Racial aspect to six deaths on an NHS maternity ward
Five of the six mothers and babies who died at a maternity unit, triggering a major police investigation, were from ethnic minorities, it emerged yesterday.
Police are examining the deaths of four babies and two mothers at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria between April and November 2008.
It comes amid fresh allegations that midwives may have conspired to destroy crucial documents in a bid to cover-up appalling errors.
A team of 15 detectives assigned to the case is also expected to investigate whether ethnicity may have played a part in any of the deaths.
Data released by the hospital revealed that just 2 per cent of all mothers treated at the maternity unit in 2008 were from ethnic minorities.
But perhaps crucially, five of the six ‘serious and untoward cases’ recorded at the hospital that year involved women and babies from ethnic minorities.
Last night a source told the Mail: ‘It’s impossible to say definitively whether there is a connection between the ethnicity of the mothers and the deaths, but the figures speak for themselves. All I can say is that the care given to mothers in the cases we know about was nothing short of shambolic. They were repeatedly ignored by staff on the unit. ‘The figures are astounding and very worrying.’
The police investigation at the hospital was widened to include ‘a number of other deaths’ after a coroner said it was ‘not beyond the balance of possibility’ that crucial information relating to the death of nine-day-old Joshua Titcombe had been deliberately destroyed. If that was done it can only have been deliberate, he added.
One midwife employed by the hospital is alleged to have been involved in at least two of the births where a baby died.
Hoa Titcombe, 34, gave birth to Joshua at the end of a normal delivery. But nine days later the baby bled to death after suffering a lung infection which could easily have been treated with antibiotics.
Thai-born Nittaya Hendrickson and her unborn son Chester both died at the hospital on July 31, 2008 after the midwife in charge of her labour dismissed her fits as ‘fainting’.
Mrs Hendrickson later died of a heart attack, while her son died after suffering brain damage.
Crucial heart monitor records which are said to reveal the critical delay before the midwife finally sought help from a doctor are ‘missing’. Her husband, Carl Hendrickson, 46, along with other families, is taking legal action.
In another case Niran Aukhaj, 29, collapsed and died in April that year. Her unborn baby also died. The mother of one, from Ulverston, had experienced a number of problems during her pregnancy, including high blood pressure. Yet midwives failed to take her blood pressure and a urine sample during a routine check-up just a week before she died.
Tony Halsall, of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, said he was not aware of any widening of the police investigation but added that he would co-operate.
Putting baby in nursery ‘could raise its risk of heart disease’ because it sends stress levels soaring
There has been evidence of increased stress for some time. Little kids belong in a loving home, nowhere else
Sending babies and toddlers to day-care could do untold damage to the development of their brains and their future health, a leading psychologist has claimed.
Aric Sigman, a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, has warned that spending long periods being cared for by strangers in the first years of life can send levels of stress hormones soaring.
This could raise the odds of a host of problems, from coughs and colds in the short-term, to heart disease in the years to come.
Children deprived of their mother’s attention during the vital years in which the brain blossoms may also find it harder to form relationships as adults.
Dr Sigman, who has worked with the Department of Health on education campaigns, said that the emphasis on women’s rights, including the right to return to work after becoming a mother, means that the potential dangers of day-care are ignored.
He added: ‘The uncomfortable question remains: which is better for a young child during weekdays – the biological mother or a paid carer at an institution?’
With half of British mothers going out to work before their child is 12 months old, the claims will make uncomfortable reading for many. But other experts have disputed his views, arguing that attending nursery may help equip a child for the challenges of day-to-day life.
In an article for The Biologist journal, Dr Sigman cites studies which show higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in children who go to day care.
The increase only appears up until the age of three or so, but Dr Sigman says it is still important, as the brain develops rapidly during these years.
High levels of cortisol are linked to lower resistance to infection in the short-term and heart disease in the long-term.
Dr Sigman concludes: ‘The effects of day-care on the child continues to be discussed through the prism of adult sexual politics and women’s rights.
‘This has been a significant impediment, involving a serious conflict of interest: Women’s rights and self-fulfilment are not the same issue as a child’s well-being and may often compete for precedence.’
But Dorothy Bishop, professor of developmental neuropsychology at Oxford University, said: ‘There is broad consensus that day-care influences cortisol levels in the short term, but there is no evidence that this has long-term detrimental consequences.’
Dr Stuart Derbyshire, a University of Birmingham psychologist, added that children in day-care may have higher levels of cortisol not because they are stressed, but because they run around more.
Crimes against the British disabled ‘ignored by police and courts’ leaving them living in fear of harassment
Thugs who attack and intimidate the disabled hardly ever face punishment, an inquiry has found. Instead it is the victims who are more likely to be asked to change their lives to stay away from tormentors, it said.
The report blamed a series of institutions for failing to do anything about victimisation of the disabled, including police and the courts, housing associations, local authorities, social workers, and schools.
It said: ‘Hundreds of thousands of disabled people regularly experience harassment or abuse but a culture of disbelief is preventing public authorities from tackling it effectively.’
The Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry follows the case of Fiona Pilkington, the mother who killed herself and her disabled daughter Francecca Hardwick, 18, in 2007 following a decade of abuse which was repeatedly dismissed by police.
Researchers looked at ten other cases, nine of which ended in a death. They said: ‘Perpetrators rarely face any consequences for their actions, while their victims continue to live in fear of harassment. There is often a focus on the victim, questioning their behaviour and vulnerability, rather than dealing with the perpetrators.’
It said 1.9million disabled people were victims of crime last year and they were more likely to be targeted by criminals than others. But police and public sector managers failed to notice what was going on, researchers said.
The report also called on courts to ensure that those convicted of assaults, theft or harassment of the disabled face ‘appropriate sanctions’.
The researchers cited the case of David Askew, a 64-year-old with learning disabilities who died of a heart attack in his garden last year, shortly after a gang had thrown his wheelie bin around and tampered with his mother’s mobility scooter.
Mr Askew was targeted by 26 different people over 12 years, but the response by Manchester police was often slow and his family’s housing association put pressure on the Askews to move.
After Mr Askew’s death one man was prosecuted and sentenced to 16 weeks in prison. However he was released immediately because he had been on remand before his trial.
EHRC commissioner Mike Smith said the police only recorded 1,567 cases of disability hate crime last year. He said it was probably ‘a drop in the ocean’ compared with the high proportion of people reporting disability-related harassment.
Unruly British pupils’ parents should be told: Work with school or lose your benefits, says influential think-tank
Parents with unruly children should have their benefits [welfare payments] taken away if they fail to co-operate with schools, according to an influential report published today.
Respected think-tank the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has found that schools expel pupils too regularly because parents will not work with them to improve their children’s behaviour. As a result, a staggering 22,000 pupils aged five to 16 are sent to pupil referral units (PRUs) – a doubling since Labour came to power in 1997. And the direct burden to the taxpayer is £308million, as it costs £14,000 a year more to educate a child in a PRU than in normal lessons.
The CSJ will today launch its new publication ‘No Excuses: A review of educational exclusion’ with a keynote address from Nick Gibb MP, Minister for Schools at the Pimlico Academy in London, close to Westminster.
The report, written by a number of education experts, calls on the Government to embark on ‘radical reform’. It believes schools should be handed stronger sanctions to coerce irresponsible parents to co-operate with their child’s school to tackle their behaviour. These include the axing of benefit and welfare payments to parents who will not accept the help of their school.
At present, schools can fine parents up to £100 or, in extreme cases of truancy, get them jailed. But only a handful of parents have been convicted and jailed, and just 20,000 fines a year are paid.
Meanwhile violence, bad behaviour and truancy are endemic in England’s schools. Children turn up at primaries wearing gang colours and youngsters as young as seven have been found carrying knives, the report found.
Some children stop attending because they fear for their safety, or even their lives.
Greenie versus Greenie again
Biomass schemes will boost destructive timber imports, claims wood industry. Wood companies and green campaigners say subsidies to power companies threaten both jobs and rainforests
Big wood companies are trying to halt Drax, RWE and others pressing ahead with a raft of lower-carbon energy schemes which would see large power stations switch from burning coal to timber.
The wood industry fears thousands of jobs in its factories will be threatened by the “green” power plans and wants government to remove the subsidies facilitating them.
Wildlife and environmental groups are also alarmed that the new biomass schemes could trigger a huge escalation in wood imports and threaten rainforests.
The Wood Panel Industries Association said: “We have already seen a 50% increase in wood prices over the last three years because of these kinds of energy developments and we do not think they should be receiving subsidies for schemes which we believe are not carbon-friendly and which will require a huge amount of imported wood to support a tenfold increase in planned capacity.”
The lobbying has started ahead of a planned consultation by the Department of Energy and Climate Change into the future level of subsidy through the renewable obligation certificate (ROC) system.
The current subsidy regime for biomass and other clean technology such as wind power runs until 2013. New “banding” is being considered that will run until 2017.
A DECC spokesman said the department was aware of concerns from interest groups about a major escalation in biomass but said it had safeguards in place. “The very clear sustainability criteria we now have in place under the renewables obligation will mean we know where biomass has come from and how it has been grown.
“The UK criteria also include a minimum greenhouse gas emission saving of 60% compared with EU average fossil-fuel use, and restrictions to prevent use of land, such a primary forest and other land important on carbon or biodiversity grounds, from being converted to grow biomass. These criteria apply to both imported and UK biomass.”
It is not just companies such as Canada’s Norbord and Austria’s Egger which are worried about the future of the British factories they run to supply the construction industry and others with wood.
The RSPB wildlife campaign group also says it is “by no means certain” biomass is a low-carbon energy source. Its new report , Bioenergy: a burning issue, says the power companies will move from a 74% dependency on British wood to an 80% dependency on imports where sustainability will be far harder to verify.
Friends of the Earth says it is also concerned about the large-scale imports of biomass wood from overseas which would be “impossible” to control and could create terrible damage through deforestation in the developing world.
The RSPB claims there are 31 biomass plants in operation but 14 more have been approved, 16 are in the planning stage and a further nine have been proposed.
Drax has been co-firing its main 4,000-megawatt plant using coal and a small amount of biomass but has talked about introducing three standalone biomass plants on the same Yorkshire site if the right subsidy regime is in place.
RWE has plans to convert its 1,050-megawatt coal-fired power station at Tilbury in Essex to run entirely on wood pellets, which would make it the UK’s largest biomass plant. The German company has made clear it will import most of the wood supplies from the US.
The Biomass Energy Centre, run by the UK Forestry Commission, argues that wood derived from sustainable forests, where new trees are planted when others are cut down, releases far less carbon than traditional fossil fuels.
“The critical difference between biomass fuels and fossil fuel is that of fossil and contemporary carbon,” it says. “Burning fossil fuels results in converting stable carbon sequestered millions of years ago into atmospheric carbon dioxide when the global environment has adapted to current levels.
“Burning biomass fuels, however, returns to the atmosphere contemporary carbon recently taken up by the growing plant, and currently being taken up by replacement growth.”
Wind farms: the monuments to lunacy that will be left to blot the British landscape
Three separate news items on the same day last week reflected three different aspects of what is fast becoming a full-scale disaster bearing down on Britain. The first item was a picture in The Daily Telegraph showing two little children forlornly holding a banner reading “E.On Hands Off Winwick”.
This concerned a battle to prevent a tiny Northamptonshire village from being dwarfed by seven 410-foot wind turbines, each higher than Salisbury Cathedral, to be built nearby by a giant German-owned electricity firm. The 40 residents, it was reported, have raised £50,0000 from their savings to pay lawyers to argue their case when their village’s fate is decided at an inquiry by a Government inspector.
In the nine years since I began writing here about wind turbines, I have been approached by more than 100 such local campaigns in every part of Britain, trying to fight the rich and powerful companies that have been queuing up to cash in on the vast subsidy bonanza available to developers of wind farms. Having been the chairman of one such group myself, I know just how time-consuming and costly such battles can be. The campaigners are up against a system horribly rigged against them, because all too often – although they may win every battle locally (in our case we won unanimous support from our local council) – in the end an inspector may come down from London to rule that the wind farm must go ahead because it is “government policy”.
I long ago decided that there was little point reporting on most of these individual campaigns, because the only way this battle was going to be won was by exposing the futility of the national policy they were up against. My main aim had to be to bring home to people just how grotesquely inefficient and costly wind turbines are as a way to make electricity – without even fulfilling their declared purpose of reducing CO2 emissions.
Alas, despite all the practical evidence to show why wind power is one of the greatest follies of our age, those who rule our lives, from our own politicians and officials here in Britain to those above them in Brussels, seem quite impervious to the facts.
Hence the two other items reported last week, one being the Government’s proposed changes to our planning rules (already being implemented, even though the “consultation” has scarcely begun) which are drawing fire from all directions. The particular point here, on page 43 of the Government’s document, is a proposal that local planning authorities must “apply a presumption in favour” of “renewable and low-carbon energy sources”.
What this means in plain English is that we can forget any last vestiges of local democracy. Our planning system is to be rigged even more shamelessly than before, to allow pretty well every application to cover our countryside with wind turbines – along with thousands of monster pylons, themselves up to 400 feet high, marching across Scotland, Wales, Suffolk, Somerset and elsewhere to connect them to the grid.
All this is deemed necessary to meet our EU-agreed target to generate nearly a third of our electricity from “renewables” – six times more than we do now – by 2020. This would require building at least 10,000 more turbines, in addition to the 3,500 we already have – which last year supplied only 2.7 per cent of our electricity.
Obviously this is impossible, but our Government will nevertheless do all it can to meet its unreachable target and force through the building of thousands of turbines, capable of producing a derisory amount of electricity at a cost estimated, on its own figures, at £140 billion (equating to £5,600 for every household in the land).
Which brings us to the third of last week’s news items, a prediction by energy consultants Ulyx that a further avalanche of “green” measures will alone raise Britain’s already soaring energy bills in the same nine years by a further 58 per cent.
A significant part of this crippling increase, helping to drive more than half Britain’s households into “fuel poverty”, will be the costs involved in covering thousands of square miles of our countryside and seas with wind turbines. The sole beneficiaries will be the energy companies, which are allowed to charge us double or treble the normal cost of our electricity, through the subsidies hidden in our energy bills; and landowners such as Sir Reginald Sheffield, the Prime Minister’s father-in-law, who on his own admission stands to earn nearly £1,000 a day at the expense of the rest of us, for allowing a wind farm to be built on his Lincolnshire estate.
Even more damaging, however, will be the way this massive investment diverts resources away from the replacement of the coal-fired and nuclear power stations which are due for closure in coming years, threatening to leave a shortfall in our national electricity supply of nearly 40 per cent. If we are to keep our lights on and our economy running, we need – as the CBI warned in a damning report on Friday – urgently to spend some £200 billion on power supply,
But our politicians have been so carried away into their greenie never-never land that they seem to have lost any sight of this disaster bearing down on us. Instead of putting up turbines on the fields of Northants, E.On should be building the grown-up power stations we desperately need. But government energy policy has so skewed the financial incentives of the system that the real money is to made from building useless wind farms.
Sooner or later, this weird policy will be recognised as such a catastrophic blunder that it, and the colossal subsidies that made it possible, will be abandoned. That will leave vast areas of our once green and pleasant land littered with useless piles of steel and concrete, which it will be no one’s responsibility to cart away.
If the Government really wishes to make a useful change to our planning laws, it should insist that every planning permission to build wind turbines should include a requirement that, after their 25-year life, they must be removed at their owners’ expense. Alas, by that time the companies will all have gone bankrupt, and we shall be left with a hideous legacy as a monument to one of the greatest lunacies of our time.
Crocus drug that can kill tumours in one treatment with minimal side effects
In mice. The approach is however a clever one so it is to be hoped that its toxicity can be controlled enough to make it usable in humans
A drug derived from plant extracts could wipe out tumours in a single treatment with minimal side effects, according to research. Scientists have turned a chemical found in crocuses into a ‘smart bomb’ that targets cancerous tumours. Crucially, healthy tissue is unharmed, reducing the odds of debilitating side effects.
And unlike other side effect-free drugs, it is able to kill off more than one type of the disease, including breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancer. Potentially, all solid tumours could be vulnerable to drugs developed this way, meaning it could be used against all but blood cancers.
In some tests of the drug, half of tumours vanished completely after a single injection, the British Science Festival will hear this week.
The drug, based on colchicine, an extract from the autumn crocus, is at an early stage of development, and has so far been tested only on mice. But the University of Bradford researchers are optimistic about its potential in humans.
Professor Laurence Patterson said: ‘What we have designed is effectively a “smart bomb” that can be triggered directly at any solid tumour without appearing to harm healthy tissue. ‘If all goes well, we would hope to see these drugs used as part of a combination of therapies to treat and manage cancer.’
Colchicine has long been known to have anti-cancer properties but has been considered too toxic for use in the human body. To get round this, the researchers attached a chemical ‘tail’ to it, deactivating it until it reaches the cancer. Once there, the tail is cut off by an enzyme called MMP, which is found in tumours.
Removing the tail activates the drug, which then attacks and breaks down the blood vessels supplying the tumours with oxygen and nourishment. Cancers use the blood supply to spread around the body and it is hoped that the treatment, called ICT2588, will also combat this.
The first tests on humans could start in as little as 18 months. If successful, the drug could be on the market in six to seven years.
Henry Scowcroft, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘This is exciting but very early work that hasn’t yet been tested in cancer patients.’ Professor Paul Workman, of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said the results so far were promising. He added: ‘If confirmed in more extensive laboratory studies, drugs based on this approach could be very useful as part of combination treatments.’
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc. I don’t share all of Chris’s views but I applaud his “incorrectness”.