Rodent horror at children’s hospitals: Britain’s top wards infested with vermin
Rats, mice, cockroaches and ants have been found in wards, operating theatres and maternity units at some of Britain’s most famous hospitals. St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London, and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool are among more than 60 that have found pests and vermin.
Now health campaigners fear infections and disease could become rife. Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘There is a danger vermin and pests are going to bring diseases and infections into hospitals.
‘If mice droppings found their way into meals and food supplies it could result in patients ending up with gastroenteritis or salmonella. ‘That is the last thing you need if you are ill and no one wants to be bitten by rats.’
Roger Goss, co-director of Patient Concern, the watchdog for patients’ rights, said: ‘These incidents raise serious concerns about the standards of hygiene in some hospitals.’
The Mail on Sunday used freedom of information laws to obtain pest-control logs from more than 50 NHS Trusts. They cover the 12-month period from March 2010 to March 2011. In that time, Barts and the London NHS Trust recorded 34 cases of pests being found inside the three hospitals it controls. These included rats in a ward at Barts, an infestation of black ants in a heart failure clinic at the London Chest Hospital and cockroaches in a children’s ward at the Royal London Hospital. Several other trusts in the London area reported similar problems – including a dead mouse in a utility room at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.
But the problem is not confined to the capital. The Heart of Birmingham NHS Trust listed 89 pest-control incidents in its three hospitals, and the Christie NHS Trust in Manchester logged 37. Colchester University Hospital NHS Trust listed ants in a children’s ward and an antenatal clinic among its 51 cases. And Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool reported ants and cockroaches on some of its wards.
The documents suggest negligence by staff may be to blame for some incidents. Staff at East Kent Hospitals Trust were reminded not to leave patio doors open after mice droppings were found in a foetal medicine unit. But the trusts denied standards of cleanliness were slipping. Several said they were vulnerable because they were in rural areas or their buildings were very old.
Sue Thomas, business development director at Alder Hey, insisted there had been only ‘isolated incidents’. The Barts and the London NHS Trust said areas affected were close to demolition work. And a Great Ormond Street spokesman said: ‘The trust takes hygiene seriously and pest control is part of that.’
NHS rewards bosses after 1,200 ‘excess’ deaths at scandal-hit hospitals
Julie Bailey is still haunted by the death of her mother, who entered hospital a sprightly 86-year-old but was dropped by a nurse and never recovered. She sat by the bedside for six long weeks, holding the hand of her panic-stricken parent as her life ebbed away.
She was horrified by the gruesome scenes around her in a hospital that viewed itself as a national trailblazer: patients screaming in pain, but ignored by those meant to care for them; confused old people falling out of bed and left in soiled bedding; patients left hungry and thirsty.
‘Things were so bad I started feeding, watering and taking all the other patients to the lavatory,’ said Ms Bailey, a cafe owner. ‘It felt like it wasn’t just my mum I watched dying, but all the others as well.’
Her mother was among hundreds of victims of Britain’s worst health scandal this century, caused by a litany of failings and an obsession with targets at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust. It stands as a shameful symbol of an NHS tied up in red tape and focused on management reorganisation losing touch with those entrusted into its care. It is also the most egregious example of how in the public sector you are not sacked for failure – but promoted to bigger and better things.
Unbelievably, two of those who oversaw the tragedy are now among the most senior National Health Service managers. One is Sir David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive who is overseeing the health reforms planned by the Government. The other is Cynthia Bower, who succeeded him as chief executive of the strategic health authority (SHA) overseeing the two hospitals at the centre of the scandal, Stafford and Cannock Chase.
She is now the £200,000-a-year head of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the super-watchdog formed two years ago to safeguard standards in health and social care in England. SHAs manage local services on behalf of the Government. Yet despite her role to ensure highquality care, Ms Bower has admitted the situation at Stafford ‘wasn’t on my radar’. Last week, she was called to testify to the public inquiry into this awful chapter. Over two days, in a masterclass of buck-passing and obfuscation, she refused to accept any significant responsibility.
Pressed to admit that the SHA had failed in its duty to protect patients, she was unrepentant. To the amazement of observers, she said: ‘I don’t accept there was a serious failure. ‘I completely accept there was a serious failure in care and I accept there were signs we should have picked up, but I don’t accept there was a serious failure by the SHA, no.’
She has said the SHA responded to evidence of high death rates by commissioning a study from Birmingham University. As a result of this, the SHA concluded, wrongly, that Stafford’s problems were due to poor information systems, not poor medical care. She pointed out that an administrative merger had contributed to the failure. The man in charge of the merger? Sir David Nicholson.
Ms Bower expressed ‘deep sorrow’, admitting patients were ‘let down’, but said it was inevitable some died without good cause in hospitals. ‘Mistakes are made, people do die unnecessarily, however uncomfortable a truth that is’ – this from someone paid a small fortune to decide if thousands of hospitals, GPs and dentists are fit to practice.
Her stance shocked the victims’ families. Among them was Julie Bailey, who attended all 75 days of the inquiry. After her mother’s death in 2007, she joined other relatives to launch a pressure group called Cure The NHS to ensure other patients do not suffer in the same way.
At Stafford the alarm bells had included a critical report into clinical governance, damning patient surveys, warnings on staff shortages and a zero-star rating given by the CQC’s predecessor. It took a private research group to persuade the authorities to act.
One official estimate suggested between 400 and 1,200 ‘excess’ deaths between 2005 and 2008 alone. Wards were filthy and blood-splattered; heart monitors were switched off because nurses did not know how to use them; receptionists were left to determine needs of those arriving at A&E. Some patients were left screaming in agony, others grew so thirsty they drank water from vases.
Much of the blame must lie with those on the front line. But staff who spoke out were ignored, while doctors were preoccupied with waiting lists. Meanwhile, the management focused on financial targets and winning foundation hospital status.
The catastrophic failings reveal something rotten in the NHS. Some action has been taken, including the encouragement of whistleblowing and abolition of some targets.
But a series of reports has raised continuing issues of neglect, all too often involving the elderly and disabled. It seems strange that a pair of bureaucrats who failed to prevent hundreds dying in obscene conditions should end up in two of the top positions in the NHS. Their promotion smacks of contempt for patients.
Wonderful hymn trumps political correctness
It has long been my personal favourite. It is hard to believe that anybody with English blood in their veins would NOT respond to Blake’s wonderful words and the perfectly matched setting by Parry.
The writer below is cautious about the origin of the hymn but it is in fact a hymn to a heresy of sorts: The British Israel heresy. The British Israelites believe that the British are descended from the ten “lost” tribes of Israel. British Israel sentiment was strong in the congregation of my old Presbyterian church when I was a member there in the 60s.
The theology is irrelevant to a great work of patriotic art, however. If you are not moved by the video below you have either no heart or no English blood in your veins — JR
And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land
Jerusalem, a hymn which has been banned, been an official anthem of the England football team and was once chosen by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown for Desert Island Discs, was hailed as one of the triumphs of today’s royal wedding.
American actor Wendell Pierce, star of the Wire and Treme, tweeted in America on what a ‘rousing version’ had been performed at Westminster Abbey. Comedian Dara O’Briain hailed it as the wedding’s ‘best tune’. It was trending on twitter within minutes of the service ending. James Phelps, the actor who starred as Fred Weasley in Harry Potter, wrote: “I think ‘Jerusalem’ is such a great hymn, amazing & very moving.”
The Prince of Wales was instrumental in helping Prince William and Kate Middleton choose the hymns for the service.
The hymn, which begins with the words “And did those feet in ancient time”, was first composed by William Blake in 1804 as an introduction to one of his most famous poems Milton.
The words were later written to music in 1916 by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, an English composer.
The verses are thought to have been based on a legend that Jesus came to England as a young boy and visited the town of Glastonbury, Somerset, where he established a second Jerusalem.
Christians have subsequently interpreted the meaning of the hymn in different ways and some believe that the word “Jerusalem” could be a metaphor for heaven.
It has been suggested that the hymn refers to Jesus coming to England and creating heaven amidst the “dark satanic mills”, the line at the end of the first verse, which has been interpreted as the industrial revolution.
In 1996 Gordon Brown made a memorable appearance on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in which he listed Jerusalem amongst his 10 favourite records.
In 2000 the hymn was made the official anthem of the England football team in the Euro 2000 tournament in Belgium and the Netherlands.
But it was banned from services at one of Britain’s foremost churches three years ago
The verses were banned in 2008 from being sung by choirs or congregations at Southwark Cathedral because the words do not praise God and are too nationalistic, according to senior clergy.
The Dean of Southwark, the Very Rev Colin Slee, advised guests at a private memorial service that the hymn would not be sung because it was “not in the glory of God”.
Jerusalem had been banned before by clergymen who do not believe Blake’s poetry to be Christian.
In 2001 it was banned from the wedding of a couple in Manchester because the vicar deemed it to be too nationalistic and inappropriate to a marriage ceremony.
Have-a-go hero told he might be charged after tackling yob
British police bastardry again. The victim is always wrong
A groundsman who collared a vandal has received an apology from police after he was told he could be charged with assault by a 999 worker.
John Harvey bravely intervened after a gang of 12 yobs started vandalising a cricket club where he works in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and grabbed the main culprit.
The groundsman at Linden Park Cricket Club called police as he held the teenager telling cops he had caught the yob in the act and they should send an officer to arrest the teen.
But as the 47-year-old was desperately trying to keep hold of the teen as the other yobs – armed with sticks surrounded him – the police operator warned him he could be charged with assault.
Mr Harvey said: “I expected to be thoroughly supported by the police as a civilian and not rebuked. “I was expecting a response car immediately. I had restrained someone in the act of vandalism and she said ‘I must warn you, you are leaving yourself open to an assault charge’.” He added: “I told her ‘You’d better be quick, there are 12 of them. I might be one of your statistics’.
“She was reading screen prompts and insisting I gave my name and address and I said ‘With 12 kids in front of me?’ “That sort of thing has to be put by the wayside. I could have been in the morgue by now.”
Mr Harvey eventually hung up on the 999 operator and let the teen go as he was threatened by the other yobs – but put in a complaint to police about the attitude of the operator last week. And this week police apologised and said the 999 worker had been ‘spoken to’.
Chief Inspector Simon Black apologised and said: “The call taker who spoke with Mr Harvey acted correctly in the advice she gave but has been advised she could have shown a little more empathy to Mr Harvey’s situation.”
‘Indecent’ lesbian kiss scenes on British TV face watershed crackdown
Lesbian kisses could be banned from television screens until late into the night under radical Government plans to stop children being exposed to ‘indecent’ images.
A review launched with the backing of David Cameron is expected to recommend that sexually suggestive scenes currently allowed before the 9pm watershed – such as the famous lesbian embrace on soap opera Brookside – should not be shown until later in the evening. A ban on explicit advertisements on high street billboards is also being considered.
The inquiry is being led by Mothers’ Union chief executive Reg Bailey. It was launched last year after the Prime Minister – himself the father of young children – warned that exposing youngsters to adult themes can ‘take away their innocence’.
Mr Bailey is likely to focus on a toughening-up of the watershed rules. A source close to the inquiry said: ‘It is hard to protect children in the internet and mobile-phone age but we have to do something.
‘For some parents, what has been considered acceptable in the past – such as that Brookside kiss – is not appropriate for children to see early in the evening.’
That scene in 1994 was the first-ever pre-watershed lesbian kiss. After a storm of protest from viewers, it was removed from Brookside’s weekend omnibus edition. However, Coronation Street and EastEnders have since featured similar scenes.
Sources also suggested that raunchy dance routines, such as those by pop stars Christina Aguilera and Rihanna on last year’s X Factor final, could also fall foul of tougher watershed rules.
Currently, all programmes put out between 5.30am and 9pm must be suitable for children aged under 15. Sexual scenes are banned before the watershed unless there is a ‘serious educational purpose’. After 9pm, broadcasters are allowed to screen more adult themes.
Calls to beef up the laws, which were originally devised in the Sixties, are likely to be opposed by film-makers, who argue that the threshold is obsolete. And three years ago, MPs warned that the growth of TV channel websites, on which programmes can be seen at any time of day, had already made the 9pm limit unworkable.
Mr Bailey is also understood to be looking at a ban on sexually explicit advertisements in public places. The source added: ‘Some of those huge poster advertisements for bras and knickers leave precious little to the imagination and they are there for all our children to see. ‘It’s not unreasonable to want to take action against them.’
And Mr Bailey is examining a crackdown on internet pornography by enabling parents to ask web service providers to block obscene websites ‘at source’ rather than relying on parental controls.
The Department for Education, which is overseeing the review, said: ‘We look forward to receiving Reg Bailey’s recommendations.’
British teachers are well-paid but many do not deliver value for money
How much do you think a teacher earns? The more I talk to people, the more I realise that the public think teachers are really poor.
It has come as quite a surprise for them to learn that hundreds of head teachers earn more than £100,000 per year, which is partly why the NASUWT teaching union was yesterday calling for more transparency in their salaries.
Once upon a time, of course, teachers did earn a pittance. But the recent Labour government changed all that. While it was in power, spending on education doubled; it now costs more than £80 billion a year to educate (rather badly) our lovely children. An ordinary London teacher, if good, can become an advanced skills teacher and earn well over £50,000 a year. A head of department or head of year doesn’t even have to be good, and they’ll be paid between £40,000 and £50,000. Assistant and deputy heads earn between £50,000 and £75,000, and heads can make just over £100,000.
For those teachers outside the capital, pay is slightly lower and for those in primary a little lower still, but no one is complaining. In my entire career as a teacher, I never heard a colleague complain about their pay.
I was always baffled when people would say that my motivation in speaking out about the education system was to sell my book. The £10,000 or so that I will eventually earn from it cannot compare with what I have lost in salary after being forced to leave my job. The fact is that most teachers are far richer than most writers.
And that, in my opinion, is a good thing: teaching is among the most important of our professions. It’s a shame the public, on the whole, doesn’t feel the same way. Would anyone question a surgeon being paid well? No. And that’s because we have respect for doctors. Teachers, however, get a far harsher deal.
But even I’m struck by the quantity – and quality – of executive heads who are earning far more than £100,000 per year. One primary school head is reported to be earning some £276,000. Now, while this may be the exception, there is a disturbing lack of transparency about how and why they earn so much. This is mainly because they are drawing several different salaries for doing a variety of jobs – often rather badly because, frankly, no one can be in many schools and many training institutions and many conferences, all at the same time, while maintaining high standards at them all.
There are a handful of heads and executive heads who are worth every penny. They are extraordinarily talented, run outstanding schools, and do what most ordinary teachers can only dream about. But there are others, and I include deputies and assistants, who aren’t even worth that ordinary teacher’s salary.
And it is from these examples that public dissatisfaction with the profession festers. If our schools were churning out well-read, numerate, polite and charming young men and women, the public might not be quite so put out to learn that teachers are being so handsomely paid.
But half of our country’s children do not manage to get five GCSEs with English and Maths; 84 per cent of them do not manage to get five C grades (not As but Cs) in academic subjects such as Maths, English, Science, History or Geography and a foreign or ancient language. Should we really be rewarding their schools for inadequately educating them?
If the statistics are to be believed, then the vast majority of head teachers do not deserve their salaries. I would go even further and argue that a number do not deserve to be in a post at all.
But when the Education Select Committee at the Commons asked me what should be done about senior teams who do not do their jobs properly and I answered: “Well… we should fire them…”, the MPs from all three parties twisted uncomfortably in their seats.
One could barely stutter a response. Others hung their heads to hide their embarrassment at how inappropriate my answer was. I caused such a scandal that my words ended up in several newspapers. “Katharine Birbalsingh says teachers should be fired!”
And I still don’t understand what the problem is. If you don’t do your job properly, and your organisation is failing because of your poor leadership, isn’t it obvious that you should be fired?
Senior teachers should not be paid less. Their jobs are the most important, most challenging and most exhilarating on the planet. Our future as a nation depends on them.
Why on earth would we want to reduce the status and appeal of such positions by decreasing their salaries? It is already hard enough to find good head teachers. The point is that senior teachers should do their jobs well and be held to account. We should give them incentives to ensure our children and schools are top class.
The public are right to be outraged and question teachers’ pay – because they aren’t getting value for their money.