Parents who rushed newborn to hospital with meningitis furious after health bosses send letter blasting them for wasting NHS resources
A couple who rushed their newborn baby to hospital when he contracted meningitis were stunned to receive a letter warning their child of the cost of A&E visits.
Leanna Cure and Steven Young took their eight-hour-old son Zac to Leicester Royal Infirmary after discovering a dark purple rash covering one side of his body. Doctors immediately treated the tiny baby for meningitis and sepsis – a potentially deadly blood infection.
But two weeks after he was discharged his parents received a letter from NHS bosses – addressed to Zac – telling him the cost of their emergency visit, and suggesting they should have made an appointment with their GP instead.
The letter warned the couple from Leicester that a visit to casualty costs more than a trip to the doctor and that many patients could have the same treatment at their GP surgery
Miss Cure, 29, said: ‘We’d just got him home and we saw the left side of his body, his arm and leg, were purple, nearly black, so I rang the midwife and she said to take him straight to A&E. It was really worrying. ‘We both stayed by his side for five days, it was like an awful dream. I’d just given birth, I hadn’t had any sleep and none of it seemed real. ‘He had three lumbar punctures, and was put on medication for five days – it’s every parent’s worst nightmare.’
Two weeks after Zac was discharged, the family received the letter which read: ‘The reason for this letter is that a visit to casualty costs the taxpayer significantly more than a trip to the GP surgery. ‘Many patients may have quite legitimate reasons for attending the Leicester Royal Infirmary’s accident and emergency department but, equally, there are many who could have had the same treatment at the GP surgery.’
Mr Young, 26, said: ‘I presume other people receive similar letters, some of them might not have been as lucky as us, and I couldn’t even imagine what I’d have done if Zac had died and we got that letter. It’s absolutely ridiculous. ‘For a start, if they’d looked at the date Zac was admitted, they’d have seen it was Good Friday, and the GP surgery wasn’t even open. ‘They also had two weeks to check whether we had a legitimate reason, and they couldn’t even be bothered to do that.’
A spokeswoman for NHS Leicester City, speaking on behalf of the surgery, said: ‘The letter received by the family was inappropriate for their circumstances and we would like apologise for any distress.’
She said the PCT was encouraging GPs to try to reduce the number of people visiting the emergency department. ‘As part of this, some practices have now set up a system whereby they are reminding patients about the alternatives available to them, either by phone call or letter, following a visit to the emergency department,’ she said.
‘These notifications should not be issued after an attendance at the emergency department outside of normal surgery hours or where there were genuine reasons for attending. ‘We are working closely with the practice involved to ensure this is not repeated.’
It costs the NHS between £59 and £117 every time a patient visits the accident and emergency department, compared to an average cost of £23 for a GP consultation.
Burglar is freed to care for his children after British judge rules prison breached his ‘human rights’
A burglar was let out of jail yesterday because locking him up breached his family’s human rights. In a staggering judgment, the Appeal Court ruled that the rights of Wayne Bishop’s five children were more important than those of his victims or the interests of justice.
MPs said it opened the way to thousands more convicts claiming a ‘get out of jail card’ under the controversial Human Rights Act.
Article 8, the right to a family life, has repeatedly been used by foreign criminals to avoid deportation from the UK. But this is believed to be the first time it has been used to let a prisoner walk free from jail.
Bishop, 33, of Clifton, Nottingham, was sentenced to eight months after admitting burglary and dangerous driving. He has now been let out after only one month.
The decision was condemned by his neighbours, who described him as ‘nothing but trouble’. Bishop himself boasted of how he had managed to make a mockery of justice. He told the Mail: ‘I’m a lucky boy and I’m on top of the world.’
At the Appeal Court, Mr Justice Maddison and Mr Justice Sweeney agreed that imprisoning Bishop was not in the ‘best interests’ of his children, and ordered the sentence to be suspended instead.
The court was told that Bishop was the sole carer of his children, aged between six and 13, for five nights a week. Since he was jailed, the children have been cared for by his sister during the week and their mother, Bishop’s ex-partner Tracey York, 30, at weekends.
The court heard the sister, a single parent, was already responsible for seven children and lived seven miles from the schools attended by her nieces and nephews.
Mr Justice Sweeney suggested it was hardly in the children’s best interests for their father to be out committing burglary and asked who had been looking after them at that time. But he and Mr Justice Maddison together concluded that the judge who jailed Bishop at Nottingham Crown Court had not paid enough attention to the effect that imprisonment would have on his children.
Mr Justice Maddison said: ‘It is important that criminals should not think that children can provide some sort of licence to commit offences with impunity.
‘All of that said, however, we have to be aware of the highly unsatisfactory and difficult situation faced by the children and those now doing their best to look after them.’
Tory MP Dominic Raab, who led the Westminster revolt against prisoner voting, said: ‘If criminals can argue that a chaotic family life entitles them to a get-out-of-jail card, it will severely undermine public trust in the justice system. ‘Article 8 of the European Convention was never designed for this. We need to amend the Human Rights Act to stop this kind of perverse precedent.’
The court was not told that Bishop has been married for the last three years. Bishop told the Mail that his wife Sandra, 36, was never considered as a possible carer for the children because she has four children of her own, one of whom has behavioural problems.
He said the couple live at separate addresses with their own children in Clifton, Nottingham. ‘Sandra has her hands full as it is,’ he said. ‘She was unable to look after my children. People need to understand my situation. They should leave me alone to live with my children in peace.’ He added that he accepted he had ‘made mistakes’ but promised to turn over a new leaf.
He and three other men raided Mansfield Rugby Club, taking only some chocolate, before he and one of his accomplices drove off in a van. Bishop clipped a police vehicle and drove through red lights before he drove up a dead-end street and was arrested.
Bishop told the Mail he turned to crime because he struggled to survive on benefits. He said: ‘People need to know how hard it is for single parents. I regret getting involved in crime but I am on a low income. The benefit agency won’t help me get a job and I turned to crime. ‘I am not an armed robber or a drug dealer, or anything. It was a one-off and I got caught. ‘It is not like I denied it. I didn’t enter the premises. I was just the getaway driver.’
More than 200 foreign prisoners, including killers, cheated deportation last year by claiming they have a human right to a ‘family life’ in Britain.
Another trot for the “polypill”
All very hopeful but still no double blind studies of vascular disease incidence in humans. The similar “polymeal” concept seems to have petered out
A new 10p-a-day ‘polypill’ containing aspirin and statins halves the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the world’s first international trial of the drug.
A research team found “sizeable reductions” in blood pressure and levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol among those who took the polypill over 12 weeks, compared to those who took a placebo. Separate pills are already prescribed to millions of people worldwide to lower their chances of heart attack and stroke.
But scientists have been looking at the prospect of a combined pill, which they believe will encourage more people to take the medications more reliably.
Eight years ago Prof Sir Nichlas Wald, who demonstrated that passive smoking causes cancer, proposed the polypill in an article in the British Medical Journal.
He wrote that such an easy-to-take pill could significantly reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease, which is Britain’s biggest killer, accounting for almost 200,000 deaths a year.
Taking such a preventive pill should be as automatic as “brushing your teeth”, he later suggested.
Now the first international polypill study, published last night and part funded by the Wellcome Trust, has suggested it could be extremely effective.
The researchers examined data from 378 people with a raised risk of cardiovascular disease. Half were given the polypill and half the placebo. About a third of the participants were British, a third Dutch and a third Indian.
Specifically, systolic blood pressure was reduced from a pre-trial average of 134 mmHg to 124; while ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol came down from 3.7 mmol/L to 2.9.
Doctors use mmHg as a standard unit for measuring blood pressure, while mmol/L – millimoles per litre – is used as a measurement unit for very low concentrations of substances in blood.
Cardiologists know that having high blood pressure and cholesterol raises the chances of cardiovascular events, and are able to estimate how much reducing these factors decreases that risk.
The researchers calculated that the polypill would roughly halve the incidence of major cardiovascular events in people with similar risk profiles to the participants.
Writing in the journal Public Library of Science One, they concluded that the benefits to those at a high risk would be even greater: “Overall about one in four high risk people would be predicted to avoid a major event over five years.”
Prof Anthony Rodgers of the George Institute for Global Health in Australia, who led the study, said: “The results show a halving in heart disease and stroke can be expected for people taking this polypill long-term. “We are really excited about this – it is a step closer to providing the polypill to patients.”
It has long been known that taking aspirin and statins separately reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, but this is one of the first studies examining taking them in a combined pill.
It contains 75mg aspirin, 20mg simvastatin, 10mg lisinopril and 12.5mg hydrochlorothiazide. Aspirin prevents blood getting too ‘sticky’, which can lead to clots that cause heart attacks; statins lower cholesterol; while the latter two drugs lower blood pressure.
There were fears that the drugs could react in a pill while being stored, and cancel each other out, but the trial proved these were unfounded.
All four drugs are off-patent, meaning any drugs company can manufacture them. Prof Simon Thom, of Imperial College London, said the Indian pharmaceutical firm Dr Reddys had committed to make the polypill “as dirt cheaply as possible”.
The cost issue is particularly important in poorer and middle income countries, which are facing growing epidemics of ‘lifestyle’ diseases due to changing diets and people getting less exercise.
About 17 million people die of cardiovascular disease every year, 80 per cent of them in developing countries.
Prof Thom said in such countries the cost could be just £1.20 a month, with richer countries which were able to shoulder the economic burden paying more. Even so, the cost in Britain could be as low as £3 a month.
The case for the polypill has been given a powerful boost by British-led research, published in The Lancet last winter, showing that regularly taking low-dose aspirin reduces the risk of certain cancers, including bowel cancer, by up to 50 per cent.
Prof Rodgers commented: “These benefits would take several years to ‘kick in’, but of course one of the hopes with a polypill is it helps people take medicines long-term.”
This polypill is likely to be available in India soon. However, the Department of Health is more cautious.
Two years ago Prof Roger Boyle, England’s heart disease ‘czar’, told MPs that he liked the “concept” but there were questions marks over safety. He also said there was a “fine line” between preventive medicine and “medicalising” the population.
Side effects are a big issue. Aspirin is known to aggravate the intestine and can cause internal bleeding, although most cases are minor.
This trial found that about one in 20 people stopped taking the polypill because of side effects, mainly due to such bleeding but also due to light-headedness caused by too low blood pressure.
Prof Rodgers said it was highly unlikely that all middle aged and elderly people would be offered a polypill in the future, but that it could be allocated to those with a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.
That could feasibly be one in five people over 30, perhaps more.
Prof Thom, who led the UK arm of the trial, said: “We now need to conduct larger trials to test whether these medicines are best provided in the form of a polypill, or as separate medicines, and whether this combination strategy improves patient adherence to cardiovascular medication.”
Dr Lorna Layward, from The Stroke Association, said: “Many people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol are required to take multiple pills every day in order to reduce their risk.
“Calculating when each pill needs to be taken can often be confusing and so combining the pills into one could make taking the medication much simpler.
“However, it’s important to note that this pill might not be suitable for everyone and it may have side effects so every patient should be assessed and treated on an individual basis. It’s also extremely early days and a lot more research needs to be carried into this pill to ensure its safety.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We welcome any evidence that contributes to providing the best treatment for people with cardiovascular disease.”
He added: “It is also important to remember that changes made to a person’s lifestyle such as stopping smoking, eating healthily and taking regular exercise have far reaching health benefits that will not be reaped from medication, including reduction in the risk of developing diabetes and cancer.”
Immigration is ‘out of control’, admits British minister: Rising numbers dash Tory hopes of cuts
Immigration rose to near-record levels last year, official figures have revealed. Net migration increased at the fastest rate since Labour opened Britain’s doors to workers from the Eastern European states that joined the EU seven years ago.
In the year up to September 2010, the figure for net migration – the difference between immigration and emigration – was 242,000, the third highest on record.
Some 586,000 people arrived to live in Britain and 344,000 emigrated. The net migration of 242,000 was nearly 100,000 higher than the previous year. It means that David Cameron must more than halve immigration if he is to get anywhere close to the Coalition ‘aspiration’ of bringing net migration down to tens of thousands a year.
A raft of figures published yesterday delivered a series of blows to the Government’s hopes of curbing the levels of immigration that critics say have distorted the economy and deepened poverty and benefit dependency over the past 14 years.
Migration from Eastern Europe is back up again after falling in 2009. The numbers of Poles and other Eastern Europeans in the UK rose by 43,000. Immigration from Eastern Europe rose by some 50 per cent to 72,000 while the numbers of Eastern Europeans leaving to go home dropped by nearly half to 29,000.
Labour put no restrictions on the rights of Eastern Europeans to work in the UK when their countries joined the EU in 2004. As a result, the Coalition cannot close the doors or tighten the rules.
Ministers did succeed in cutting the numbers of student visas issued to those from outside Europe in the 12 months to March this year. Student visas issued fell by 2 per cent to 346,245 in the year to March. But this was offset by a rise in the numbers of work visas issued.
Despite the efforts of Home Secretary Theresa May to reduce visas issued to workers from outside Europe, the number rose 6 per cent to 161,815 in the year to March.
Two fifths of workers in London come from overseas, the ONS has said. More than 1.4million of the capital’s working population were foreign born. By comparison, just over 2.3m were born in the UK. A third of high-skilled workers in the city – including accountants, doctors, teachers and scientists – are also foreign-born with 403,000 posts filled by overseas workers.
Overseas workers fill nearly two thirds of low-skilled jobs in London with just over 200,000 working in jobs such as cleaners, hotel porters, postmen and catering assistants – 80,000 more than British workers.
The Government blamed the previous Labour administration. Immigration Minister Damian Green said: ‘These statistics show that immigration was out of control thanks to the old system. ‘That is why we have already introduced radical changes to drive the numbers down and we will shortly be consulting on a range of new measures.’
Critics warned however that the Coalition is facing an increasingly difficult issue. Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch said: ‘This sharp rise in immigration comes as a shock. ‘These figures show just what an enormous task the Coalition Government has inherited as a result of Labour’s mass immigration policy. ‘Firm measures are now absolutely essential. The impact on British-born workers is a particular concern that has been brushed under the carpet for too long.’
The net migration figure of 242,000 was 96,000 up in a year and nearly 50 per cent higher than the 163,000 annual figure estimated in the year to December 2008. It is the highest since the record of 260,000 in the year to June 2005.
A fall in emigration contributed to the rise in net migration. The number of emigrants was down from 427,000 a year at the end of 2008 to 344,000 in the year to the end of last September.
But numbers of people coming into the country stayed at roughly the same level that has been maintained since 2004. Over the 12 months to last September, 586,000 people arrived to live in Britain.