NHS makes patients wait ‘to lower expectations’
This is appalling. When I compare this with my recent treatment in the Australian private health system the difference is like night and day
NHS managers are making patients wait longer than necessary for operations, with one claiming that treating them quickly “raises expectations”.
At least 10 primary care trusts (PCTs) have told hospitals to increase the length of time before they see patients in order to save money, an investigation by The Daily Telegraph has found.
In some areas, patients endured delays of 12 or 15 weeks after GPs decided they needed surgery, even though hospitals could have seen them sooner.
The maximum permitted time between referral and treatment is 18 weeks. In one case a manager said the policy keeps patients in line as “short waiting times also create more demand for treatment due to the expectations this raises”.
It comes after an NHS watchdog suggested that if patients are forced to wait a long time, they will remove themselves from lists “either by dying or by paying for their own treatment”.
The disclosures have been seized on by the Government as more evidence of the need for its health service reforms, which will give GP-led bodies the power to buy treatment from a range of providers.
Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, said: “This practice is simply unacceptable and one of the many reasons we need to modernise the NHS and put patients’ interests first.
Too many PCTs have been operating in a cynical environment where they can game the system — and in which political targets, particularly the maximum 18-week waiting time target, are used to actually delay treatment.”
An investigation by the Co-operation and Competition Panel, which advises the Department of Health on unfair practices, uncovered the increased waiting times.
The Government monitors the upper limit of 18 weeks only between referral and treatment, which has allowed managers to impose minimum waiting times or higher average waits even though hospitals – particularly private ones – may have spare capacity and could treat patients more quickly.
The PCTs believe the policy saves them money as they can predict the number of elective procedures they will have to pay for — such as hip replacements or cataract removal — and if necessary delay them into the following financial year when they will have fresh funds.
The Daily Telegraph contacted more than 100 PCTs in England to ask if they have lengthened waiting times. The original submissions to the competition panel’s inquiry were also studied. Of those that replied, 10 admitted increasing minimum or average times.
Managers in both Gloucestershire and Wiltshire imposed blanket minimum waiting times of 15 weeks for elective surgery while in Hertfordshire patients must wait 12 weeks.
In South West Essex appointments are made for between eight and 12 weeks, while in Eastern and Coastal Kent managers asked hospitals to “push” the average waiting time from 13 to 16 weeks as it was a measure “that would not be detrimental to patient care”. It says providers refused to comply with the request.
Evil Scottish social workers want to take young children away from their loving parents
Parents of seven told: Your children are too fat, so you will never see them again. I imagine, however that the “right to a family life” in the Human Rights act will eventually thwart the Fascists
Four obese children are on the brink of being permanently removed from their family by social workers after their parents failed to bring their weight under control.
In the first case of its kind, their mother and father now face what they call the ‘unbearable’ likelihood of never seeing them again.
Their three daughters, aged 11, seven and one, and five-year-old son, will either be ‘fostered without contact’ or adopted.
Either way, the family’s only hope of being reunited will be if the children attempt to track down their parents when they become adults.
The couple, who have been married for nearly 20 years and are not being named to protect their children’s identities, were given a ‘draconian’ ultimatum three years ago – as reported at the time by The Mail on Sunday.
Warned that the children must slim or be placed in care, the family spent two years living in a council-funded ‘Big Brother’ house in which they were constantly supervised and the food they ate monitored.
But despite subjecting them to intense scrutiny, social workers did not impose rules on what food the children should eat, and there was apparently little or no improvement.
News of the decision to remove them was broken to the couple, from Dundee, on Tuesday. Critics called it a disgraceful breach of human rights and a chilling example of the power of the State to meddle in family life.
In an emotional interview, the 42-year-old mother said: ‘We might not be the perfect parents, but we love our children with all our hearts. To face a future where we will never see them again is unbearable.
‘They picked on us because of our size to start with and they just haven’t let go, despite the fact we’ve done everything to lose weight and meet their demands. We’re going to fight this to the bitter end. It feels like even prisoners have more human rights than we do.’
The couple have not committed any crime and are not accused of deliberate cruelty or abuse. Their solicitor, Joe Myles, said there was ‘nothing sinister lurking in the background’ and accused social workers of failing to act in the family’s best interests.
‘Dundee social services department appear to have locked horns with this couple and won’t let go,’ he said, adding that the monitoring project caused more problems than it solved. ‘The parents were constantly being accused of bad parenting and made to live under a microscope.
We have tried very hard to do everything that was asked of us. My wife has cooked healthy foods like home-made spaghetti bolognese and mince and potatoes; but nothing we’ve done has ever been enough.
The couple have three older children who are all distraught and angry at the ruling.
Speaking through tears, their 15-year-old daughter said: ‘The social workers should hang their heads in shame. A person’s weight is their own business and only we can do anything about it, not them. My parents are good people and they love us all. The four little ones don’t know what is about to happen to them.’
Social workers became aware of the family in early 2008 after one of the sons accused his father of hitting him on the forehead. In truth, he had fallen and hit his head on a radiator – a fact he later admitted. However, the allegation opened the door to the obesity investigation.
While the couple admit experiencing what their lawyer calls ‘low grade’ parenting problems, which would have merited support, they were aghast when the issue of weight was seized on as a major concern.
A council report at the time said: ‘With the exception of [one of the names], the children are all overweight. Advice has been given regarding diet but there has been no improvement. Appointments with the dietician have been missed.’
At that point their then 12-year-old son weighed 16 stone; his 11-year-old sister weighed 12 stone; and his three-year-old sister weighed four stone. It is not known how much the four younger children weigh now.
The couple were ordered to send their children to dance and football lessons and were given a three-month deadline to bring down their weight. When that failed, the children were placed in foster homes but were allowed to visit their parents.
After the couple objected to this arrangement, the council agreed to move them into a two-bedroom flat in a supported unit run by the Dundee Families Project. They insisted on the couple living with only three of their children at a time.
At meal times, a social worker stood in the room taking notes. Doctors raised concerns that the children put on weight whenever they spent time with their parents, a claim they vehemently denied.
The couple and their children also had to adhere to a strict 11pm curfew. This involved ‘clocking’ in and out by filling in a sheet held by an employee who lived on site.
Although the children’s weight was the major concern, other allegations were included in a report. It showed that social workers were worried when the youngest child was found crawling unsupervised. The parents point out they were never far away and the flat had no stairs.
They also found her ‘attempting to put dangerous objects’ in her mouth. The family say this is natural in toddlers and she was never successful.
To have a social worker stand and watch you eat is intolerable. I want other families to know what can happen once social workers become involved. We will fight them to the end to get our beloved children back.
Social workers were further worried when she crawled through the contents of an upturned ashtray – an ‘unfortunate one-off incident’, claim the parents. All the concerns were dismissed by the family’s legal team as ‘low grade’ problems.
It is understood the father crumbled under the strain of being so closely monitored in January this year and moved into a council flat elsewhere in the city.
In the next few months, the mother breached the lunch and dinner meal observations, by her own admission, on ‘several’ occasions while taking the children to see their father.
She personally never broke the 11pm curfew but once allowed her seven-year-old daughter to remain at her father’s flat after she fell asleep. She did not want to disturb her and argued the child had ‘two parents, not one’ and was in ‘good hands’.
These breaches led staff to declare the trial a failure and the mother was asked to leave the unit in April this year. She moved in to her husband’s flat but the children were then handed over to foster parents.
Her solicitor said he planned to use independent experts to prove that the children want to live with their parents and have been damaged by the social workers’ intervention. He added: ‘We may ultimately look towards human rights laws.’
The father, aged 56, said: ‘We have tried very hard to do everything that was asked of us. My wife has cooked healthy foods like home-made spaghetti bolognese and mince and potatoes; we’ve cut out snacks and only ever allowed the kids sweets on a Saturday. But nothing we’ve done has ever been enough.
‘The pressure of living in the family unit would have broken anyone. We were being treated like children and cut off from the outside world. To have a social worker stand and watch you eat is intolerable. I want other families to know what can happen once social workers become involved. We will fight them to the end to get our beloved children back.’
It is estimated 26 million British adults will be obese by 2030, with obesity levels running at an all-time high among children. Official statistics show those who are overweight spend 50 per cent more time in hospital, placing extra strain on the NHS.
Tam Fry, honorary chairman of the Child Growth Foundation, said: ‘This is a disgrace. These parents have clearly attempted to comply. They have, if you like, played Dundee City Council’s game and yet they are still losing their children.’
Dundee City Council said: ‘The council always acts in the best interests of children, with their welfare and safety in mind.’
Christian group ditched by British charity… for offering to pray for debt victims
A Christian organisation has been ditched by a national charity for offering to pray for people with debt problems.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) has been forced to leave AdviceUK, an umbrella group representing the interests of thousands of advice workers, after it was judged that praying was ‘incompatible’ with membership.
The decision was described by campaigners yesterday as an ‘extraordinary curtailment of freedom of expression’. It follows a series of similar cases involving Christians who claim their freedoms have been curbed following the introduction of controversial equality laws.
She added that anyone seeking help from a group with ‘Christian’ in its title would not be surprised by an offer of prayer from a counsellor.
Yesterday, Steve Johnson, chief executive of AdviceUK, described the offer of prayer by CAP as an ‘emotional fee’. Asked to explain what he meant, Mr Johnson replied that CAP was effectively expecting clients to ‘pay’ for their advice by agreeing to pray with the counsellors. ‘Advisers must not offer or impose their values,’ he added.
CAP has been a member of AdviceUK for six years and says it has never made prayer a condition of its free service.
In a statement, it said: ‘While CAP is committed to providing impartial help and advice to all members of society, as an expression of our care for clients we do offer to pray with people. ‘This adds to the chilling notion that there is something wrong, something sinister, about being motivated by faith.’
‘In discussions around ethos and purpose, AdviceUK made it clear that they saw any form of promotion of faith to be incompatible with membership criteria.
‘In order to protect the integrity of both organisations, it was amicably agreed that CAP would not continue to be an AdviceUK member.’
CAP said that its counselling service would be unaffected by AdviceUK’s decision. A spokeswoman added: ‘Given the right support, people can and will pay off what they owe.
‘We help people in debt regardless of age, gender, faith or background. In our most recent questionnaire of more than 1,000 clients, 88 per cent said that prayer was appreciated or OK.’
AdviceUK, which has 870 member organisations, boasts of being ‘in a unique position to influence Government departments and other bodies’. It says it ‘provides a voice to funders and supporters’.
In April, The Mail on Sunday revealed how electrician Colin Atkinson was threatened with the sack for displaying a Cross in his work van.
And last year nurse Shirley Chaplin took the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital to an employment tribunal after she was ordered to remove her crucifix at work.
The obesity scare raises its weighty head again
Ignore the doomsayers, and eat what you darn well please. Now for the wine, duck and Armagnac…
By Terry Wogan, a “leading media personality” in Britain
Hardly has the dust settled on urban rioting, than we’re faced with another, apparently major, crisis. Obesity. Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring! This scare raises its weighty corpse from the dead every three years or so, when the public is perceived as breathing a little more easily. How long ago was it that young women, and girls particularly, were being warned against eating too little, and endangering their health? Now, they and the rest of us are being warned that we’re eating ourselves into an early grave, and worse, costing everybody, including the undeserving fit, a fortune in medical care.
I remember casting aspersions on the sanity of some utter dumbbell of a politician, whose name escapes me, but who, unless the old memory is playing hide and seek, counted obesity as great a danger to the human race as global warming. He’d already claimed that the same global warming was a bigger danger to mankind than terrorism. The logical conclusion: being overweight was more dangerous to life on earth than terrorism.
This time around, the bleating of the doomsayers is well up to speed: the British public should eat only as instructed, and those rotters, the food producers, should be similarly forced to come up with only what some expert has decided is good for us.
Yet doctors, dieticians, scientists and every deranged health-food guru have been at odds about what exactly is good for us since people could afford to be worried about what the next meal was going to be, rather than if there was going to be one.
In the tranquil area of France from which I write at present, the diet of the man in the street with the beret and baguette is one of wine, duck in all its forms (including the fat), lots of bread, and Armagnac to wash it all down. Heart attack on a plate, the rocky road to obesity? The inhabitants of this département live longer than any others in France.
In Spain, I was regularly presented with a chunk of country bread, grilled on an open fire, on which I was invited to spread liberal amounts of lard, until my stomach thought my hand had gone mad. I know, I know. The “experts” will tell me that this is “good” fat, far better for the children of Britain than an oven-baked chip, or a cheap pizza.
Maybe, but what is certain is that nobody, however qualified, has the right to tell anybody else what they should be eating. Or drinking. President Sarkozy of France, a great man for jumping on a bandwagon, is proposing a tax on fizzy drinks. What about human rights? The idea that tax should be levied on “wrong” food and drinks smacks too closely of dictatorship. It is the inalienable right of every man and woman in a free society to go to hell in their own handcart, as long as nobody else gets hurt.
Obesity is not catching, it’s up to you. And only you.
New £2.50-a-day stroke pill ‘will help 1 million patients’
Almost anything would be better than warfarin. It’s a very dangerous drug if you get the dose just a bit wrong. They poison rats with it
A stroke drug hailed as the biggest advance in blood-thinning for almost 60 years goes on sale today. More than a million Britons could benefit from Pradaxa, which is up to a third more effective than warfarin, the gold-standard blood-thinner, when it comes to preventing strokes.
The £2.50-a-day drug is the first of a new generation of anti-clotting medicines. Its release follows news of a similar drug, apixaban – also known as Eliquis – which was also found to be better and safer than warfarin.
The traditional treatment, which has been in use for more than half a century, is very effective but reacts with countless foods, alcohol and other medicines, with sometimes fatal consequences.
Pradaxa could vastly improve patients’ quality of life by allowing them to eat what they want without fear of upsetting the levels of medication in their blood and triggering a stroke or haemorrhage. It would also remove the need for the frequent blood tests associated with warfarin, which is also used as rat poison.
From today, Pradaxa, which is also known as dabigatran etexilate, can be used to thin the blood in people with atrial fibrillation, in which erratic beating of the heart raises the odds of stroke five-fold.
In a trial with more than 18,000 sufferers of the condition, it was 35 per cent better than warfarin at preventing strokes. Overall, around three-quarters of strokes were prevented. It also had fewer serious side-effects – although some patients struggled with indigestion.
One of the biggest advantages will be its ease of use. Warfarin users have to undergo blood tests as often as every two days to ensure they don’t accidentally take too much or too little of it. Most of them – including many pensioners – must make regular visits to their GP, even when they have been on the drug for years.
Some 1.2million Britons suffer from atrial fibrillation – which is blamed for more than 20,000 strokes a year – but many do not take warfarin because of its associated problems.
Trudie Lobban, of the Atrial Fibrillation Association, said: ‘Our members live in fear of suffering a disabling or fatal stroke. They have waited years for an alternative to current treatment.’
Professor John Camm, of St George’s Hospital in London, added: ‘This is a big leap forward. There are very few interactions with Pradaxa, so patients don’t have to be monitored every few weeks and they still get significant protection. It’s win-win.’
It remains to be seen whether the drugs rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, will judge the treatment, made by Boehringer Ingelheim, to be a good use of taxpayers’ money. Warfarin costs less than £15 per year.
A ruling on NHS use in England and Wales is expected by the end of the year. The equivalent body in Scotland is set to decide within two weeks.
There is a new Jumbo-sized lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.