Police probe four baby deaths: Missing records in maternity unit of Furness General Hospital, where two mothers also lost lives
Police are investigating the deaths of at least four babies and two mothers at a hospital maternity unit after concerns were raised that midwives may have tried to cover up mistakes by destroying medical records.
The inquiry, involving a team of 15 officers, was launched after a coroner raised the possibility in the inquest into the death of nine-day-old Joshua Titcombe that midwives had colluded to hide crucial errors.
Yesterday, police confirmed they are widening the investigation to include a number of other deaths at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria.
The Mail on Sunday has spoken to the relatives of four babies and two mothers who died at the hospital during 2008, who said police had told them the deaths were being investigated.
It comes after a damning report into the ailing maternity unit was published on Friday by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission, which found patients were at risk from poor staffing levels and dirty wards.
The report, based on an unannounced inspection on July 18, was commissioned following the inquest into Joshua’s death, and reveals serious problems within the maternity unit more than three years after a series of deaths.
If the issues are not immediately addressed, the CQC has the power to shut the unit down.
At Joshua’s inquest, coroner Ian Smith said ‘it was not beyond the balance of possibility’ that an observation sheet, which recorded measurements such as his temperature, had been destroyed. ‘If that was done it can only have been done deliberately,’ he added. However, he admitted there was no proof that this was the case.
The widening of the investigation to include the additional deaths is understood to have come after officers made a ‘big step forward’ in recent days, according to a source.
One midwife employed by the hospital is alleged to have been involved in at least two of the births where a baby died. It is not known whether the midwife has been questioned by police or whether any of the staff are still employed by the trust. The six deaths thought to be at the centre of the investigation all took place in 2008.
Niran Aukhaj, 29, was 23 weeks pregnant when she collapsed and died in April that year, also claiming the life of her unborn child. The mother of one, from Ulverston, had experienced a number of problems during her pregnancy, including high blood pressure.
But an inquest into her death found staff at the hospital had failed to take her blood pressure and a urine sample during a routine check-up just a week before she died, and she was sent home without seeing the consultant in charge of her care.
The coroner recorded a verdict of death by natural causes but added, ‘we can never know’ whether not seeing her consultant ‘is significant or not’. Her husband Jay said police had told him that his wife’s death was one of those being investigated.
Mr Aukhaj, 41, who now lives in Hayes, Middlesex, said: ‘A detective from Cumbria is looking at it. For the moment they haven’t said much. ‘They just said they are taking the case further on. That’s all I know. They told me last week. I can’t give any further details at the moment.’
Nittaya’s husband, Car claims medical records which would have shown Thai-born Nittaya’s heart rate have gone missing
On July 31, 2008, Nittaya Hendrickson, 35, and her son, Chester, died after she suffered a relatively rare amniotic fluid embolism, where the fluid from the womb enters the mother’s bloodstream. Her son died from brain damage after she suffered a series of fits. There is a risk of a mother dying in such a situation but it is highly unusual for the baby to die as well.
Nittaya’s husband, Carl, 46, a former Army medic from Ulverston, near Barrow, claims medical records which would have shown Thai-born Nittaya’s heart rate have gone missing. He says the missing readings showed that midwives delayed acting in getting a Caesarean performed.
Two months later, on September 6, 2008, Liza Brady lost her baby, Alex. She said that midwives delayed delivering him even though a heart monitor showed he was in distress. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and died just before he was born.
[It is a disgrace if a baby dies these days because of an umbilical cord around his neck. A new arrival in my family was born that way recently but was delivered in a PRIVATE hospital and through immediate expert attention survived unharmed. The story and a picture of the now thriving boy here and here]
Liza, 26, from Walney Island, near Barrow, said: ‘We are helping police with their inquiries and have given them a full statement. ‘They are certainly looking at the case but nothing has been confirmed. It means we’re now closer to getting answers and hopefully that means something can change.
‘With Alex, they delayed and delayed delivering him even though the machine monitoring his heart showed he was in distress. A doctor was prepared to help as he came on duty but he was shooed away by the midwives who said he wasn’t needed. ‘The last few years have been very hard and it’s heartbreaking hearing about so many other deaths.’
At the inquest into Alex’s death, coroner Ian Smith said: ‘I don’t believe the doctors integrated. The midwives ran the show.’
Just a few weeks after the incident, Joshua Titcombe was born at the hospital and later died. His mother Hoa, 34, delivered normally but her son bled to death after suffering a lung infection which was not picked up quickly enough. He was airlifted to two major hospitals, but died nine days later.
Joshua’s inquest, in June this year, heard the infection could have been easily treated with antibiotics. But all 11 midwives who gave evidence said they had no knowledge that a low temperature in a newborn was an indication of infection, a claim the coroner refused to accept.
Police are investigating claims, raised at the inquest by Joshua’s father James, a 33-year-old project manager, that missing charts and notes relating to Joshua’s care have been hidden or destroyed.
Mr Titcombe would not comment on the circumstances of his son’s death because of the ongoing police investigation. But he expressed shock that the maternity unit was still being criticised for failures several years after Joshua died. He said: ‘Three years after Joshua’s death they still need to take urgent action on their maternity service. ‘The CQC report said they are not managing the risks to patients and babies and they are not reporting serious incidents correctly.’
The maternity unit at Furness employs 59 midwives and has seven labour rooms and two assessment rooms, with 24 beds available.
Last year, a report commissioned by University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Furness General Hospital, still found ‘dysfunctional’ team work between midwives and maternity unit doctors.
It said that midwives dominated and medics were kept away as much as possible. Mr Hendrickson and other families are taking legal action against the hospital, but the Titcombes settled their case in 2009.
A spokeswoman for Burnetts Solicitors, which is representing the families, confirmed it was launching several cases against the trust, but said it was ‘fewer than ten’.
Solicitor Ruth Keenleyside said: ‘We’re representing a number of families who have got claims of serious clinical negligence against the Furness General Hospital maternity unit. The police investigation is at different stages but legal proceedings have not yet commenced.’
Tony Halsall, chief executive of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, said the hospital was ‘not aware’ of any widening of the police investigation. He added: ‘As I’ve said before, we will not be complacent and we will always strive to keep improving the standards of care we provide for mothers and their babies.’
Cumbrian Police say the investigation is still in its early stages and that it is ‘too soon to say’ how many deaths will be formally investigated or whether any criminal charges will be brought. Detective Inspector Doug Marshall said: ‘Because of the delicate nature of the inquiry as a whole we can’t release anything further about it. ‘The reason we can’t be specific is we can’t be certain which deaths will be investigated. ‘It would be more accurate to say that several deaths are going to be investigated but we cannot comment on a specific number.’
When asked what charges were being considered, Det Insp Marshall said: ‘The investigation is still at a very early stage and that’s the whole point of an investigation – to work out whether there is any criminal element. ‘We are not at that stage. It would be speculation. ‘My intention is not to upset any of the families who are potentially involved in this case and we cannot add anything further.’
A statement from Cumbria Police said: ‘We are continuing an investigation into a number of deaths that occurred after mothers and infants received care at the maternity unit in Furness General Hospital. ‘The investigation began following the death of Joshua Titcombe and detectives have now widened their investigation to include a number of other deaths.
‘The enquiries are detailed and complex so it is too early to determine exactly which of these cases, or how many others, the investigation may include as it progresses.’
Fraud probe councillor wins six-figure payout after claiming he was deselected because he was Asian
A former Labour councillor who was deselected following allegations of vote-rigging has won a six-figure payout after claiming he was deselected by the party because he is Asian.
The Labour party has been ordered by an employment tribunal to pay Raghib Ahsan £123,000 following a 13-year legal battle, in which his costs were met by taxpayers.
The 65-year-old was dropped as Labour’s candidate for the Sparkhill ward in Birmingham city council in 1997 following claims – strongly denied – that he was helping Asian families jump the queue for housing repair grants in return for votes.
It is believed to be the first time a councillor has been awarded compensation by a tribunal after being dropped by a political party.
Mr Ahsan’s case was initially backed by the Commission for Racial Equality, a publicly-funded race watchdog which has since been abolished.
It is estimated to have cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds in court costs.
Two-thirds of the compensation payout is based on allowances which Mr Ahsan would have been able to claim from the council had he continued in office.
Mr Ahsan, who has since faced separate allegations of “violence, intimidation and serious membership abuse amounting to fraud”, said he was “delighted” with his win.
Speaking from his £500,000 house in Handsworth, Birmingham, the father-of-two said: “It is the end of a very long struggle that took over my life for many years but I am very pleased that I have been awarded compensation. “All of the allegations against me were unfounded and my deselection was entirely unjustified. Now I feel as though I have been vindicated – and I have the cheque to prove it.”
However, John Spellar, Labour MP for Warley, called the payout “absurd”. He said: “Mr Ahsan was a fairly controversial figure in the Labour Party. “He was involved in a long-running controversy that some felt damaged the image of the party locally. But there are political factions and battles in every political party. For a court to stick its nose in and get involved is absurd. “It demonstrates the sheer arrogance of the legal system.”
Mr Ahsan first brought his claim for race discrimination in 1998 – a year after being deselected and replaced with a white candidate.
Labour argued he should not be allowed to bring a case as he was not an employee of the party, but in 1999 the tribunal ruled that the claim should be allowed to go ahead.
In a subsequent case, the Court of Appeal ruled that employment tribunals do not have jurisdiction to hear such claims – yet the tribunal in Mr Ahsan’s case insisted its original decision to allow the claim to go ahead “remained binding, even though it had now been shown to be wrong”.
Labour appealed the decision, first at the Court of Appeal, which ruled in its favour, and then at the House of Lords, which ruled in favour of Mr Ahsan – not because the tribunal had jurisdiction to hear his claim, but because the original decision could not be reversed.
His case was then sent back to the employment tribunal, where Mr Ahsan claimed £863,000 in compensation, a figure described as “methodologically flawed in various ways” by the tribunal.
It found that the Labour party had deselected him partly because it felt the electorate would identify a candidate from the Pakistani community with the housing grant scandal, and this amounted to racial discrimination.
In July, he was awarded £43,000 in compensation for “injury to feelings” and £80,000 for loss of earnings that he would have received in the form of allowances between 1998 and 2004 – the period during which, the tribunal decided, Mr Ahsan would have most likely been a councillor.
Mr Ahsan now works as a solicitor and has since represented three former Labour councillors who were sacked from the city council for their part in a postal vote fraud. He said: “I don’t think Labour has learnt the lessons it should have learnt from the way I have been treated.
“I don’t think the party is inherently racist but I think there are still some racist practises which persist and I hope it reassess its selection procedures. “I hope that one day I get an apology from them. But I don’t think that will happen.”
Mr Ahsan was president of the Birmingham Trades Council in the 1980s, and was elected as a councillor in 1991. He also worked at the taxpayer-funded Birmingham Employment Tribunal Unit helping workers bring claims against their employers.
In 1994, while campaigning to succeed Roy Hattersley as the party’s parliamentary candidate for Birmingham Sparkbrook, he faced unproven allegations he had encouraged Asian families to apply for housing repair grants in return for their support at council elections. Mr Ahsan was deselected even though an internal investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing.
He was shortlisted as a candidate for the 2002 local elections but suspended after a rival accused him of “intimidating” party members. On one occasion, one of Mr Ahsan’s supporters is said to have drawn a knife during a party meeting.
Mr Ahsan was again suspended pending investigation of what the party described as “allegations concerning violence, intimidation and serious membership abuse amounting to fraud”.
He was once again cleared of any wrongdoing but he left Labour in 2003, partly because of his opposition to the Iraq War.
A spokesman for Labour said “We are clear that unfairly discriminating against someone because of their race is totally unacceptable, and this principle is embedded in our party rules.”
British couple send their kid to school in Albania — because the local British school discourages learning of basic subjects
A couple have taken the extraordinary step in sending their six-year-old son to study in Albania – 1,321 miles away. Petrit and Juliette Muca are sending their eldest son Aleks to school in Eastern Europe – because he will have a better chance to master maths, science and reading there.
Mr Muca is originally from Albania while his wife is from Northampton where their son was born.
The couple, who now live in Sunderland, had enrolled their son at the nearby Benedict Biscop Primary which was described in an Ofsted report as ‘good and improving.’ However when their boy returned home from his first year at school, his mother Juliette noted that having initially loved books that he ‘went backwards,’ and hadn’t made any progress in his quest to read.
She revealed: ‘My complaint with the system – it’s all about being creative. But children need to learn science, maths and reading.’
Britain is trailing in the World Economic rankings, and is now sat in 43rd place, but that comes as no shock to Mrs Muca who insisted: ‘It doesn’t surprise me. Labour created a system where kids get 10 A stars at GCSE – but what does that mean if everyone gets them.’
And now young Aleks will live with his father Petrit’s parents and will study in Tirana where schools follow a more traditional set-up.
The couple who own a shop in the North East will spend £1,500-a-year on school fees as they bid to prevent their son from failing. Juliette added: ‘It’s a major sacrifice but we have to do what’s best,’ with Aleks set to return to England during the holidays.
Another infliction on ordinary people by the food Fascists and their absurd theories
HP Sauce’s recipe secretly changed after 116 years by American owners of the Great British Condiment
For more than a century HP Sauce has been a staple of many a British dining table.
But after 116 years of being produced to a carefully guarded recipe, the brown sauce which famously bears a picture of the Houses of Parliament on the label has been secretly altered at the request of Government health chiefs.
Heinz, the American company which bought the famous British brand in 2005, has changed the celebrated concoction that includes tomatoes, malt vinegar, molasses, dates, tamarind and secret spices to reduce the salt content.
The new recipe of Britain’s best-loved brown sauce, synonymous with bacon sandwiches, fry-ups and sausage and mash, now contains 38 per cent less salt. But critics argue the change in salt levels for such small amounts of food makes no difference to our diet.
The previous version of HP Sauce contained 2.1g of salt per 100g. The new version contains 1.3g – but fans claim the change has come at a high price. They say it just doesn’t taste the same.
The US company has altered the recipe despite launching a Reduced Salt And Sugar version at the same time. The new HP sauce recipe got the thumbs down from Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre White.
He said he sent back a meal of sausages and mash at Mail on Sunday columnist Piers Morgan’s Kensington pub The Hansom Cab last week. ‘I sent the meal back, because I thought it was off,’ he said. ‘At first, I thought it was the sausages, but it wasn’t. It was the HP, which tasted disgusting. It was definitely dodgy. I had no idea they had changed the recipe.
‘I was brought up on HP Sauce in Yorkshire. My old man used to say ketchup was for Southerners and HP was for Northerners. My father would turn in his grave if he discovered they changed the recipe.’
Heinz made the changes after signing up to the Coalition Government’s Responsibility Deal, a programme of targets for reducing the level of fats and salts used by food manufacturers. The key pledges include an agreement to reducing salt in food so people eat 1g less per day by end of 2012.
Health experts claim this measure will save the NHS £46 million a year within three years and prevent more than 4,000 premature deaths a year.
But as a result of the decrease in salt in the old sauce, the new line has more calories and carbohydrates. The new version also has less fibre, an essential part of a balanced daily diet. It has been reduced from 1.2g per 100g to 0.4g per 100g.
John Northey, from the Isle of Man, contacted Heinz to complain. In a letter to a newspaper, he wrote: ‘Gone was the familiar tang and the sauce seemed bland and sickly. Heinz has spoiled a product enjoyed by generations, adversely affected its keeping qualities and, incidentally, increased the calorie count at a time when we’re all being warned about obesity.’
The HP brand has not been without controversy in recent years. There was uproar in 2007 when production of this symbol of ‘Britishness’ was moved from Birmingham to Elst in the Netherlands, with the loss of 125 jobs.
A year later the company was again forced to defend the move after it was revealed that 18 months after axing HP Sauce in Birmingham on the grounds that production costs would be cheaper in Holland, it had also begun making it in Spain.
The sauce’s appeal has crossed Britain’s class divide, with generous dollops enjoyed at thousands of ‘greasy spoon’ cafes and by Prime Ministers. In the Sixties, it became known as ‘Wilson’s Gravy’ after the wife of Prime Minister Harold Wilson let slip that his one fault was that ‘he will drown everything in HP’.
Pope: Riots show UK’s lost moral sense of right and wrong
The Pope yesterday blamed the riots that swept Britain last month on a loss of awareness of what is right and wrong.
Benedict XVI said that ‘moral relativism’ had permeated British society to such a degree that many people no longer held shared values and were confused about what constituted wrongful actions.
And he urged the Government to remedy the crisis by spreading wealth – and ensuring its policies were underpinned by an objective belief in what is right.
The Pope told Nigel Baker, Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See, that it would be wise for the Government ‘to employ policies that are based on enduring values that cannot be simply expressed in legal terms’. He went on: ‘This is especially important in the light of events in England this summer.
‘When policies do not presume or promote objective values, the resulting moral relativism tends instead to produce frustration, despair, selfishness and a disregard for the life and liberty of others.’
He added: ‘Policy-makers are therefore right to look urgently for ways to uphold excellence in education, to promote social opportunity and economic mobility, and to examine ways to favour long-term employment.’
The remarks of the 84-year-old Pope were the first time he has commented on the riots that began in Tottenham, North London, in August before engulfing other parts of the capital and spreading to other British cities.
He spoke as a funeral was held in Tottenham for Mark Duggan, the 29-year-old armed man whose shooting by police on August 4 led to the wave of rioting and looting that lasted for four days. The unrest claimed five lives and has resulted in more than 2,000 arrests.
He made his comments as he was formally introduced to Mr Baker, recently appointed Britain’s ambassador to the Vatican City. Mr Baker, 45, fills a position left vacant by the departure last year of Francis Campbell, the first Catholic ambassador to the Holy See since the Reformation.
A non-Catholic, Mr Baker was previously British ambassador to Bolivia and worked briefly with David Cameron in the Conservative Research Department in the 1980s before he joined the Foreign Office. Mr Baker is familiar with Italy and speaks Italian, after living and studying in Verona and Naples.
Benedict XVI been a harsh critic of ‘relativism’ for a number of years. On the day before he was elected as Pope in 2005, he declared that Western societies were becoming so oblivious to objective standards of morality that they risked becoming engulfed by a ‘dictatorship of relativism’.
The theory of relativism holds that there can be no objective standard on which to base morality.
Tory councillor sacked from teaching job at grammar school after calling rioters ‘jungle bunnies’ on Facebook
“A grammar school teacher and Tory councillor has lost his job after calling rioters who brought havoc to the country last month ‘jungle bunnies’.
Bob Frost, a maths teacher at the prestigious Sir Roger Manwood’s grammar and boarding school, made the comment on the social networking site Facebook on August 7.
Soon afterwards the 49-year-old was suspended from his position as a Tory councillor on Dover District Council in Kent after fellow councillors spotted his offensive comments on the social networking site.
Then on Monday this week Mr Frost lost his job at the highly-regarded 912-pupil grammar school, the 96th oldest school in the UK, which was founded in 1563 by barrister Sir Roger Manwood.
Mr Frost wrote on August 10 – three days after writing ‘jungle bunnies’ in reference to the rioters on his Facebook wall – that he had been phoned up by a fellow councillor and accused of racism.
‘Needless to say I did not mean to use any offensive racist term and was referring to the urban jungle.’
He added: ‘As for the bunny bit it was originally ‘animals’, but I thought people might object to me calling fellow humans this so I chose something I thought was innocent and also cuddly.’
You lose your job if you criticize black thieves?? Their behavior certainly owed more to the jungle than to civilization.