Doctors apologise after they missed 39 chances to diagnose tumour that killed pensioner
Health chiefs have apologised to the family of a woman whose lung cancer was missed – even though she was seen by doctors 39 times in three years. Jean Cross, 60, died alone in a hospital toilet after being misdiagnosed with a ‘frozen shoulder’ when she actually had a tumour so large it was pressing into her arm.
She repeatedly visited her local health centre over three years and was prescribed painkillers and advised to have physiotherapy for a frozen shoulder. But Jean, of Moray, Scotland, died on a hospital toilet floor on April 5, just hours before scan results finally revealed the tumour.
Representatives from the hospital and her GP have now admitted mistakes were made by doctors who treated her. A doctor at the GP surgery told her family: ‘Clearly, what we thought was wrong with her sadly did not turn out to be the case.’
Mrs Cross’ husband Colin broke down in tears after meeting with NHS Grampian representatives and said all he had wanted was for someone to acknowledge there had been blunders and apologise.
Carer Mrs Cross started to get pains in her shoulder in February 2008 and was seen repeatedly at Ardach Health Centre in Buckie, Moray, Scotland. Her family said medical records showed she went to the doctor 39 times before she died at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin.
Her death stunned her husband. He demanded an investigation and called for her family doctor, Gordon Pringle, to resign.
Representatives from Dr Gray’s Hospital, the Grampian Medical Emergency Department (G-MED) out-of-hours service and Ardach Health Centre met Mrs Cross’s relatives in Elgin.
Her husband told them there were a number of inaccuracies in a letter he received from NHS Grampian Feedback Service in June. He claimed a report written by an on-call doctor who visited Mrs Cross at her home on April 3rd was incorrect. He also rejected claims by the doctor that she had a ‘lengthy discussion’ with them and that they were happy to contact their GP ‘first thing in the morning’.
Mr Cross said no lengthy discussion took place and that he ‘begged’ the medic to admit his wife to hospital because she was in agony. He said the doctor assured him that the hospital would ‘just send her home again’.
Dr Alison Douglas, a partner at Ardach Health Centre, stressed that the team there regretted the handling of Mrs Cross’s care. She said: ‘On behalf of everyone, all of us, at Ardach Health Centre, I would like to apologise.
‘Clearly, what we thought was wrong with her sadly did not turn out to be the case and everyone who was involved with your wife thought that they were acting in her best interests and they were deeply shocked to find that wasn’t the case.’
Mr Cross said after the meeting: ‘I cried on the stairs in front of my daughter and son. An apology is all wanted. I feel a lot happier now. I feel that 20 tonnes have been taken off me. ‘I just wanted justice for Jean. I knew she had been treated badly. I wanted them to admit that.’ A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian said issues not raised in the original complaint would be examined.
She said another meeting scheduled with Mrs Cross’s family would take a ‘detailed look’ at the investigation into the care she received at Dr Gray’s Hospital.
NHS should close hospitals and sack consultants, says former head
The NHS needs fewer hospitals and senior consultants, its former chief executive claims today in an important intervention.
Lord Crisp, who led the fourth-biggest organisation in the world under Tony Blair but has since worked on health care in the developing world, breaks his silence to argue that older people and those with long-term illnesses need to be treated at home or the community rather than in expensive wards.
In addition, many of the tasks currently carried out by top doctors in the “top heavy” system could be done instead by nurses.
But he says that such radical changes are difficult to make in an NHS which has a lot of historical “baggage” as well as the “vested interests” of hospital managers and clinicians who do well under the current system.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Lord Crisp also claiming the Government’s controversial health reforms have been too narrow by concentrating on changing how treatment is purchased.
“This is about releasing money from the old infrastructure to put into the new, and it’s about moving from the 20th century model of healthcare to the 21st.
“They’re putting GPs in the driving seat, which may or may not be a good thing, but they’re not concentrating on what really needs to be done, which is building a different sort of NHS.
“I think they need to set out a vision for the NHS and I just don’t think they’ve done it.”
As Sir Nigel Crisp, he was both chief executive of the NHS and permanent secretary at the Department of Health from 2000 to 2006, at a time when Labour massively increased investment in health and introduced more competition in order to reduce lengthy waiting times and improve services and buildings.
In a new book, he argues that the NHS was “saved” by this “remarkable act of political will” but it is “not yet sustainable” as the population ages and costs grow.
Although many experts believe these pressures will lead to an “erosion” of the cornerstone of the welfare state to a strictly rationed insurance model involving more payments by patients, Lord Crisp says further upheaval on the scale carried out by Labour can keep it going.
However this will be “enormously difficult” because of resistance from the health institutions, professional bodies and powerful individuals who would lose power and money under a system less centred around hospitals and doctors.
“Over time there will be less need for large hospital outpatient departments and some services and some whole hospitals will need to close,” he writes in 24 Hours to Save the NHS.
“No one from the local constituency MP onwards relishes the prospect of doing so.
“The second major problem is that the NHS is still a largely hierarchical organisation where some groups are more powerful than others and influence what happens. At the top of the list of the powerful are the doctors and the professional associations, the great hospitals, the research institutes, the universities, the managers and the commercial suppliers or pharmaceuticals and other products.
“These groups mostly earn their living from a system where hospitals and professionals operate.”
Lord Crisp told this newspaper that the NHS was right to invest in hospitals and doctors during the previous decade to improve the state of A&E departments and to cut waiting times.
But now the main problem facing the health service is the growth in long-term conditions such as diabetes and the increasing number of elderly people in England, who can be treated better and less expensively outside of hospitals and by staff other than consultants.
“What we’ve got at the moment is an inefficient infrastructure that isn’t being used to its full capacity. You’ve got beds closed and people not working to their full capacity because there are too many sites.”
In addition, “In some ways we provide too many very highly trained people who then have to work below their capacity. If you’re going to effect the cost base of the NHS you’re going to have to effect the staff costs, and some of that will be about changing the staff mix rather than just changing numbers – changing the staffing pyramid so there are more people at the base and not so many at the top.”
He said more of what doctors do could be done by nurses, just as GPs had delegated some of their responsibilities to junior staff in recent years.
Lord Crisp, who is likely to speak out further when the Health and Social Care Bill finally reaches the upper house of Parliament later this year, admitted the transition will be difficult but insisted that politicians can take such “brave” decisions.
Few MPs broach the subject of hospitals closing, partly in order to keep their local seats at the election, but Lord Crisp said they should have the right to defend services in their constituencies even if their party is calling for something different.
He also said England had much to learn from how health care is being delivered in areas such as India, Africa and Latin America, where the authorities have not had the money to run expensive hospitals.
His comments come after senior figures including the head of the Royal College of Nursing, a leading union, have said that some NHS hospitals will have to close.
But although the Department of Health has insisted that failing trusts will no longer be “bailed out” with taxpayers’ money, ministers have been reluctant to axe services for fear of fuelling accusations that the Conservatives want to privatise or run down the health service.
Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, is due to make a decision about the future of maternity and casualty services at Chase Farm Hospital in north London, which experts have long argued are unsustainable, but is expected to call for a face-saving merger instead.
Right in Our Own Eyes
“In those days, there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” — Judges 17: 6 (ESV)
You have to hand it to the British… they don’t mince words. Speaking of the violent civil unrest that erupted across London in recent weeks, Prime Minister David Cameron offered a frank assessment of the motives – or lack thereof – behind the chaos:
“These riots were not about race,” he said. “These riots were not about government cuts … And these riots were not about poverty. No, this was about behavior … people showing indifference to right and wrong; people with a twisted moral code; people with a complete absence of self-restraint.”
In America and most of the western world, where political correctness rules, such conclusions strike a dissonant chord. How dare Mr. Cameron dismiss the certain sociological, cultural, and political underpinnings of the civil unrest! How dare he ignore the obvious culpability that he and the rest of the government bear for inciting what is clearly just a cry for help from London’s masses? What’s needed is a study, not a crackdown! These people need help in the form of government assistance, and above all, understanding.
Of course, this is balderdash, and Mr. Cameron deserves credit for saying so. He is absolutely correct when he says that the reigning cult of moral relativism that has begun to erode civil society from the inside out must be countermanded. Champions of a postmodern society in which “anything goes” like to imagine they are advocating a noble and just view of human liberty and dignity, but in their quest for absolute autonomy, they cast aside the moral obligations inherent to our humanity.
Of course, what more can we expect from a society that increasingly embraces a materialist worldview, in which man is not a Created Being but a biochemical product of random chance? Having rejected the idea of any metaphysical significance, the only thing left to define human society and the individuals that comprise it is the material world, where virtue is moot, might makes right, and values are in the eyes of the beholder. In such a world, there is no basis for rational discourse. Everything in the moral arena is subject to dispute; it’s all relative, whatever floats your boat. All we can know is that which can be quantified and verified, and since we can do neither with so-called moral and spiritual truths, there are no absolutes in those arenas of life.
Therefore, if you feel unhappy about your life, or are merely bored and decide you don’t want to work but would prefer to riot in the streets, assault peace officers and violate private property, who’s to tell you that it’s wrong? Who’s to tell you that you ought to respect the rule of law regardless of how you feel about it at the time, or whether there is anyone to stop you from breaking it?
Our culture is paying a price for such nonsense. As we lose our cultural consensus on basic questions of right and wrong, the fabric of society is unraveling. There was a time, not too long ago, when shared cultural conceptions forged the basis for our interactions with others and the way we ordered ourselves. It was understood that there is a God to whom every man is ultimately accountable; that human beings are created in God’s image and of infinite worth, value and dignity and that we should treat each other as such; that because of our special nature, we have been endowed with unalienable rights by our Creator; that government exists to secure those rights and is to operate with the consent of the governed.
Because this consensus was widely shared, ordered liberty flourished and the role of government was limited. Thanks to notions of moral relativism however, the social consensus is unwinding. As Mr. Cameron has pointed out, notions of radical individualism are prevailing and we are losing any sense of larger social obligations. If it feels good do it; if the baby is inconvenient, kill it; if you want it take it; if you want to marry it, be my guest! As the social consensus erodes, chaos ensues until ultimately, the people look to government to restore order and Hobbes’ Leviathan is born.
It’s not too late to turn things around, but it will take a monumental effort on the part of every person to live lives of responsibility, dignity, and virtue and to teach their children to do the same. Failing this, we’re slowly but surely weaving the web of our own destruction.
English football fans must not display the English flag
For almost 130 years the proud supporters of Berwick Rangers have revelled in the fact that they are a British team playing in the Scottish Football League. They call themselves The Borderers, and proudly display both the St Andrew’s cross and the St George’s cross on their scarves and merchandise.
But now the club’s supporters have been told that they can’t show the St George’s cross when attending away games – because it incites sectarian tension.
The call comes from Stranraer FC, a rival of Berwick in the Scottish Third Division. Officials at Stranraer told The Times that there had been escalating tension at their ground, Stair Park, and that Berwick supporters would from now on be asked not to bring Union flags or the St George’s cross into the stadium.
The decision has naturally angered fans, with one calling it a ‘ludicous over-reaction’.
Tom Maxwell, who wrote The Lone Rangers about the club’s history, said: ‘It seems particularly ridiculous when no Scottish fans get told to take down the saltire when they come to Berwick.’
Berwick-on-Tweed, in Northumberland, is the northern-most town in England. The old town is on the Scottish side of the traditional border, the River Tweed, and Berwick was at one time part of Scotland.
The club prides itself on being able to draw both English and Scottish fans – Berwick is a little over two miles from the current border.
Britain’s “free” schools
Free schools will recruit the staff they want, set their own pay levels and create their own curricula
Next week sees the most innovative education experiment in memory, when 24 new free schools open their doors. Inspired by the charter school programme in the US and the free school movement in Sweden, they represent an important victory for parental rights over the power of the state. The schools, both primary and secondary, are non-selective, non-profit making, and independent within the state sector. They will be able to recruit the staff they want, set their own pay levels and create their own curricula. What they all have in common is that they have been brought into being by concerned parents who were prepared to fight for the kind of local schooling they want – and a Government that has had the good sense to allow it to happen.
The progress of the guinea-pig schools (there are hundreds more applications in the pipeline) will be watched with interest. Many are located in deprived areas where state schools are failing to deliver the excellence all parents have a right to expect. There will be variety in the kind of schooling on offer, but a uniformity of ambition. Free secondary schools expect all their students to achieve good GCSEs in English, maths, science and a foreign language. In the state sector, just a fifth of pupils manage that.
Many on the Left abhor the notion that parents should be allowed to create the kind of schools they want for their children, rather than putting up with what the state sees fit to offer them. Their criticism has been rather undercut by the decision of Peter Hyman, Tony Blair’s former education adviser, to set up a free school next year in Newham, east London, with the simply stated aim of educating its pupils for the top universities and successful careers. It is salutary that he feels impelled to bypass the state system in order to do that.