Boy who suffered severe brain damage after birth receives £7m settlement from NHS Trust
The family of a young boy who suffered severe brain damage after his birth have received a settlement worth more than £7 million to pay for his care, it emerged today. Louis Peers, who is now aged 11, has cerebral palsy as a result of mistakes made after his birth at Birmingham’s Heartlands Hospital in December 1999.
Lawyers acting for his parents said the pay-out, approved by the High Court in Birmingham, would provide him with financial security for the rest of his life.
Julie Lewis, a medical law expert with Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, said Louis, from Solihull, West Midlands, was left brain damaged as a result of mistakes made after his birth at Birmingham’s Heartlands Hospital in December 1999. She said he wears splints as he can only walk with difficulty and cannot feed himself or dress unaided. He also cannot be left alone as he poses a constant danger to himself.
The Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust had previously admitted liability for failings in Louis’ care and the settlement, approved on Monday, includes both a £3 million lump sum and annual payments to pay for his care.
Mother-of-four Christine, 41, told the Birmingham Mail: ‘I feel really let down by the midwives who were supposed to take care of Louis. ‘I trusted them and their mistakes are something which my son now has to live with for the rest of his life.’
Ms Lewis, who has represented the family during their six-and-a-half-year legal battle, said medical professionals should have appreciated the fact that Louis was at a high risk of developing hypothermia and hypoglycaemia. The solicitor added: ‘A simple glucose test would have quickly revealed why Louis was so unresponsive but instead his condition was left to deteriorate until things became critical and the damage to his brain was irreversible.
‘Louis now suffers life long difficulties, which means he will never be able to work or live independently.’
Ms Lewis added: ‘Although no amount of money will ever give Louis the chance to live the normal life he should have had, the settlement will provide him with financial security for the rest of his life.’
One in five patients find it almost impossible to get through to their GPs’ surgery on the phone
Hundreds of thousands of people are struggling to book GP appointments because they can’t get through to their surgery on the phone, a survey has found.
A poll of 1.93million people revealed one in five found it difficult to get through on the phone to their local surgery.
The same proportion had been unable to see their doctor ‘fairly quickly’ when they had needed to see them at least once in the last six months. Of these 83 per cent said this was because there were no appointments available.
The survey, which covers GP practices in England, was carried out between January and December 2010 for the Department of Health.
It found one in four patients were also unable to book an appointment ahead of time rather than on the day.
However, overall nine out of 10 patients said they were satisfied with the care they receive once they visited their surgery and 83 per cent would recommend it to others.
Jo Webber, deputy policy director of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘Patients need to be able to access their GP easily, otherwise there is a serious risk they will add to the already considerable pressures faced by A&E departments and 999 services.
‘This survey shows more needs to be done to ensure consistent access.
‘One of the big uncertainties with the NHS reforms is whether the best GPs will be willing and able to get to grips with those who are performing less well.
‘They will need to if they are going to get the best out of the £80 billion they have to spend.’
However, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘Patients rightly have a strong sense of confidence and trust in their GPs, but GPs have not previously had the freedom to respond to patient needs appropriately.
‘Instead of Government telling GPs what patients want, our modernisation plans will free GPs to make services more responsive to patients.
‘GPs will be empowered to ensure patients get the care they need, when they need it, including out of hours care.
‘We will also introduce the new, free-to-call, NHS 111 service which will provide easy access to urgent care services, including access to out of hours services.’
Closed medical minds?
There’s a lot of it about. New approaches are often resisted
Last July, we reported on the battle by MS sufferer Mark Walker to have a controversial new treatment not recognised in Britain. Here, he tells how his condition has improved since having it abroad:
My wife’s reaction when she touched my feet on July 1 2010 was unexpected but very welcome. “They’re the same temperature and nearly the same colour,” Natasha announced excitedly. I should explain that my right foot has felt cold to the touch and been purplish in appearance for many years.
The day before, I had undergone a controversial treatment at a clinic in Athens and this was tantalising evidence that something had changed in my body as a result.
I am 51 years old and I have multiple sclerosis (MS). The first symptom – double vision lasting several weeks – developed in November 1991, although I did not receive a definitive diagnosis until April 1997. By 2000, I had accumulating symptoms including numbness, balance and bladder problems and a general feeling that, while it might not be yet apparent to my friends, MS was slowing me down in every way.
In January 2003, I was hit by physical and mental fatigue so debilitating that I could hardly get out of bed. I was forced to give up my much-loved job as a management consultant with IBM, something that left me depressed. I have never recovered sufficiently to return to work. Despite treatment with conventional drugs and therapies, my MS progressed steadily, with mobility on my right side increasingly impaired, and I have had several serious relapses when symptoms have increased in severity. As a qualified pharmacist, I have used my scientific knowledge to research the disease and its management thoroughly. I am what doctors call an “expert patient”. After 20 years of living with MS, I am willing to try any safe, logical therapy.
It was in October 2009 that I first heard about Professor Paolo Zamboni, director of the Centre for Vascular Diseases at the University of Ferrara in Italy. In 2005, his wife Elena was diagnosed with MS, and he embarked on a personal mission to discover everything he could about the disease, from medical literature dating back 100 years to the use of state-of-the-art body scanning techniques.
He concluded that the MS was, in part, a vascular disease caused by restricted, blocked, malformed or twisted veins or vein valves in the neck and trunk. A small clinical study appeared to back his claims. He named the syndrome “chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency” (CCSVI – see box) and set about developing treatment to unblock – or “de-stenose” – the veins so that healthy blood flow was restored. He claimed a dramatic improvement in his wife’s condition and that of other MS patients he treated.
News of Zamboni’s theory and treatment spread within the MS community via chatrooms and websites, leading hundreds of people around the world to seek the treatment, known as venoplasty (similar to angioplasty, in which a balloon is inserted into a blood vessel and inflated to remove a blockage).
In June last year I was interviewed by The Daily Telegraph about my battle – and failure – to obtain a diagnosis of, and treatment (if required) for, CCSVI in Britain and my decision to seek help abroad. Neurologists at my local hospital, the John Radcliffe in Oxford, claimed that it was not ethical or prudent to even attempt to diagnose CCSVI because of doubts about Zamboni’s work. Quite why it wasn’t “ethical” to use a safe, non-invasive diagnostic procedure (colour Doppler sonography) – which I was willing to pay for – to look at my veins continues to baffle me.
So I took my quest for venoplasty to a clinic in Athens which had treated many MS patients for CCSVI. You are reading the update on the treatment and my condition that readers were promised in that article.
I was the 45th MS patient to be seen by Constantinos “Costas” Kartkaletsis, a consultant vascular surgeon. After an initial examination, blood tests and a chest X-ray, he explained that a catheter would be inserted into the femoral vein in my groin and guided into my main trunk and neck veins. I was injected with anti-coagulant and put on a drip. I would have a local anaesthetic only and be fully conscious for the whole procedure.
I could feel the balloon inflating inside my veins but there was no pain. Restrictions were diagnosed in four major veins (the azygos vein, hemi-azygos, and the left and right internal jugular veins) in the trunk and neck, and all were treated using balloon venoplasty over three hours.
I had not expected any immediate impact, but Natasha’s surprise at the improved condition of my feet next morning left me elated. I could not explain what had happened but something had changed. Mr Kartkaletsis was interested in Natasha’s observation but he has a policy of treating restricted veins rather than commenting on any change in MS symptoms following treatment.
Back home, I planned complete relaxation for two months. I decided not to try to record frequent changes but to note trends on a monthly basis, as MS symptoms can vary daily.
At the end of the first month I felt my concentration had improved. People with MS use the term “cog fog” to describe the deterioration in cognitive functioning. Friends noticed that I no longer needed regular naps and that I focused better on conversations. After three months, I felt I was functioning mentally at least as well as I was a decade ago.
There were other changes, too: I’d had neuropathic pain (caused by damage to the nervous system) in my right leg for many years. That went and has not returned. After years of not recalling my dreams – an observation reported by many with long-term MS – I have, for the past six months, remembered them again. My need to get up at night to urinate also improved slightly, from three to six times to one to three times a night – something much appreciated by my wife.
My walking and balance have not changed over the past six months, and I still rely on my Musmate walking aid and trekking poles to get about. But, on the plus side, my osteopath David Harsant, at Oxfordshire’s Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre, who made extensive notes before and since the procedure, reports gradual improvement in muscle tone, stiffness and spasm in my neck and back. He says my neck muscles felt ”matted, congested and were indistinguishable.’’ but after the venoplasty ”the matted sensation reduced and the palpability of individual muscles increased”.
Professor Zamboni has reported that some patients may require repeat treatments if their veins “re-stenose” after venoplasty. Vascular specialists are defining the best way to diagnose restricted veins, the veins to check, the best size, position, pressure and duration of ballooning. I expect to undergo another procedure when the method is finalised.
CCSVI remains a controversial diagnosis, as does its treatment. However, MS patients are at the forefront of spreading the word and the internet is making that easier. I have watched a doctor from Kuwait present his work on CCSVI to vascular specialists in New York, and heard an interview with a research neurologist who has collated doctors’ reports on CCSVI. Expert patients like me are frustrated by the refusal of the MS establishment in Britain – neurologists and the MS Society – to accept the existence of this condition and consider testing for it. Since I went to Athens, testing for CCSVI and balloon venoplasty has become available to private patients at a clinic in Glasgow. The package costs £7,990 and there is already a waiting list.
Would I recommend the treatment to other MS patients? I would certainly encourage those with progressive MS to think about balloon venoplasty. There is a small risk of vein injury but, based on doctors’ web reports on 2,000 people treated, I believe there is a chance that it may slow or halt progression of the disease. I was lucky that the cost of private treatment was not prohibitive but sadly this is not the case for many. I have tried explaining to neurologists and vascular doctors why CCSVI syndrome should at least be considered as a possibility in patients with MS but to no avail. Only my caring, supportive GP was prepared to listen. Medical journals refuse to publish patients’ point of view – I know because I’ve tried that, too. One has to ask what the neurology establishment is so frightened of: opening the veins of those with MS or opening their own minds.
Eight in ten new jobs in Britain have gone to foreign workers during past year
More than 80 per cent of the jobs created last year were taken by people who were not born in this country, official figures revealed yesterday. In 2010, employment rose by 210,000 compared with the previous year, but 173,000 jobs went to those born in countries from Poland to Pakistan. Only 39,000 of the new jobs – less than one in five of the total – were taken by people born in Britain.
Sir Andrew Green, from the think-tank MigrationWatch, said: ‘These numbers point out the importance of controlling foreign immigration and of driving up the skills of British workers and the incentives for them to take the jobs.’
Overall, the employment figures painted a bleak picture of a jobs market struggling to recover from a deep recession and facing a faltering recovery. Graeme Leach, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: ‘This is the jobless and joyless recovery.’
The figures, published by the Office for National Statistics, showed that unemployment rose to a 17-year high of 2.53million, with an extra 27,000 people joining the search for work between November and January. But the claimant count, which measures those receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance, dropped by 10,200 to 1.45million.
Employment dropped among most age groups, but the number aged 65 and over with a job continued to rise sharply, increasing by 56,000 to a record 900,000. The figures show youth unemployment hit another all-time high, with the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work rising by 30,000 to 974,000.
Illegal migrants to Britain paid £2,000 to go home… but can ask to come back in two years
Illegal immigrants ‘bribed’ thousands of pounds to leave the country will be allowed to apply to return after just two years, it emerged last night. The amount of time before they can re-apply for entry is being reduced from the current five-year minimum. Critics said the combination of payouts and swift returns could amount to a ‘fare-paid holiday at taxpayers’ expense’.
The new rules will apply to illegal immigrants who have entered the country without permission, failed asylum seekers and visa overstayers. It is estimated there are around one million currently in Britain and over the past two years nearly 10,000 have taken advantage of departure handouts.
The biggest payouts are to failed asylum seekers who can claim up to £1,500 in ‘reintegration assistance’ including a cash ‘relocation grant’ of £500. Asylum seekers with children can claim up to £2,000 per person. Last year the cost of running the scheme and making the payments totalled £16million – excluding payments to other illegal migrants, who can receive up to £1,000 worth of assistance.
However there are fears the changes could see many migrants returning despite having already benefited from a taxpayer-funded scheme.
To qualify for the new rules they will have to leave within six months of the date of their final legal appeal. But this definition of a ‘prompt’ departure means many could still have been here for many years before leaving.
Migrants who refuse to leave and have to be kicked out will still face a ten-year ban on applying to re-enter the country. And those who take longer than six months to leave voluntarily will still be banned from returning for five years. All those who apply to return will have to qualify for a visa.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the MigrationWatch think-tank, said: ‘This is a bizarre idea that has appeared completely out of the blue. It could well amount to a fare-paid holiday at taxpayers’ expense. Those few illegal immigrants who are removed should stay removed.’
Last night ministers defended the policy shift, saying it would act as an incentive for migrants to leave more quickly. Officials also pointed to savings made in the costs of immigration detention and support and the forcible removal of migrants.
Immigration minister Damian Green said: ‘It is much better value for the taxpayer if we can get people who have no right to be here to leave voluntarily. ‘Overall it’s good news all round. It means they’re in this country for a shorter period of time, which is good for confidence in the immigration system, and it saves money, so that’s why we’re reducing the number of years for which they are subsequently banned for having been here illegally in the first place.
‘We expect those with no right to be in the country to leave voluntarily. Where we need to enforce someone’s return they will still be subject to an automatic ten-year ban on re-entering the UK. ‘Anyone applying for a UK visa will have to meet our strict immigration rules and their immigration history will be taken into account.’
The announcement came as ministers unveiled measures to encourage migrant millionaires. Those who invest £5million will be allowed to settle here after just three years. A £10million cash injection will mean a fast-track visa after just two years.
Mr Green has also announced a new access route for ‘exceptionally talented’ migrants. Up to 1,000 visas will be available for brilliant individuals such as artists and scientists.
False sex allegations again, from another lying British female
Businesswoman who accused boss of sexually harassing her was ‘out to get him after losing her job’, tribunal rules. Is the British practice of taking a woman’s word for what she alleges gradually coming to an end? There should be NO prosecutions in “he said” cases without independent corroboration. The disgrace is that this went to court
A high-flying businesswoman who accused her multi-millionaire boss of sexually harassing her was ‘out to get him’ after losing her job, a tribunal has ruled. Managing director Debbie Smith, 49, alleged that recruitment agency chairman Tim Watts called her a ‘sexy nurse’ and told her to ‘call me before you get in the shower’. But the tribunal accepted 61-year-old Pertemps Group chief Mr Watts’ evidence that the claims were a ‘pack of lies’.
The panel had heard how Mrs Smith liked ‘laughing at dirty jokes’ and met her husband at work in an adulterous affair while both were married to other people.
It found that she made her allegations as a ‘bargaining chip’ to try and force a payout after a ‘catastrophic failure’ in a business venture she headed saw her axed from her £90,000-a-year post.
Mr Watts now plans to seek substantial libel damages from mother-of-three Mrs Smith in the High Court and is demanding that she be prosecuted for perjury. And he called for tighter regulation of employment tribunals to prevent staff from inventing malicious claims after losing their jobs.
Mrs Smith falsely alleged she suffered sexual jibes which were ‘degrading, humiliating and offensive’. She also falsely claimed that Mr Watts joked about oral sex and referred to a colleague having her ‘tits on show’.
Speaking after the judgment, Mr Watts said: ‘There was never one iota of truth to begin with. ‘Tribunals are filled up with fictitious, malicious and vindictive cases. A person just has to think of something and demand money. That’s what she did, even though I had never done anything wrong.
‘She thought I would back down and would pay her off. But those that know me know I have never given into that kind of threat in my life, especially when there isn’t a scintilla of truth in what she said. ‘It was a very, very silly thing to do. She failed – she was let go and she didn’t like it.’
A panel at Birmingham Employment Tribunal ruled that Mrs Smith’s claims of sexual harassment, discrimination and victimisation were all unfounded. It ruled: ‘We concluded – and we paused to consider whether or not we were being too strong with this to finally decide we were not – that Mrs Smith was out to get Mr Watts. ‘We found that her evidence was based on false assertions and was not made in good faith.’
After the business venture she headed flopped and she lost her job, Mrs Smith ‘looked around for someone to blame’, the tribunal found. It noted: ‘Mrs Smith made no complaint until she was given notice that her contract of employment was to end.
‘Mrs Smith presented a strong personality. We find that had the events of harassment occurred, she would not have hesitated in raising the subject at the time. ‘We concluded that Mrs Smith has re-written the history of her relationship with Mr Watts and this was stimulated by her inability to handle the failure of the new venture that she was responsible for.
‘We concluded that the allegation of sex discrimination, in its entirety, was false and not made in good faith. ‘It was put forward as a bargaining chip to secure a negotiated settlement.’
Mrs Watts, whose personal fortune is thought to exceed £35 million, is a well-known figure in Birmingham. Mr Watts said that Mrs Smith would now have to explain herself at the High Court and that his lawyers would give a transcript of the tribunal to the police in a bid to have her prosecuted for perjury.
Another false prophecy from “scientists”
Ten Million To Die From Mad Cow Disease By 2010
A false alarm, at least
The proof that British exam results HAVE been inflated: OECD warns UK schools are out of step
Exam grades have been artificially inflated and billions of pounds in increased spending on education wasted, according to a damning international report. It is further confirmation of what many have long suspected: that relentlessly improving GCSE and A-level results have hidden a true picture of failure in our schools.
The report, from the highly respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, concludes that pupils’ actual performance remains ‘static’ and ‘uneven’.
The share of A-levels awarded at grade A has risen continually over the past 18 years and trebled since 1980, it says, but independent surveys of students’ cognitive skills ‘do not support this development’.
Most damagingly, the report concludes that despite Labour’s doubling of spending on education since 2000, children’s success remains ‘strongly related to parents’ income and background’.
The education budget soared from £35.8billion to £71billion under Labour. But Britain has plummeted down worldwide education rankings in the past decade, with nations such as Estonia and Poland overtaking us in reading, maths and science.
The study of Britain’s economic performance by the OECD, published yesterday, focused heavily on failings in our education system, which critics say leaves millions of children entering the workplace without the necessary skills to succeed.
Fuelling concerns that exams have increasingly been ‘dumbed down’ to give the illusion of progress, the report said: ‘Official test scores and grades in England show systematically and significantly better performance than international and independent tests.
‘The measures used by the Office for National Statistics… show significant increases in quality over time, while the measures based on cognitive tests not used for grading show declines or minimal improvements.’
The OECD added: ‘Despite sharply rising school spending per pupil during the last ten years, improvements in schooling outcomes have been limited in the United Kingdom.’
The OECD said there had been insufficient focus on disadvantaged students in educational spending – leading to ‘large disparities’ in pupils’ success. ‘Incomes and educational outcomes are unevenly distributed in the United Kingdom compared to many other OECD countries, and intergenerational social mobility is low,’ the report said.
‘Schooling outcomes in the United Kingdom are among the more unequal in the OECD area. This leaves many students from weaker socio–economic backgrounds with insufficient levels of competence, which hampers their chances in the labour market and higher education.’
Early years provision was also letting down many pupils, it concluded, adding: ‘Disadvantaged children seemed to perform worse in 2006 than in 2001, while the impact of parents’ income on six–year-olds’ cognitive and non–cognitive skills has if anything increased recently.’
The organisation also condemned a ‘confusing and rapidly changing array of often low-quality vocational programmes’ for 16 to 18-year-olds.
It backed the Coalition’s move to create a new network of ‘free schools’, run by charities, businesses or groups of parents and freed from state control, adding: ‘Increasing user choice would… induce stronger competition between schools which could provide better educational outcomes.’
Chancellor George Osborne yesterday said the OECD report provided emphatic justification for the Coalition’s education reforms. He promised new measures to boost social mobility by targeting help at disadvantaged children.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘The latest OECD report confirms that Labour’s spending on education didn’t secure the improvement it should have. But the good news is that the OECD backs the reforms we’re introducing. ‘It supports our plans to open new schools, increase choice, reform league tables and give more support to the poorest.’