My baby nearly died when the hospital that failed Lana Ameen sent him home with swine flu
Hospital doctors failed to notice that five-week-old Harvey Flanagan had swine flu. When it was eventually diagnosed at another hospital, they promised his parents they had learned their lesson from the baby’s brush with death.
Yet only days later, Stepping Hill Hospital also failed to diagnose three-year-old Lana Ameen with the swine flu that went on to kill her. Yesterday, Harvey’s mother Michelle Dyer suggested that Lana had been doubly betrayed by the NHS.
The 24-year-old, whose son has fully recovered, backed Lana’s doctor father in his calls for under-fives to be routinely given the flu jab. And, referring to the girl’s misdiagnosis, she said: ‘They had been warned [after Harvey’s case], but it happened again just two days after they’d given me assurances.
‘The vaccine costs just a few pounds, but treating a child in intensive care costs thousands. Harvey was critical for eight days, that must have cost £10,000. They’re trying to cut back and save money, but it’s costing them more in the long run.
‘I don’t think it should be down to the Government to decide whether children should have the flu vaccine at all – it should be up to parents. It’s terrible that previously healthy children like Lana can die.’
Harvey had been taken to the hospital, in Stockport, Greater Manchester, on December 14 on a GP’s advice after struggling to breathe, but was sent home with indigestion medicine. His condition hadn’t improved the next day, so his parents took him back – but again no one realised how seriously ill he was.
On the third day they took him to Tameside Hospital, in Ashton-under-Lyne, where swine flu was suspected. He then spent eight days in intensive care at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. On Christmas Eve, when Lana first fell ill, he was allowed home.
Miss Dyer claims the head of nursing and midwifery at Stepping Hill assured her the chief executive had reminded A&E staff of the need for vigilance over possible cases. Yet in the early hours of Christmas Day, staff sent home Dr Ameen’s daughter. Lana had a fit later that day, and died on Boxing Day.
This week, Dr Ameen, a registrar, warned that his daughter had died for the sake of a £6 flu jab – for which under-fives are not eligible. Accusing ministers of restricting the vaccine to save money, he urged them to make it available for youngsters.
Although Harvey would not have been eligible for the vaccine, which is not for children under six months, newborns are protected if their mother received the vaccine while pregnant. But Miss Dyer, a travel agent, says she was never offered it. She and her partner, car salesman Andrew Flanagan, 29, have now been told their three-year-old daughter Amelia can have the jab, however.
This week, experts backed calls for otherwise healthy under-fives to be vaccinated, as happened during last winter’s pandemic. But the Government’s own medical advisers, who a year ago backed immunisation, continue to say it should be offered only to children with underlying health conditions.
Stepping Hill has insisted Lana received ‘appropriate and timely’ treatment. It has apologised to Harvey’s family and is investigating. It added that the head of nursing did not believe she had given assurances to his parents about extra vigilance for swine flu.
Wasteful NHS betrayed poor little Lana
One can only imagine the courage it must have taken for Zana and Gemma Ameen to release a picture of their three-year-old daughter Lana in the final hours of her pitifully short life.
Lana died from swine flu on Boxing Day, and now Dr Ameen, a hospital registrar, has spoken out to expose the cruelty of a system that refuses vaccinations against this deadly flu to children under five. Had Lana been given the £6 jab, as her parents had requested, her father is convinced she would still be alive.
Not only does this needless tragedy expose the flawed reasoning behind who is entitled to the inoculations, it also highlights the shameful way the £110billion we now spend on the NHS is used. Or rather, wasted.
Where is the morality in a public health system that removes tattoos and performs boob jobs, yet denies children protection from a known killer?
In a week when we’ve learned that some doctors are getting £100,000 overtime pay, on top of their £96,000 salaries, and that nearly a thousand GPs are on salaries of £200,000, how can it possibly be justified?
The UK’s NHS system still allows wide, free access to patients from anywhere in the EU. Other countries, quite rightly, prioritise their own citizens. Why on earth don’t we?
The truth is that all political parties are terrified of admitting the truth — the NHS needs a complete overhaul. There must be priorities and surely a life-saving drug for a child is more important than vanity procedures and gastric bands for those who can’t control their eating?
Dr Ameen is right when he says the decision not to give children the jab is not about saving lives but saving money. ‘Everyone — from her health team to the Government, to me, her Daddy who loved her more than anything in the world — let her down,’ he wrote in this paper yesterday.
And until we stop treating the NHS like some sacred cow, and face up to its failings, children like Lana will continue to be its innocent victims.
Immigration is too high, say four in five Britons
Four out of five people want to see cuts in the level of immigration, a large-scale survey carried out for the Government has revealed. More than half the population want to see numbers coming from abroad to live in Britain reduced by ‘a lot’, it found.
The poll, carried out for the Communities Department, showed that public demand for reducing immigration is overwhelming and growing.
It amounts to a warning from Whitehall to David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May that concerns over immigration – which played a central role in last year’s general election – have not gone away and are likely to lead to voter frustration if the Coalition fails to keep its promises.
Ministers have pledged to bring net migration – the number of people added to the population by migration each year – down to 1990s levels of under 100,000. In Labour’s last year in power, net migration was 215,000.
The Communities Department Citizenship Survey – a research project launched while Tony Blair was prime minister – attempts to measure ‘community cohesion’.
Its findings on immigration are notable because the survey was designed to ensure that ethnic minorities and Muslims were ‘robustly represented’ among those consulted.
Some 10,000 people were questioned, but pollsters then gauged opinions from a further 5,000 ethnic minority members and 1,200 Muslims before reaching their conclusions.
The survey found that 78 per cent of the population want to see immigration cut back. A quarter (24 per cent) would like to see immigration reduced a little, while 54 per cent said they wanted it cut ‘a lot’. Fewer than one in five – 19 per cent – said levels should stay the same. Only three people in 100 thought there should be an increase.
The pollsters found no sign that people felt their local areas were becoming more uneasy and divided. They said 85 per cent thought their neighbourhood was ‘cohesive’ and a place where people from different backgrounds got on well together.
However, 22 per cent thought they would get worse treatment from public services because of their race. This proportion is double the size of the ethnic minority population, which is around 10 per cent of the population.
Sir Andrew Green, of the Migrationwatch think-tank, said: ‘These figures are a very clear indication that, despite our economic troubles, immigration remains high among public concerns. The Coalition Government, and especially its Liberal Democrat members, would do well to remember that.’
Some ministers, notably Business Secretary Vince Cable, have been resisting Mrs May’s attempt to cut numbers of visas for workers coming to Britain from outside the European Union. Mr Cable and some other ministers believe industry needs to recruit highly skilled labour from abroad.
But critics who fear the Coalition may be too cautious say that Britain is importing workers while six million people remain idle on benefits.
They also point to tensions caused by competition between immigrants and locals for housing and state services in places such as East London and the growing strain on housing, transport, water and energy supplies because of fast-increasing population levels.
In April, the Government will cap numbers of visas for less skilled workers from outside Europe to 21,700 for 2012, a reduction of a fifth. A consultation on how to cut numbers of student visas is under way.
Libraries are just for the privileged white middle class… says white middle-class British Library chief
A quango chief has enraged campaigners fighting to stop the mass closure of public libraries by claiming they are the preserve of ‘the privileged, mainly white, middle class’.
Roy Clare, chief executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, suggested dozens of local protest groups were out of date, commenting: ‘Public libraries will not be preserved by wishful thinking and aspic.’
Almost 400 libraries nationwide are threatened with closure, and with half of councils yet to announce their plans the total could reach 800. In some counties more than half of all libraries are set to close, with rural areas worst hit by the spending cuts.
But this week in a controversial email to librarians, many of whom face losing their jobs, Mr Clare urged them to ‘nourish change and embrace development’. The MLA, which ‘promotes best practice’ in libraries, and Mr Clare’s £127,000 a year job are also being axed, but campaigners who fear communities will be badly damaged by the loss of so many libraries have reacted furiously to his comments.
Children’s author Alan Gibbons said the remarks were ‘a very cheap shot’. He said: ‘Around the country campaigners from all walks of life are out petitioning and protesting to defend their libraries. ‘Groups other than the “white middle class” are well-represented because libraries serve the whole community.’
Mr Gibbons said the planned closures were ‘wholly disproportionate, unnecessary and fail even to achieve the Government’s stated aim of saving substantial amounts of money’.
He added: ‘What’s more, some of the libraries targeted for closure have only recently been refurbished. ‘This is depressing in the extreme and utterly nonsensical.’
A spokesman for Voices For The Library campaign group, a head librarian who asked not to be named, said he was ‘shocked and disgusted’ by Mr Clare’s comments.
One library under threat is in Hesters Way, Cheltenham, a deprived area where a significant proportion of the population is unemployed or on minimum wages. It is a hub of the community and provides the only access many have to the internet.
Campaigner Johanna Anderson, an academic librarian at the University of Gloucestershire, said: ‘We have been overwhelmed by support from people of all backgrounds. ‘What Roy Clare is saying is complete and utter nonsense.’
The most savage cuts announced to date are in the Isle of Wight, which is set to lose nine of its 11 libraries.
British Labour Party’s showpiece school closes after only two years
In good Leftist fashion, its design brief was to ‘rip up the rulebook’ — and it did. It paid no heed to its potential clients and arrogance got its just reward. Parents just didn’t like it and refused to send their kids there
A flagship secondary school championed by Labour is to close just two years after it opened – but the taxpayer will be paying for it for another 23 years. Christ the King in Huyton, Merseyside, was held up by former education secretary Ed Balls as a shining example of what the defeated government had done for pupils.
The school, which cost £24million to build and set up under the controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI), was meant to transform the prospects of children in one of the most deprived areas of Britain, and its design brief was to ‘rip up the rulebook’ and inspire ‘awe and wonder’ in pupils.
But it has become the first school opened under Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme to close because not enough parents will send their children there.
The joint Roman Catholic-Church of England school should have 900 pupils but has been half-empty since it opened because Catholic parents want their children educated at a full faith school and are prepared to send them up to four miles away.
Yet because it was built under the PFI, its private sector builder and owner will be paid millions for the next 25 years.
Private Finance Initiatives allow the government to build schools and hospitals without raising any public money up front. They were introduced under John Major’s Tory administration in the early 1990s, but taken up with huge enthusiasm by Labour.
Under PFI a private company constructs the building, and then leases it to the government for, typically, 25 or 30 years, before it reverts to public ownership.
In theory it sounds like a good way to invest in infrastructure, but in reality the taxpayer ends up paying far more over the long term. As Chancellor Gordon Brown regularly used PFI to keep spending off the public books and stay within his strict borrowing rules.
While in power Labour created 544 PFI projects, mostly schools and hospitals, which will end up costing taxpayers almost five times the original sum.
Under the original plans, the projected cost was expected to be £3,100 a year for every family in the country. But now, according to Treasury estimates, the PFIs will cost a total of £245billion by 2047-48 – or £14,800 for every household.
Labour had planned to rebuild or refurbish all 3,500 secondary schools in England by 2023 at a total cost of £55billion, but the Coalition scrapped schemes which had yet to get under way.
At last year’s Labour Party conference, Mr Balls hailed Christ the King as ‘magnificent’ and said it was a ‘tragedy’ that his successor Michael Gove had scrapped the school-building scheme.
But the Christ the King project, drawn up by Labour-run Knowsley Council, appears to have been deeply flawed from the start. The council closed the area’s two Catholic secondaries to make way for it.
But Catholic parents, who form the majority locally, have shunned the new joint-faith school and sent their children to Catholic schools miles away in Liverpool and St Helens. As a result, around half the 180 available places are unfilled in the current academic year.
Ian Smith, Lib Dem leader of Knowsley council and a former teacher, blamed Labour’s ‘social engineering’. ‘There are two different communities in Huyton – Church of England and Catholic – and they do not mix,’ he said. ‘The council steamrollered over them to grab Government money. Now it has blown up in their face.’
The closure of Christ the King School confirms everything this paper has argued for years about the Private Finance Initiative — a scheme monstrously abused by Labour to conceal reckless spending from the Treasury’s books.
The rise of soft courses: Half a million British students fail to hit High School target
More than 550,000 pupils failed to achieve five passes in traditional subjects at GCSE because they were signed up to take easier options such as hairdressing, league tables revealed yesterday. Only one in six youngsters achieved the standard which is now expected of them by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove.
Mr Gove believes this leaves them lacking basic academic skills and ill-prepared to enter the workplace or further education.
The findings are the result of a controversial new ranking system for secondary schools – called the English Baccalaureate – which Mr Gove says exposes the shift under Labour towards ‘soft’ courses such as hairdressing salon services.
To meet the Education Secretary’s new measure, all pupils are expected to score A* to C in the five core GCSE subjects of English, mathematics, science, languages and humanities. But just 15.6 per cent of pupils passed the threshold last summer.
In more than half of state secondaries – some 1,600 – fewer than 10 per cent achieved this. And in 270 schools, there were no pupils who achieved it.
Mr Gove wants this measure to be one of the statistics parents use to judge the value of schools. But his plan has sparked a major political row and provoked furious reaction from headteachers and teaching unions.
Yesterday Andy Burnham, Labour’s education spokesman, accused Mr Gove of telling youngsters they can ‘study Latin but not ICT’. Teaching unions claimed he was ‘relentlessly elitist’.
But Mr Gove maintains the toughening up of standards is necessary to reverse more than a decade of downgrading of core subjects in favour of easier alternatives. He is furious that poorer children are being fobbed off with easier subjects because they are not seen as capable of tackling harder ones.
Under Labour, there was an astonishing 3,800 per cent increase in uptake of non-academic GCSE-equivalent courses, including sports leadership and computer skills.
In 2005, 15,000 so-called ‘soft’ GCSEs were taken. This soared to 575,000 last year. Mr Gove said yesterday: ‘Labour got its priorities wrong and said kids from poor homes could not do difficult subjects.’
He added that previous ranking measures encouraged ‘many great schools and great heads to offer certain non-academic subjects rather than more rigorous subjects’.
Parents can now view results based on the English Baccalaureate measure (A*-C in the five specified core subjects) and on how many pupils gained five A*-C grades including English and maths. They can also see financial information to judge if their head is making the best use of his or her resources.
However, Mr Gove was forced to defend himself during an interview on BBC Radio 5 live. A caller said: ‘Children go to school to work out who they are and what they want to study. ‘My guess is that this just reflects your own personal, narrow experience of education … I’d just ignore your silly English Baccalaureate.’
He replied: ‘You are free to use the information published today to produce your own findings.’
Chris Keates, of teaching union NASUWT, said: ‘The Coalition Government is pursuing a relentlessly elitist approach to education, condemning schools to live or die by the narrow range of subjects identified in the English Baccalaureate.’
Grammar schools cemented their dominance of league tables, taking nine of the top ten places. Of the top 50 schools, 80 per cent are grammars.
The results will prompt calls for the Coalition to increase the number of grammars, which on average receive more than five applicants for every pupil place.
David Cameron has said that he will not increase the number of grammars, although Education Secretary Michael Gove has said they will be allowed to increase in size.
World-renowned independent schools criticised the new rankings after sinking to the bottom on a technicality.
Schools such as Eton, Harrow and Marlborough achieved lower results than some of England’s worst-performing comprehensives because they swapped conventional GCSEs for the more rigorous International GCSE, which is not recognised in the tables. The result is that the rankings showed 142 independent schools with no pupils achieving five A* to C grades at GCSE.
Some 216 state secondaries face closure or take-over after failing to hit basic GCSE ‘floor targets’.
Exercise may not outweigh health effects of “couch potato” recreation
A slightly more sophisticated repeat of some boring old epidemiological rubbish. It probably just shows that people who are not very well or not very vigorous do not exercise much. I suppose it’s some comfort that they realized that but controlling for it needs almost Godlike knowledge. Epidemiology just does not enable causative inferences. You need double-blind studies
Spending too much leisure time in front of a TV or computer screen appears to dramatically increase the risk for heart disease and premature death from any cause, perhaps regardless of how much exercise one gets, according to a new study.
The analysis found that people who spend more than four hours daily on screenbased entertainment like TV, computer or videogames are more than twice as likely to have a “major cardiac event” involving hospitalization, death or both compared to people who spend less than two hours on such activities.
The research is published in the Jan. 18 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Billed as the first study to examine the association between screen time and nonfatal as well as fatal cardiovascular events, it also suggests metabolic factors and inflammation may partly explain the link between prolonged sitting and the risks to heart health.
“People who spend excessive amounts of time in front of a screen primarily watching TV are more likely to die of any cause and suffer heartrelated problems,” said Emmanuel Stamatakis of University College London, who led the research. “Our analysis suggests that two or more hours of screen time each day may place someone at greater risk for a cardiac event.”
Compared with those spending less than two hours a day on screenbased entertainment, the study found a 48 percent increased risk of allcause mortality in those spending four or more hours a day and a roughly 125 percent increase in risk of cardiovascular events in those spending two or more hours a day. These associations were independent of traditional risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, excess weight, social class, as well as exercise.
The findings have prompted authors to advocate for public health guidelines that expressly address “recreational sitting” especially as a majority of working age adults spend long periods inactive while commuting or slouched over a desk or computer.
“It is all a matter of habit. Many of us have learned to go back home, turn the TV set on and sit down for several hours it’s convenient and easy to do. But doing so is bad for the heart and our health in general,” said Stamatakis. “And according to what we know so far, these health risks may not be mitigated by exercise.”
Stamatakis said the next step will be to try to uncover what prolonged sitting does to the human body in the short and longterm, whether and how exercise can mitigate these consequences, and how to alter lifestyles to reduce sitting and increase movement and exercise.
The study included 4,512 adults who were respondents of the 2003 Scottish Health Survey, a representative, household-based survey, researchers said. A total of 325 all-cause deaths and 215 cardiac events occurred during an average of 4.3 years of follow up.
Measurement of “screen time” included selfreported TV and DVD watching, videogaming, as well as leisure-time computer use.
The authors also said they took steps to rule out the possibility that ill people spend more time in front of the screen as opposed to the other way around. The authors excluded those who reported a previous cardiovascular event and those who died during the first two years of follow up just in case their underlying disease might have forced them to stay indoors and watch TV more often. Stamatakis and his team also adjusted analyses for [some] indicators of poor health, such as diabetes and hypertension.