“My darling daughter died for the lack of a £6 jab”: Grief and anger of swine flu victim’s doctor father
Her father says she died because of cost cutting
The doctor whose little girl died just hours after falling ill with swine flu yesterday accused Ministers of denying children a life-saving jab for the sake of 6 pounds.
Parents across the country were moved to tears by the haunting image of three-year-old Lana Ameen lying on a life support machine, one of the youngest victims of this winter’s deadly outbreak. Now her father, registrar Dr Zana Ameen, has told how, with all his medical knowledge, he can see only one reason not to offer the swine flu vaccine to young children – cost.
Writing in today’s Daily Mail, he appeals to Ministers to look at the heartbreaking photograph of his beloved daughter just hours from death and ask whether it is right to deny other children a vaccine. He writes: `If I could show the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley the photograph of Lana shortly before she died, I would say to him: “Put yourself in our position, think how we feel”. It’s not too late for them to think again.’
Dr Ameen writes: `Everyone – from her health team to the Government, to me, her Daddy who loved her more thananything in the world – let her down.’ And he says: `As a doctor, I can’t think of any medical reasons not to make it available to young children. The only possible reason can be saving money. `But I don’t care what their plans to save money are, we’re talking about life and death here.’
He spoke amid mounting worries over this winter’s flu outbreak and growing concerns about how Ministers are tackling it, as it emerged yesterday that:
* The Government’s own committee on immunisation made a U-turn on offering the jab to young children, after initially pointing out that they were at especially high risk,
* The number of people to die from flu so far this winter has more than doubled in a week, up from 50 to 112,
* Experts on the flu virus backed Lana’s parents, telling the Mail it was `essential’ that under-fives received the vaccination,
* Boots revealed its stores have `very limited’ stocks of the winter flu jab left and said there was currently no hope of replenishing its supplies,
* Health chiefs warned of a leap in cases among children following the start of the new school term.
Speaking exclusively to the Mail yesterday from northern Iraq where he is visiting grieving relatives, 34-year-old Dr Ameen told how he had attempted to get Lana and his pregnant wife Gemma immunised before Christmas, only to be turned down by their GP.
The swine flu jab was given to under-fives during last winter’s pandemic, but Government advisers maintain that during the current outbreak it should be given only to those with underlying health conditions such as asthma.
Dr Ameen and his wife took Lana to Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, in the early hours of Christmas Day after her temperature soared and she displayed mild cold symptoms. Doctors initially diagnosed a minor infection and sent her home, but later that day, Lana had a fit and her temperature soared to 107.5f (42c) and she was taken back in. She was declared dead at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool within hours.
Mrs Ameen, a 28-year-old healthcare assistant, said the growing scale of deaths underlined the need for their campaign. Her husband, an Iraqi Kurd who fled to Britain in 2001 and is now a registrar training in diabetes and endocrinology at Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham, spoke of his anger that the battle to save Lana’s life costs thousands of pounds – as a consequence of saving 6 pounds for a vaccine.
The couple, who had been visiting Mrs Ameen’s relatives in Stockport for Christmas, have lodged a complaint with Stepping Hill Hospital for failing to diagnose Lana’s condition initially. It has said she received `appropriate and timely’ treatment.
Yesterday the Department of Health defended its stance on vaccination and suggested the outbreak may have peaked. The number of people in critical care in England has fallen from 783 last week to 661. Lana is one of six children aged below five who have died since October.
Last night it emerged that experts advising the Government had wanted to give the under-five’s the flu jab but the plan was inexplicably ditched. Members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation first discussed immunising very young children during a meeting last January. According to minutes of the meeting the `influenza sub-group’ concluded: `A majority of members of the sub-group advised that it would be prudent to include children aged between six months and five years in the 2010/11 seasonal influenza programme.’ When the committee met again less than three weeks later this proposal had been ditched.
Last month the JCVI met to consider whether the under-fives should get the jab after infection rates suddenly soared. But it concluded there would be no `gain’, as rates would probably begin to fall in the next few weeks.
Last night a source on the sub-committee who had recommended giving the jabs to the under fives said: `It is hard to stand by and watch while the JCVI back themselves into a corner on this. It is not too late for them to change their minds.’
Dr Vas Novelli, head of infectious diseases at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said last night : `It is essential that the under-fives are vaccinated.’ Professor John Oxford, a virus specialist at Barts and the London Hospital, said: `It obvious that this age group should be vaccinated. They are routinely vaccinated in the U.S. and Canada.’
British police chief: ‘We couldn’t speak out on Pakistani sex gangs for fear of appearing institutionally racist’
Police could not speak out about Asian sex gangs for fear of appearing ‘institutionally racist’, a senior officer said yesterday. Mick Gradwell, a former detective superintendent, said the targeting of underage and vulnerable girls had been going on for decades.
He added: ‘You have girls being abused and raped and yet the most senior officers are refusing to comment on it. On what other subject would you get that? ‘How many young girls have been abused and raped because of the reluctance of the authorities to say exactly what is happening?’
Mr Gradwell spoke out following a trial in Derby which resulted in Abid Saddique, 27, and Mohammed Liaqat, 28, being jailed for a total of 19 years last week after targeting underage girls. His warning also follows the arrests of a gang of Asian men over claims they plied 14 white girls with drink and drugs before turning them into sex slaves in Rochdale, near Manchester.
In the aftermath of these cases, former home secretary Jack Straw prompted controversy when he described some of the victims as ‘easy meat’ for gangs – often made up of Pakistani men – who trawl the streets looking for sex.
The vulnerable girls in Rochdale – some as young as 13 – say they were forced to work the streets as prostitutes and hand over money to the gang.
The nine men, eight of them Asian, were questioned by detectives after officers swooped on a number of addresses. The arrests took place shortly before Christmas and were the result of a major inquiry into the sexual exploitation of teenage girls by men since 2008.
Mr Gradwell added: ‘When I joined in 1979 one of my first tasks was to police around a Blackburn nightclub where one of the issues was Asian men cruising around in BMWs and Mercs trying to pick up young drunken girls.
‘The main pressure police have is being called institutionally racist if they highlight a crime trend like this. ‘There’s a fantastic reluctance to be absolutely straight because some people may take such offence.’
The comments come just days after a nationwide investigation was launched following a string of disturbing cases.
The two sexual predators convicted in Derby, Saddique and Liaqat – both British-born fathers of Pakistani origin – cruised the streets in either a Range Rover or a BMW looking for vulnerable young girls.
The victims were ‘chatted up’ at the roadside and invited to go for drives in the car where they were plied with vodka or cocaine before being taken to hotel rooms, parks or houses to be sexually abused.
A BBC obsessed with diversity and feminist pieties is gloriously hoist with its own petard
The BBC likes to present itself as the most progressive organisation in the world, a trenchant opponent of sexism, racism, ageism and every other kind of -ism you can think of.
It even has a so-called Head of Diversity, whose well-remunerated job is presumably to ensure that there are enough vegetarians, people born under the star sign of Capricorn, single mothers with a surname beginning with J and left-handed Methodists on the payroll of the BBC.
So it is a rich irony that the Corporation should have been accused by an industrial tribunal of ‘social engineering’ over its sacking of a female presenter because she was regarded as too old.
Miriam O’Reilly, 51 when she was fired, now 53, will pocket some £150,000 of licence-fee payers’ money. The BBC spent an estimated further £100,000 fighting the case.
Though I am no fan of interfering industrial tribunals, it is impossible to disagree with the judgment that BBC executives were obsessed with ‘ethnic diversity’, ‘rejuvenation’ and trying to attract younger viewers when they got rid of Miss O’Reilly.
This supposedly high-minded organisation, so quick to criticise others who display allegedly reactionary behaviour, turns out to have the morals of a hard-hearted brothel keeper who throws her charges on the street once they reach a certain age.
The irony deepens when we consider that Miss O’Reilly was sacked as a presenter of the BBC1 programme Countryfile along with three other women to be replaced by younger staff, two of whom were from ethnic minorities.
A revealing email from Teresa Bogan, then Countryfile series producer, spoke of finding ‘additional ethnic talent’.
A rather condescending term, I would have thought. In order to put the appropriate ticks against the ‘ethnic talent’ boxes, the BBC was prepared to give poor Miriam O’Reilly and her colleagues the heave-ho in a most brutal manner.
She was offered £80,000 if she walked away and never spoke about the affair. To her great credit, she chose to fight.
The BBC emerges from this case as a muddled and bureaucratic organisation which agonises over concepts such as ‘fairness’ and ‘diversity’ and prides itself on its feminist credentials — before going on to behave in a nasty and underhand way.
This is by no means the first time a female presenter has been dismissed for the ‘crime’ of being too old… The BBC worships mindlessly at the shrine of the cult of youth. It seeks attractive young presenters, usually though not invariably female, who may be short on talent but are loved by the camera. When they reach a certain age, they are often unceremoniously tossed on the scrap heap.
Not everyone wants to watch only pouting 30-year-old lovelies whose main, perhaps only, attraction lies in their features. I have absolutely nothing against 30-year-old lovelies, but I also look for knowledge, experience and talent — qualities by no means lacking in all 30-year-olds, though occasionally in limited supply.
There are, if one thinks about it, a lot of quite elderly men on television, some of them much older than Paxo.
The wildlife expert David Attenborough is 84 and the Strictly Come Dancing presenter Bruce Forsyth is nearly 83. Terry Wogan, who has admittedly scaled back his work, is a child of 72.
They and other male oldies still hold the floor because no one can do it better.
It is very difficult indeed to think of septuagenarian or octogenarian female television star presenters, and this only confirms the point made by Miss O’Reilly — that the BBC (and probably other broadcasters) discriminate against women of a certain age.
Of course, no one, male or female, should expect a job for life come what may. There are old boobies and young geniuses. Stale presenters of either sex should make way for gifted newcomers. We don’t want the BBC to become a gerontocracy.
My proposal to the BBC is that it should stop thinking in terms of age or sex or ethnic origin, and set out to employ the most talented people to produce the best possible programmes. It should get rid of this habit of fretting about quotas and ticking boxes, and make quality its only concern.
British teacher fired for taking two boys sledging wins fight to save his career
A teacher who was sacked after letting pupils ride a sledge to demonstrate its design properties escaped being struck off yesterday, in a ‘victory for common sense’.
Design and technology head Richard Tremelling, 37, took his class of 15-year-old GCSE students on to slopes at the back of their school during the morning break to test his 30-year-old sledge, which he called a ‘design classic’. A disciplinary hearing was told that he allowed two boys in the class to go on the sledge after checking that the two slopes were safe for the exercise.
But although neither pupil suffered any injury during the ten-minute session – and neither they nor their parents complained – Mr Tremelling was sacked from his £40,000-a-year post. The school ruled the married father of three had breached its health and safety policy, which required a written risk assessment and pupils to be wearing appropriate protective clothing and headgear.
Yesterday, Mr Tremelling’s two-year ordeal ended with just a reprimand from the General Teaching Council for Wales after a two-day disciplinary hearing that generated 800 pages of paperwork.
The reprimand will stay on his record for two years, but does not bar him from teaching. After the Cardiff hearing Mr Tremelling told of his ‘sadness’ that his decision to extend a lesson that had gone ‘fantastically well’ resulted in two years of investigations, an appeal against dismissal and a disciplinary hearing.
The teacher, who has 12 years’ experience, said he hoped his treatment would not deter others from acting in a similar fashion in future, ‘where it was safe to do so’.
Mr Tremelling’s union representative, the NASUWT’s Colin Adkins, said his dismissal from Cefn Hengoed Community School in Swansea in June 2009 was ‘totally unjustified’ and like ‘using a sledgehammer to crack a nut’. In a swipe at the ‘obsession’ with health and safety, Mr Adkins said: ‘Teachers are not making decisions based on what’s best for the pupils, but what is best for them. They are too mindful of what can happen if things go wrong, even in situations where the risk could be judged as negligible.’
Mr Tremelling, who lives in the city, said after the case that the GCSE syllabus at the time of the incident in February 2009 ‘made it clear students should have the opportunity to evaluate and test existing products’, and it was in that context that he used the sledge at a time when there was about three inches of snow on the ground. ‘During the actions I took I made sure the safety of the pupils was paramount,’ he said.
Mr Tremelling, also an officer in the Territorial Army, has been unable to find teaching employment since, but wants to return to the profession.
Allegations relating to health and safety breaches cited by the school when it sacked Mr Tremelling were not upheld by the GTCW yesterday. But he was found guilty of unacceptable professional misconduct after he admitted failing to act on an instruction days earlier from the headmistress, Sue Hollister, not to allow children on to the snowy slopes. The GTCW panel also found that Mr Tremelling had ‘initially denied’ the sledging incident when questioned by the head, who was tipped off by another teacher.
A spokesman for Cefn Hengoed Community School stood by its decision to sack Mr Tremelling.
Rex Phillips, NASUWT Wales Organiser, said: ‘The outcome of today’s hearing demonstrates that employers are far too ready to sack teachers who have acted in good faith. This is a victory for common sense.’
U-turn on when to stop breast-feeding
Mothers are being warned that breastfeeding exclusively for six months may not be best for their babies and could put them at risk of allergies, food aversion and even obesity.
New research, which contradicts nearly a decade of official advice, says babies can be safely given solid foods at least eight weeks earlier in life.
British researchers have questioned guidelines issued in 2001 by the World Health Organisation – and supported by the Department of Health in 2003 – which told women to breastfeed for the first six months before giving solid foods to babies. Based on WHO ‘global recommendations’, the aim was to help children worldwide avoid allergies and gastroenteritis.
But experts led by a paediatrician from University College London’s Institute of Child Health now claim the policy may actually have increased the risk of babies suffering allergies and iron deficiency. In addition, it could deter children from eating foods with bitter tastes that are good for them, fuelling the rise in obesity.
The new study in the British Medical Journal has sparked controversy, with the Royal College of Midwives claiming it can only benefit the baby food industry. But other breastfeeding specialists welcomed the ‘common sense’ findings that many mothers instinctively follow despite feeling guilty about ignoring official advice.
The Department of Health last night stuck by the old guidelines, but admitted it has asked a panel of scientists to consider all the evidence and report back this year.
The new study says that when the WHO edict came out in 2001, many Western countries, including two out of three European nations, and the U.S. chose to ignore it. But in 2003, Britain agreed to comply with the recommendation, which sprang from a review of 16 studies. They included seven from developing countries and the remainder from developed countries which were of ‘variable quality’. The conclusion was that babies given breast milk alone for six months had fewer infections.
But another review of 33 studies carried out at the same time found ‘no compelling evidence’ against introducing solids at four to six months, known as weaning. There is growing evidence that breastfeeding alone for six months does not give babies all the nutrition they need, with some becoming iron deficient. Babies fed on formula milk get extra iron, but they too are exposed to other drawbacks of late introduction of solid foods.
The new study says Swedish research links problems with tolerating gluten to a delay in eating it until six months – with the ideal wait being four to six months.
Professor Mary Fewtrell, who led the research team, said: ‘Perhaps the Department of Health might conclude similarly were it to commission an objective, independent review of the evidence.’
Clare Byam-Cook, an independent breastfeeding counsellor and former midwife, said: ‘The findings are long overdue because there is no evidence to show harm from introducing solids at three months or if the baby is over 12 pounds in weight.’
But Janet Fyle, policy adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, said changing official advice would be a retrograde step that ‘plays into the hands of the baby food industry’. She said there was ‘irrefutable evidence’ that breast milk confers many health benefits on babies that last a lifetime.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘Mothers who wish to introduce solids before six months should always talk to health professionals first.’