehydration. The former Royal Navy petty officer and retired tool maker from Leamington Spa, Warks., was rushed to intensive care but died on July 11 last year.
An inquest heard Mr Game, who had five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, died after medical staff repeatedly failed to check on him.
Mr Game’s distraught daughter Pat Evans blasted medical staff, branding his care ‘appalling’. Speaking after the inquest, she said: ‘It’s so sad because dad always made sure he drank plenty of water. ‘At home he kept a bottle by his chair and in his car. ‘Yet he was allowed to dehydrate in hospital – the one place where everyone was supposed to be looking after him. It’s appalling.’
The hearing at Coventry Coroners Court on Friday heard Mr Game was admitted to Warwick Hospital last July for a hip replacement operation. The surgery was a success and he was moved to Oaken Ward and was expected to be discharged after three days.
But nurses on the ward, including several from agencies brought in to cover staff shortages, failed to monitor how much he was drinking. Nurses even failed to tell doctors he was showing signs of kidney failure despite his blood having high levels of urea.
He was eventually transferred to intensive care but died on July 11 after refusing dialysis.
Recording a narrative verdict Warwickshire Coroner Sean McGovern savaged the hospital staff and management. He said: ‘’Staff kept inadequate and inconsistent notes. There were management failures. ‘The fact senior doctors did not check Mr Game’s condition sooner contributed heavily to his death.
‘The hospital was neglectful in allowing Mr Game to dehydrate and this was the reason for his kidney failure, which in turn caused fatal multiple organ failure.’
Bosses at Warwick Hospital apologised ‘unreservedly’ for the mistakes which led to Mr Game’s death. A spokesman said: ‘We offer Mr Game’s family an unreserved apology. ‘We are always striving to improve our services and to make sure that the care that we give is of a high quality and meets guidelines on best practice.’
The Patients Association said Mr Game’s death was yet another example of how the NHS was letting down elderly patients. Chief Executive Katherine Murphy said: ‘The NHS should get this right all of the time. ‘It is clear from the stories we hear on our helpline that too many patients are being badly let down. It’s a scandal.’
Why wouldn’t the NHS save our child?
Ruby’s parents raised £170,000 for lifesaving cancer treatment in America – then learnt the NHS could have treated her all along. Shockingly, it’s a story being repeated across Britain
To see Ruby Owen smiling in her parents’ loving embrace, you would never guess the gruelling sacrifices her family made to save the chubby three-year-old from a brain tumour that the NHS had given up trying to treat.
Her father, Martin, had to abandon his thriving fire-alarm business to raise nearly £170,000 to take Ruby to the U.S. for specialist radiotherapy this summer. The family did everything from shaking tins outside football grounds to having sponsored chest waxes.
The Owens then uprooted from their home in the Midlands to spend three months in Indiana while Ruby received proton-therapy to destroy the tumour threatening her life. This uses a special form of radiation beam to kill cancers without harming the surrounding delicate brain tissue.
Last year, Ruby’s British doctors had told the family there was nothing more they could do for her. The good news is that since receiving the U.S. treatment, Ruby’s latest scan shows she is clear of cancer.
Ruby is just one of a number of cancer-stricken children who have been effectively abandoned by the NHS, leaving their parents to strive against the odds to raise huge sums to fund life-saving specialist care abroad.
Only yesterday, the Mail revealed how John and Vicky Inglis, from York, raised £400,000 to save their five-year-old son Jamie’s life with a pioneering American cancer therapy. They were convinced his chances would be impossibly low if his treatment was left to the NHS.
It is a shameful reflection on our health care service. And, says Peter Bone, a Tory MP campaigning on behalf of such parents, it’s sadly all too typical of an NHS that has an ‘appalling record’ of not taking up new treatments that are adopted far more quickly in other countries.
But what is even more disturbing is that NHS funding may actually be available to give children these kinds of life-saving care. Some of the treatments are available as part of clinical trials here, while in other cases the NHS pays for children to be treated in Europe and the U.S.
Nevertheless, children often miss out: parents say their youngsters get labelled as too ill to receive specialist care in clinical trials for fear of making the treatment’s success rates look too low, or the families simply live in the wrong postcode to get funds for treatment overseas. Instead, these parents are told there is nothing more that the NHS can do.
Not only does this sound blatantly wrong, experts say it does not even make economic sense, given the considerable costs involved for the health service in looking after children who slowly become ever sicker.
Emergency surgery at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, removed 95 per cent of Ruby’s tumour — but the news went from bad to worse. They were told Ruby had a comparatively rare and highly aggressive cancer. ‘When they examined the tumour, they said she had only a 5 per cent chance of survival,’ says Martin.
Martin and Rachel were told their daughter needed proton radiotherapy — an advanced treatment that does not damage the tissue surrounding tumours, as would conventional radiotherapy.
This means it can be used in extremely delicate areas, such as brains and eyes, to destroy tumours without causing catastrophic harm.
NHS funding was proposed for Ruby’s trip, but this chance was snatched away, says Martin. ‘There is an experimental project to send children abroad for this treatment, but we were then told the team would not fund our trip because Ruby’s survival chances were too low.
Having raised the cash, the Owens travelled to the U.S. and lived for three months in a hotel while Ruby underwent 33 tough sessions of proton therapy. The treatment ended in mid-August.
Meanwhile, other children in some parts of the country are being funded by the NHS to go to Germany for high-tech treatment. And still other children are receiving similarly advanced therapy free in the UK — as part of health-service clinical trials.
The situation seems so confused and arbitrary that earlier this year Peter Bone held a debate in Parliament on the problem. Peter Bone believes it is ultimately more economical — as well as ethically right — that the NHS should fund the care of all children with such cancers, no matter where they are treated.
Why I’d rather my daughter marry a rich man than have a brilliant career
During a chat with a group of 17-year-old girls recently, our conversation turned to their dreams for the future. One girl, Patty, wants to be a lawyer. Another, Justine, has her heart set on becoming a doctor.
But it seems there’s one aspiration that’s proving surprisingly popular — and it doesn’t involve years of dedicated study, either. Yes — feminists look away now — most of the girls I talked to are intent on marrying a rich man.
This idea is buoyed by a culture of celebrity that sees attractive women marrying well and then enjoying luxurious lifestyles as a result. Because of this, matrimony is increasingly viewed as an alternative career choice for the ambitious younger generation.
‘I’m going to train as a pharmacist, work for a couple of years and then marry a rich man,’ Lilly announces in a matter-of-fact manner. Her friend Amy also has it all mapped out: ‘I’m going to be a graphic designer — but when I have children, I’ll give up work. I’m going to marry someone with a really good job.’ Her friends nod in agreement.
As a teacher, perhaps I should have argued with these teenagers and told them their happiness depended on financial independence and high-flying careers. A few years ago I would have done, but not any more.
So what’s changed? Well, four years ago my daughter Nancy was born and I became a harassed working mother. It was my implacable belief that a career was the path to female fulfilment that kept me working after her birth. Back then, I honestly believed that women who didn’t work were boring little drones who had given up all vestige of personality. How wrong I was!
Last year, Jill Berry, the then president of The Girls’ Schools Association, publicly said what many of us women in our late 30s and early 40s have come to realise. She said that combining a high-powered career and motherhood and doing both well is impossible. It’s time we stopped feeding girls the fairy tale that they can do it all — and I agree.
But, more than that, I think most women — if given a truly free choice — would choose to stay at home and look after their children in their infancy. The trouble is that most families rely on the salaries of both parents, so it’s not really an option.
It goes without saying, although it sometimes seems we are expressly forbidden to say it, that having a rich husband would provide that option. When I go to pick up Nancy from school, there are three distinct camps of women at the gates: the frazzled working mums like myself, rushing up at the last minute.
Then there are the childminders of those women still at work. Then there are the stay-at-home mothers — and if you imagine the latter group to be tubby drudges in unflattering tracksuits with fuzzy, unkempt hair, think again.
Today’s breed of stay-at-home mother is impeccably turned out — after all, they’re the only ones rich enough to be able to not work. Mostly in their late 20s, they’re clad in designer gear and have the time to have their hair styled weekly at an upmarket salon. Their nails, miniature works of art, certainly haven’t seen the inside of a pair of Marigolds.
Shallow and vapid they are not — this new breed of uber-housewives are highly educated, with clear ideas about their new role in life. They’re not tied to the kitchen sink as their husband’s wealth means they have nannies and cleaners to help with the grind of chores.
My friend Amanda was an accountant before she married and had children. Now, she doesn’t work, but she certainly isn’t darning socks. She employs a cleaner and a part-time nanny. She goes to the gym and is doing a Spanish course. As she says: ‘I’m a wife and mother, not a skivvy.’ Good for her. Amanda, and plenty of women like her, are marrying for love — but this love gets a helping hand when the bank statement arrives.
At the same time, rich alpha males want to marry women who look amazing and whose wit will dazzle at social functions. For modern girls, marrying a rich man is an indisputable announcement of success. It does make life feel a lot more sparkly than getting up to catch the 6am bus every morning.
If, in 20 years’ time, my daughter announces she’s jumping off the career ladder to marry to a wealthy man, I won’t throw a fit. In fact, I rather hope she does marry money so her life is less toil. She’d have the choice to work if she wants and stay at home if she doesn’t — and not feel like a modern-day Stepford Wife.
That might sound shallow. What I mean, though, is that I’ve learned to accept there’s more routes to a woman’s fulfilment than simply the size of her salary.
Younger women have realised that instead of spending the day listening to some bore drone on about sales figures, it might be more fun to go swimming with the children while the cleaner sorts out the house.
Of course, there are still some stay-at-home mums who spend their days dusting the mantelpiece, but these women would be seen in the new pecking order as having failed miserably.
Old-fashioned? Yes, it is. Victorian novels dwell incessantly on the theme of women seeking out rich men for their daughters to marry.
The difference, of course, between us and the Victorians was that if a man was vile, his poor wife was stuck with him. That’s simply not the case any longer. Not that I’m encouraging divorce, but new laws ensure no woman should be left destitute if a marriage fails.
Julia McFarlane, 50, was recently awarded a house worth £1.5 million and £250,000 a year for life after her marriage to a hugely successful accountant ended in divorce. The judge insisted the years she spent supporting her husband’s career and raising three children be recognised and rewarded. Women in the past were often forced to put up with abuse because they had nowhere else to go and no means of supporting themselves.
But the new alpha housewife is the educated, intelligent woman who chooses not to work — but thanks to her husband’s money certainly isn’t pushing a mop around the kitchen floor either.
Hopefully, my daughter and her generation will benefit from our belated realisation that a happy life isn’t guaranteed by working a 50-hour week and seeing your children on Saturday afternoons. A happy life isn’t guaranteed by marriage to a wealthy man either. But isn’t it time we admitted that it certainly helps?
Don’t touch pupils’ fingers, British music teachers are told
Music teachers are being told not to touch the fingers of pupils learning to play instruments. The Musicians’ Union has produced a video telling teachers: “It isn’t necessary to touch children in order to demonstrate: there’s always a better way.”
But the video has provoked a storm of protest from teachers and campaigners who attacked the guidance as “madness” and said the video – which features a man teaching a child the violin – as a “grossly caricatured version of teacher-pupil contact”.
The video, called “Inappropriate Demonstration”, shows a lesson in which a pupil fails to play the right notes. The teacher first explains the technique by placing a hand on the pupil’s shoulder and holding his fingers in the right position on the violin. He then explains it a second time by demonstrating on his own violin the correct position. The pupil then immediately plays the correct notes.
A voice-over on the video says: “When you’re teaching instruments, there are times when you need to demonstrate particular techniques. “In the past, this has often been done by touching students, but this can make students feel uncomfortable and leave teachers open to accusations of inappropriate behaviour.” The narrator adds: “You should never need to touch a student for demonstration. Use your creativity to find other equally effective ways to demonstrate.”
The union said the video, produced with the NSPCC, MusicLeader (a charity-funded organisation to help music leaders) and the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, was aimed at helping music teachers “gain a better understanding of their child protection responsibilities and avoid situations that could lead to accusations of misconduct”.
But teachers criticised the video and the “no-touching” policy. One music teacher, writing on the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music’s online forum under the name “Banjogirl”, said: “It’s all madness. I can’t help touching children occasionally. “It’s bringing children up to think that there is something dirty about touch and to be suspicious of other people.”
Seer Green, another music teacher, said the union and the NSPCC had “missed the point”. “What is most important in all this is common sense. Building a good working relationship between teacher, pupil and parent is essential. “A sense of trust needs to be built up and then when any issues around ‘touch’ arise, they can be handled sensibly and with the minimum of fuss.”
Henry Fagg, from The Tutor Pages, an independent educational services company based in North West London, said the video depicted “a grossly caricatured version of teacher-pupil contact.
He said the “no-touching” policy was “hysterical” and interfered with day-to-day music teaching. “It also fails to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate touch, and hence the real issue of child abuse is completely ignored.”
Josie Middleton, of the Manifesto Club which campaigns against excessive regulation, said: “The video is absurd. Teachers need to be able to straighten backs, reposition fingers, or shake out stiff hands. “The assumption of this video is that all touch is potentially suspicious. This turns normal behaviour into something very seedy, and encourages decent people to be anxious all the time. “It also blurs the boundary between abusive touch, and caring or instructive touch – and makes it harder to distinguish genuine abuse.”
Diane Widdison, spokesman for the union, said: “It’s a difficult area but we are here to protect children and to protect our members’ careers. “When allegations are made against music teachers they are suspended immediately while an investigation is carried out and their careers are damaged or ruined even if they are declared innocent.”
In one recent case the parents of a child learning the guitar complained that the teacher had touched their child’s finger to pluck a guitar string.
“A lot of children don’t like to be touched by adults,” she added. “You don’t need to touch children to teach them how to play an instrument. We live in a culture where children know their rights and touching can be misinterpreted.”
Britain’s “clean coal” fantasy crumbles
Powerfuel, which is developing the UK’s first commercial scale clean coal power plant, has gone into administration because of the crippling cost of the project.
Richard Fleming, joint administrator, said: “Developing low carbon energy generation requires a large amount of capital upfront and the CCS development falls £635m short of the investment needed to progress the project beyond the preliminary stage. It needs moving on to a new owner with deeper pockets.” ….
The administration is also a blow for CCS technology, which the UK and EU see as vital to meeting targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Only last week Powerfuel Power announced plans to build a pilot gas power plant with a new CCS technology. However, industry experts warned that few private operators would go ahead without more government support.
The government is running a competition for up to £1bn in subsidies. A consortium led by Scottish Power is the only bidder after Eon pulled out saying the market was “not conducive”.
Limits of free speech tested by off-the-cuff online remarks
“What’s a tweet, between friends? The law says sometimes it’s a threat. One man thought he was just bantering with his pals when he joked about blowing an airport sky-high. Another was reacting to a radio phone-in when he mused about stoning a journalist to death.
Because they made their throwaway comments on Twitter, both are in legal trouble. Their cases have outraged civil libertarians and inflamed debate about the limits of free speech in a Web 2.0 world.
The Internet makes private jokes, tastes, and opinions available for public consumption, blurring the line between public and private in a way that has left the law gasping to keep up.”