Faulty medical implants leave NHS with costly bill
Thousands of people face painful and expensive surgery to remove faulty metal hip replacements, heart pacemakers and medical implants amid concerns that the industry is not regulated adequately.
The British Medical Journal said that not enough was being done to check the safety of medical devices before they are approved for widespread use.
Now the NHS is bearing the cost of operating on patients whose implants have failed years earlier than expected.
In 2009 the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, responsible for monitoring medical equipment, received more than 9,000 reports of “adverse incidents” involving medical devices – 1,885 of which involved serious injury and 202 resulted in death.
The BMJ said European regulators were not “fit for purpose” and had failed to act in patients’ interest by not monitoring the safety of devices adequately.
Dr Deborah Cohen, investigations editor at the BMJ, said: “Nearly 20 years ago, the BMJ highlighted the dangers of early failure of unproved implants, yet the NHS is currently picking up the bill for faulty devices. “Unlike kettles and toasters, which come with warranties, when devices do not last as long as they ought to companies are not necessarily held financially responsible.”
In the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, The Truth About Going Under the Knife, the BMJ claimed that up to half of ASR metal hip replacements shed metal causing intense pain for patients. They said one manufacturer, DePuy kept a metal hip replacement on the market till 2010 despite repeated serious criticism of it by doctors from 2007. DePuy said the device was tested for strength and wear and met all EU standards and said problems were down to inexperienced surgeons putting it in unsuitable patients.
In a second example, Chris Pitt’s combined pacemaker/defibrillator misfired more than 30 times in one day delivering 750 volts direct to his heart. Manufacturer Medtronic issued a safety notice after receiving reports of five deaths and more than six hundred broken leads. The company then voluntarily took that lead off the market. Medtronic say it has now added an alert system so if the lead develops a fault, patients can reach hospital before they receive an electric shock.
The company said safety and quality are “absolute priorities” and said the devices are ninety eight per cent effective in stopping dangerous heart rhythms.
Chase Weatherly is one of 300 people who had to have surgery to replace a leaking cochlear implant manufactured by Advanced Bionics. The company denies the product was tested inadequately and said it acted in compliance with FDA regulations.
Dr Carl Heneghan, a GP and Clinical Reader at the University of Oxford, said: “Patients should have access to the evidence about the nature of their devices, the true benefits, the true harms. At the moment that is not happening and patients are acting as guinea pigs and that is not good enough.”
Number of failing British teachers doubles in just a year
The number of teachers classed as incompetent has doubled in just one year, while the number labelled outstanding has halved. Millions of children are being failed by teachers who do not plan lessons, are unable to control a class and have a poor grasp of their subject.
The Ofsted figures, which may reflect a change in assessment methods, disclose that 17,600 teachers were described as ‘inadequate’ last year. This compares with 8,800, or two per cent, in the previous year. Meanwhile 35,200 teachers, out of a total of 440,000, were ranked ‘outstanding’ in 2010, compared with 70,400 in 2009. The proportion of unimpressive teachers labelled merely ‘satisfactory’ has also ballooned from 123,200 in 2009 to 162,800 in 2010.
A spokesman for Ofsted suggested that the rise in the number of poor teachers could be explained by a change in methods of inspection which has highlighted cases which would previously have been undisclosed. He said: ‘Since 2009 we have placed a greater emphasis on classroom teaching, increasing the amount of time inspectors spend observing lessons.’
The apparent slump in standards in the state sector comes as experts warn of a coming crisis in teacher numbers, with 40 per cent expected to retire within the next five years.
Meanwhile, an immigration-fuelled population boom is likely to increase the school roll by 500,000 pupils by 2018.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has promised to make it easier to sack bad teachers. Aware that too many use ‘notorious dodges’ to keep their jobs such as being signed off sick, he is to outline radical plans to get rid of teachers who should not be in the classroom.
Russell Hobby, of the National Union of Head Teachers, said: ‘More has to be done to ease out incompetent teachers. There are some cases where anybody would be better for the children than a bad teacher. ‘And it drags the rest of the teachers down. It really lowers morale and makes matters worse.’
A spokesman for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: ‘Naturally we want the best people to be teaching our children. But we would be upset by any attempt by heads to target teachers that they do not like.
‘People need to be treated fairly. Drop-out rates for new teachers are high. Therefore those who do not feel up to the job, or do not like it, leave of their own accord.’
Britain as dotty as ever — even under a Conservative government
But 15 years is a long time in politics — so saying what they will do by 2027 means little
Cabinet ministers have agreed a far-reaching, legally binding “green deal” that will commit the UK to two decades of drastic cuts in carbon emissions. The package will require sweeping changes to domestic life, transport and business and will place Britain at the forefront of the global battle against climate change.
The deal was hammered out after tense arguments between ministers who had disagreed over whether the ambitious plans to switch to more green energy were affordable. The row had pitted the energy secretary, Chris Huhne, who strongly backed the plans, against the chancellor, George Osborne, and the business secretary, Vince Cable, who were concerned about the cost and potential impact on the economy.
However, after the intervention of David Cameron, Huhne is now expected to tell parliament that agreement has been struck to back the plans in full up to 2027. He will tell MPs that the government will accept the recommendations of the independent committee on climate change for a new carbon budget. The deal puts the UK ahead of any other state in terms of the legal commitments it is making in the battle to curb greenhouse gases.
With the Treasury and Cable’s business department sceptical, green groups had feared that ministers would refuse to back the committee and were accusing them of reneging on Cameron’s promise to lead the “greenest government ever”. But with Clegg and the Liberal Democrats desperate to boast a success on one of their key policies, supporters of a deal won the day. A government source told the Observer: “This is a victory for the cause of enlightenment over the dark forces at the Treasury.”
Another senior government figure said: “This country is now the world leader in cutting carbon emissions. We are the only nation with legally binding commitments past 2020.”
This point was also stressed by David Kennedy, chief executive of the committee. “We have moved into uncharted territory and are going to be watched carefully by other countries. No one else has a target like this.”
The new budget puts the government on target to meet a reduction by 2050 of 80% of carbon emissions compared with 1990 levels. The committee has said that to reach this carbon emissions should be cut by 60% by 2030.
Ministers believe that major companies involved in developing offshore wind technology – such as Siemens, Vestas and General Electric – will now be keener to invest in Britain, knowing it is committed to a huge expansion in renewable energy. It is also hoped that the commitment to renewable energy – the committee says 40% of the UK’s power should come from wind, wave and tide sources by 2030 – will stimulate new industries.
These would include the development of tidal power plants, wave generators and carbon capture and storage technology – which would extract carbon dioxide from coal and oil plants and pump it into underground chambers. All three technologies, if developed in Britain, could be major currency earners.
The committee’s report says the new carbon deal will require that heat pumps will have had to be installed in 2.6m homes by 2025. It also says that by the same date 31% of new cars, and 14% of those on the road overall, will be electric. Experts say a total of œ16bn of investment will be needed every year to meet the commitment. Some of this money will be raised through increases in electricity prices.
However, failure to act now and decarbonise electricity generation would mean the UK would have to pay even more to replace power plants in future. “If we have to pay more in future that will slow economic growth, so we need to act now,” said Kennedy.
The decision to back the carbon budget comes a year after Cameron announced that his government would be the greenest on record, a claim that last week led the heads of 15 green campaign groups to write to the prime minister to tell him he was in danger of losing his way on environmental policy.
The letter said the coalition should promote a green economy with “urgency and resolve” if it was to honour its promise. The groups include Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB.
Tuesday’s expected announcement is certain to be welcomed by green groups though they will fear further backtracking in years to come. Huhne recently announced plans to invite green lobby groups in to scrutinise policy in order to hold ministers to their promises. They have been impressed with parts of the government’s programme, including progress on establishment of a green investment bank.
Why Britain’s liberal elite get it so spectacularly wrong
The writer goes overboard in describing AV (preferential voting) as undemocratic. Australia has had that system for around a century now and is not only still democratic but also provides a markedly better life for its people than Britain does. Otherwise, however, his comments seem sound
As the campaign to wreck Britain’s electoral system gathered pace in the days before our emphatic referendum result, I experienced an intense feeling of deja vu. Somewhere before, I had heard the cloying sanctimony with which Stephen Fry, Nick Clegg and Eddie Izzard recommended abandoning common sense.
Their certainty that every voter should understand the importance of sending more people like them to Parliament was familiar and disturbing, but why? Then I remembered.
The incident took place in a wine bar in Glasgow’s affluent West End. I overheard a conversation between a clique of academics, actors and journalists. They were deploring a decision to refuse a grant application from a radical theatre company. ‘Everyone,’ they concluded ‘is absolutely incensed.’
I barely resisted telling them that their reference to ‘everyone’ was absurd. They meant everyone they knew, a group so distinct from ordinary Britons that it meant hardly anyone.
Now I understand the connection. That conversation took place in Glasgow Kelvin, the beautiful, leafy part of town where family homes cost upwards of half-a-million pounds and typical occupants work as lawyers, at the university, or the BBC. Kelvin is a place where private schools abound and Toyota Piouses compete with Porsches to park on polished cobbles. And it was one of only ten constituencies in the whole of Britain that voted ‘Yes’ to AV.
I know and love Kelvin, as I do several areas among the very short list of communities that voted to give unpopular parties influence that democracy denies them. Others include Oxford, Islington, Cambridge, Southwark and Edinburgh Central, where supporters of Alistair Darling, once the local Labour MP, suggested printing posters reading ‘Vote Labour, Darling’ because that, after all, was what they were telling their friends.
Oxford and Cambridge are host to the world’s most concentrated communities of cloistered academics. Islington is where New Labour’s Praetorian Guard live and devour sun-dried tomatoes in memory of Tony Blair. Southwark, where the Electoral Reform Society is based, nestles adoringly against the South Bank Centre in anticipation of the next Arts Council extravaganza.
Am I being cruel to these lovely locations and to Camden, Haringey and Lambeth that also saw fit to imagine Britain should embrace an electoral system that is scorned by devout democrats everywhere?
Of course I am. I lived in Kelvin and went to university in Cambridge. I am an academic and I was a journalist. I respect Britain’s intellectual and cultural elite. They are my friends and I share some of their values. But I resent profoundly their cast-iron, ocean-going certainty that they are right – about everything. And I deplore their complacent assumption that all the rest of the population need do to achieve virtue is follow their advice.
The AV referendum has given this country a forceful reminder of something many intelligent, hard-working adults in towns, villages and suburbs across the land have long known. Policies and proposals that are treated as pure wisdom inside soi-disant ‘progressive’ bastions such as university common rooms, small-circulation newspapers and the BBC are anathema to millions of Britons. And this silent majority is, very reasonably, fed up with being told that it is wrong.
It is not simply the progressive elite’s patronising sense of entitlement that offends me. Their ignorance of popular opinion and resistance to reason are truly obnoxious. And these prejudices are damaging too.
Progressive insensitivity to good sense has burdened Britain with institutions and practices that offend a clear majority of their fellow citizens, increase the burden of taxation and make many of us feel unwelcome in our own country.
Examples of policies that might be reversed if the population at large were listened to include Britain’s membership of the European Union, metrication of weights and measures and abolition of grammar schools.
Few, outside a privileged elite that calls itself liberal while rejecting much of what that great philosophy promotes, would have incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law. Fewer still would have promoted unplanned mass immigration from Eastern Europe or turned London into a safe haven for terrorist sympathisers.
Safe inside their charming homes and protected by generous salaries and prestigious qualifications, my progressive friends delude themselves that such policies express universal values. They think nothing of paying a little more to purchase green power or cycling to work, because they have money and they are their own bosses.
They say self-interest is the lowest form of interest because, to them, the privilege that spawns such piety feels entirely natural.
They are not bad, but they are insulated from reality to an extent that can make them appear so. It is too easy for them to imagine that fringe politicians, who resemble them and share their easy access to the media, are in touch with popular opinion. They open their mouths to spout forth ideas that people without a media platform and contacts to politicians properly dismiss as bizarre, abstract delusions.
The extraordinary aspect of their arrogance is that many progressives are sufficiently well educated to know they are wrong.
They know that efforts by a self-selecting elite to tell the majority what was good for them failed, abjectly, from the moment that mass voting was first permitted.
Victorian Liberals assumed that middle-class people would vote Liberal simply because Liberal reformers had championed their right to vote. Instead, mass suffrage undermined the Liberal Party and created the Conservative/Labour divide with which we are still familiar today.
Offered the freedom to vote, the British people did not meekly do as they were told. They took freedom seriously and expressed their own opinions, not those towards which their self-proclaimed betters steered them. This left do-gooding reformers exiled from power for generations.
Great British leaders including Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher have recognised the innate good sense of this decent, modest majority. John Smith, Labour’s great lost leader, recognised it too.
People who live unglamorous lives in unfashionable locations from Penzance to Wick – the type of towns Americans call ‘places you fly over’ – understand the reality of the human condition in ways many prosperous intellectuals never will.
We cannot afford to have referendums on all of the things this silent majority might choose to change. The core principle of our representative democracy is that we elect MPs to do that on our behalf.
But, in the aftermath of a referendum that asked a question to which the answer was starkly obvious from the beginning, we are entitled to say never again. Never again should a tiny, incestuous elite be allowed to impose its wild, unrepresentative delusions on middle Britain.
The big lesson of the second national referendum in the history of British democracy – after 1975’s vote on whether to remain in the EEC – is that if our elite wishes to be taken seriously it must learn to listen and not to preach.
Intelligence is not the sole preserve of a tiny group that listens only to the views of its members. Rather than sinking too deep into its comfort zone, the progressive classes should remember that among the most depressing products of incest is madness.
The relative decline in manufacturing — the British case and the world
Woes is us, we don’t make anything any more. We get this all too frequently, that manufacturing in the UK has declined so much, that we’re over reliant upon services, that simply we’ve too few northerners making things that can be dropped on feet, that, in short, we’re all stuffed.
That we all know that the value of manufacturing production has been rising, even as it shrinks as a portion of the economy, doesn’t seem to clinch the matter. For we’re still told that the decline of manufacturing as a portion of the economy is some dreadful fate.
OK, so it has indeed been falling as a percentage of GDP. Is this a bad thing?
Hmm, well, it doesn’t really seem so, does it? Or at least if it is, then we’re in good company. For as you can see (and don’t worry too much about the absolute numbers, they might not be calculated in quite the same way, just look at the trends), manufacturing is falling as a percentage of the global economy all over. And we know very well that global manufacturing output isn’t falling: so it must be just that other parts of the economy, services obviously, are growing faster than manufacturing.
At which point it becomes terribly difficult to worry about what percentage of the UK economy manufacturing is or isn’t. For as we know, GDP is the “value of goods and services”. The total amount of value produced that we can share out in some or another manner. It matters not whether that value is created by building jet engines or painting women’s nails: it’s still value created, an increase in wealth and that is rather the point of this whole thing, isn’t it?
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.