‘Nil by mouth’ patient dies after blundering NHS hospital staff feed him sponge pudding and custard
A hospital trust has apologised to a family after a ‘nil by mouth’ patient developed pneumonia and died after he was given sponge pudding and custard.
Mark Ullyatt died after nursing staff at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield fed him a small amount of food and fluids, which got into his lung and caused him to develop pneumonia.
Mr Ullyatt, from Sheffield, had been recovering from surgery and was strictly to be kept nil by mouth, meaning he should not have been given any food or fluids orally.
The 40-year-old was paralysed from the waist down after suffering spina bifida and traumatic paraplegia following a road accident when he was eight.
He was admitted to the hospital for surgery on February 5, 2008 and had recovered well after a ‘routine’ operation to remove his bladder and prostate gland.
Four days later he was given sponge pudding and custard and some fluids, possibly soup or water, by a nurse at the hospital, which got into his lung and caused him to vomit. He then developed aspiration pneumonia and died in the intensive care unit.
Law firm Irwin Mitchell negotiated an out-of-court settlement from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Mr Ullyatt’s sister, Michelle Hilley, said: ‘The whole family was devastated by Mark’s death. Throughout his life he always faced difficulties as a result of the road accident but he was a fighter and was really well-spirited.
‘We have been very patient and have waited for more than two years for the trust to acknowledge that it made mistakes while caring for Mark. ‘We only hope that things change so that no one else has to go through what Mark did and what our family has.’
Anna Manning, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell, said: ‘This is an extremely sad case as Mr Ullyatt was making a good recovery after surgery until the error in feeding him and providing him with fluid by mouth.
‘Nothing can ever be done to turn back the clock, but we welcome the hospital’s decision to acknowledge that mistakes were made in Mark’s care and to provide the family with a letter of apology.
‘Patient safety must be the priority for the NHS. This was a basic and avoidable error that had catastrophic consequences for Mr Ullyatt and his family. ‘Irwin Mitchell have repeatedly called for improvements in safety standards in medical care and will continue to campaign for the victims we represent until simple mistakes like these are eradicated.’
Professor Mike Richmond, medical director at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said a full review was carried out to ‘establish if lessons could be learned or changes made’.
‘I would like to offer our sincerest apologies to Mr Ullyatt’s family although I know this in no way lessens the terrible loss they have suffered,’ he added.
One in three British students to miss out on university: Surge in applications will leave 250,000 out in the cold
Record numbers of university hopefuls face rejection this year after a dramatic rise in applicants and a freeze on places. Official figures show that a surge in demand from students in Britain and abroad will leave one in three applicants locked out of university in 2011 as 750,000 students compete for fewer than 475,000 places.
Data from the University and College Admissions Service show demand has increased by 5.1 per cent on last year but the number of places on offer has been frozen by the Government because of a funding shortage.
The surge has been blamed on teenagers ditching gap years – so they can get into university before tuition fees treble to a maximum of £9,000 in 2012 – and repeat applications from some of the 210,222 hopefuls who failed to get a place last year.
University hopefuls are increasingly turning to sciences over the arts, figures reveal. As the job market continues to contract, applicants are opting for more practical or vocational courses.
Unions yesterday accused the Government of ‘letting down a generation’ by failing to fund a sufficient number of places, but ministers insisted that going to university has always been a competitive process.
It will compound the misery of youngsters who face crippling debts thanks to the hike in tuition fees and an aggressive job market where one in five new graduates is unemployed, twice as many as in 2008.
Figures from Ucas show 583,500 students submitted applications by January 24 this year for courses starting in 2011, an increase of 28,062 on the same point in 2010.
Although January 15 is the recommended deadline for applications, Ucas estimates an additional 30 per cent of applicants will apply before the closing date in June, swelling numbers to more than 750,000.
There was particular demand from older students, suggesting many school leavers from previous years are reapplying. Applications from 19-year-olds increased by 9 per cent, 20-year-olds by 12.4 per cent and 21-year-olds by 15.3 per cent.
Applications from EU member states are up by 8,000 to 55,318 – a 17 per cent increase on last year – and from non-EU countries by 7.7 per cent to 36,365. Foreign students living in EU nations have applied for one in ten places for 2011.
This comes amid claims few EU students will pay back their UK taxpayer-funded loans because repayment is unenforceable and because many are from poorer countries, such as Estonia, where salaries do not reach the payback threshold of £21,000.
Applications for history and European languages spluttered to a halt and demand for courses such as classics, English and social sciences even declined by up to 2.7 per cent.
Education experts criticised the Government’s failure to provide funding for more places. Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, said: ‘For the third year running a cap on student numbers looks set to leave tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of well-qualified applicants without a place and forced to contemplate both a long process of reapplying next year and facing a huge increase in fees. ‘Ministers are at risk of letting down a generation.’
Universities minister David Willetts said: ‘Going to university has always been a competitive process and not all who apply are accepted. Despite this we do understand how frustrating it is for young people who wish to go to university and are unable to find a place.’
Death, grit and climate: Met Office drama unfolds
Mandarins and meteorologists form circular firing squad
If a hit West End play can be made out of Bohr meeting Heisenberg, there must be some promising dramatic material in the blame-game now unravelling in Whitehall.
Airports, energy providers, local authorities and health trusts were caught short by record cold weather extremes this year, for the third winter running – raising questions about the preparedness of the national infrastructure, and the quality of the meteorological advice these agencies receive. And it’s not an academic dispute: cold weather kills thousands of people each year, with UK citizens suffering one of the worst winter “excess” mortality rates in Europe. According to figures published by Office for National Statistics, there were 25,400 additional deaths in 2009/10 than in a comparable non-winter period.
The state largely relies on forecasts by the Met Office, a œ170m branch of the Ministry of Defence. Until the Met Office stopped providing long-range weather forecasts – because they damaged the “brand”, according to internal documents – nine of the last 10 winters had turned out to be
warmer colder than the agency forecast.
Is the Met Office being used as a scapegoat for cash-strapped councils, as an excuse for cut-backs in essential infrastructure? That seems not to be the case, as the authorities cite Met Office advice, and climate change, as a primary factor in their planning.
Based on Met Office advice, an independent audit of national preparedness PDF 1.1MB advised local authorities to reduce gritting levels.
In the report commissioned for the Department of Transport, titled The Resilience of England’s Transport Systems, transport economist David Quarmby, wrote:
“The Met Office advice to our main Review earlier this year was that severe winters have only a 1 in 20 chance, that the weather in any one winter is virtually independent (statistically speaking) of weather in preceding winters, and that this incidence is slowly declining due to global warming; however, one important effect of global warming is that more snow is possible when severe weather events do occur.”
In terms of practical advice, the Guardian newspaper reported in October:
“A study of England’s preparedness for winter travel disruption has recommended that councils share salt stocks and reduce gritting levels. Under the new guidelines, authorities would have enough capacity to grit their most important roads 48 times over a 12-day period rather than the current recommendation of 24 gritter runs over six days.”
In other words, money spent on preparing for cold weathers, by taking measures such as stockpiling salt, may be a waste of money – or in Quarmby’s words, may have “limited or no value when winters are average or mild”.
What is the Mystic Met really saying?
Now documents disclosed by the Cabinet Office under the Freedom of Information Act dispel the idea of a “secret” weather forecast for Government officials that contradicted public statements, by warning of an extremely cold winter. The notion of an advance warning that was shared with mandarins but not disclosed to the public, was planted by BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin earlier this month, in his Radio Times column.
Harrabin wrote: “The truth is it [The Met Office] did suspect we were in for an exceptionally cold early winter, and told the Cabinet Office so in October. But we weren’t let in on the secret.” (Our emphasis).
Is this true? Readers can judge for themselves.
Most definitely not a forecast
The public forecast made in a probablity map in October is vaguely warm. It gave a 60 to 80 per cent chance of warmer-than-average conditions for much of England and Wales, and an 80 per cent chance of warmer-than-average conditions for Scotland.
The Met’s non-committal “Initial Assessment of Risk” for November-January, delivered privately in October, is even vaguer, and looks like this.
It gave a 70 per cent change of “near average or colder” but a 60 per cent chance of “near average or milder” conditions, too. The numbers were confirmed in a Parliamentary answer to Lord Lawson, the former Chancellor, last week.
Something or other may happen: The Met’s advice to Government
The two forecasts diverge – but there’s no smoking pistol – and not much evidence for an “exceptionally cold” winter, which Harrabin claimed the Met privately predicted, and which the Met apparently confirmed. If such a forecast exists, this isn’t it.
“It boggles the mind that aside from the tiny amount of actual prediction in the report that this is the output of their energy-guzzling, multi-million pound supercomputer,” the Katabasis blog, which was the first to lay its hands on the documents, notes.
The blogger points out another consequence of poor forecasting. The National Grid was also caught short by the prolonged cold snap, with energy demand far higher than it forecast. The Grid had relied on the Met Office probability map which suggested “a 0 – 20 per cent probability of below normal temperatures”.
The Met told us: “The Met Office has never suggested that we warned cabinet office of an ‘exceptionally cold early winter’. The forecasts said that there was ‘an increased risk for a cold and wintry start to the winter season’. The Met Office provided a forecast to the cabinet office that showed that there was an increased risk of an average or cold start to winter over an average or mild winter. This along with a verbal briefing and the text that highlighted a ‘increased risk of a cold start to the winter season’ all provided useful guidance to the cabinet office.”
Private met agency Weather Service International, which began life as a US military contractor, but now has a wide range of private sector clients, doesn’t seem to have the warm bias of the UK’s national agency
In October, WSI predicted a colder-than-average December for the UK, but a warmer-than-average January, a forecast that seems to have been confirmed by events. It now predicts a big freeze for continental Europe, and for the UK, a mild February but colder-than-average March and April.
Harrabin isn’t the first journalist to be left out to dry by a dodgy source, but for state agencies dependent on accurate medium-term forecasts, the issue is far more serious than a bruised reputation.
The Commons Transport Select Committee will this month examine whether the climate has changed – in the opposite direction to what climate change activists have been predicting.
“This is now the third bad winter in a row. We need to establish whether we think there may be a change of weather patterns and if so respond accordingly,” committee chair Louise Ellman said last month. The Committee is welcoming evidence until 2 February, and will examine “the provision of accurate weather forecasts to transport providers in advance of the bad weather”.
Climate change: A new religion complete with evangelists, tithes, indulgences and superstitions
Last night BBC Four aired a documentary which took a look at climate change sceptics and in particular one of the movement’s most prominent poster boys, Lord Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley.
The programme, like climate science itself, attracted controversy before it even came on air. James Delingpole, a vocal climate change sceptic who appears in the documentary, yesterday called the programme “another hatchet job” on his Telegraph blog.
The presenter of the programme, Rupert Murray, concluded by saying that despite the arguments of the sceptics he did not want to take the risk that they were wrong. He was, he said, willing to give up some of his freedom if it helped to stop climate change.
This was a rather startling thing to say, especially as his own programme did not conclude that the warmists are right and the sceptics wrong. In fact he appeared to be saying he would give up his freedom just in case the warmists are right.
There was worse still in the programme, with one scientist effectively saying that democracy might need to be suspended in order for governments to successfully prevent a climate catastrophe.
Such statements are of course why sceptics such as James Delingpole and Lord Monckton have become all the fiercer in their criticism of climate change activists in recent years, seeing in climate change activism a threat not just to prosperity but to liberty.
The great problem with climate change is that it no longer seems like a scientific theory, but more like a 21st century version of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church, complete with evangelists, tithes, indulgences and bizarre superstitions.
Just as in medieval times when the people were expected to (and often did) believe everything they were told by the priest, now we see that it is the scientist whose word is gospel. Even today panellists on programmes such as BBC Question Time who question climate change can be booed and jeered at by people who read scientific papers on the issue even less than illiterate medieval peasants read the Bible, at the time still un-translated from the Latin.
This new religion does not yet have any martyrs (although maybe Professor Phil Jones at the University of East Anglia comes close), but it has plenty of evangelists foremost amongst them being former Vice-President of the U.S.A. Al Gore and His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Great Britain.
Many of these evangelists attempt, not to explain the science, but to scare the population into believing, through dire warnings that we face some kind climatic Judgement Day. Indeed if they are to be believed then we are already seeing signs of judgement because of the sin of burning fossil fuels.
Floods, hurricanes, droughts and famine are all blamed on man-made climate change and more is to come if we don’t clean up our act we are told. One would have thought, listening to the doom mongers, that such disasters had never happened in the history of mankind until some Pandora-like figure had the idea of burning the energy out of coal and oil.
What is worse is that these doom mongers are so often found to be wrong and yet keep on going with their apocalyptic forecasts, rather like crazed American televangelists who predict that the Antichrist will come next Tuesday or that God will purge the land of homosexuals and then keep on making their bizarre pronouncements long after the date they said the world would end.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said before the Copenhagen summit in 2009 that we have “50 days to save the world”. Copenhagen was of course a complete flop and yet we are all still here, although his government is no longer with us. Similar predictions of impending doom have come and gone.
Then we have the language used by the warmists themselves. For years the public was warned of the dangers of “global warming” and indeed such warnings were easy to believe as year after year the weather kept getting warmer. However since 1998 temperatures have been falling and the seasons have been getting noticeably colder in the Northern hemisphere.
However rather than admit that there might be a flaw in the theory, warmists simply rebranded “global warming” into “climate change”, so that cold weather as well as hot can be taken as evidence of our upcoming destruction. Given this one wonders what kind of weather it would take to indicate that global warming is not a problem.
This might all be harmless fun if it just stayed in people’s minds. But governments are already taking steps to deal with this alleged threat to civilisation, steps which already damage the least well off more than any other.
Last year energy companies in Britain announced that they would be raising household energy bills, partly so that they could fund the government’s climate change and social policies. In addition to paying this compulsory tithe to the church of climate change through their energy bills, sincere believers can also purchase an indulgence for every time they take a flight by paying extra to offset their carbon emissions.
I do not know if climate change is a real problem. I’ve heard many convincing arguments from both sides of the debate, however I cannot help but feel weary about a movement which claims we will face the apocalypse if we don’t abandon our prosperity and liberty, especially when we have seen that the people making these predictions can and do make mistakes like the rest of us. Of course we should listen to the scientists on both sides, but we should also remember that they are no more infallible than the Pope is.