Two-thirds of women would want to avoid NHS hospitals
The word is getting out
More than two-thirds of women say they would rather suffer at home rather than go to hospital if they were ill, because of fears over the standard of care they would receive. Three-quarters of those questioned in a survey also said they or an elderly relative had been treated in an unsatisfactory way by the NHS.
The findings, in a poll carried out by the Townwomen’s Guilds ahead of a new campaign to give vulnerable patients more of a voice, come amid widespread concerns that basic standards of care on hospital wards are being missed by university-educated nurses and unregulated healthcare assistants.
The health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, has found that doctors are having to prescribe water to some pensioners to ensure they do not go thirsty, while the head of the Royal College of Nursing has called for relatives to help feed loved ones in hospital and take them to the lavatory.
One Townswomen’s Guild member told how she twice found her elderly husband left naked in a hospital bed, while a nurse was unable to say if he had taken his medication. Another woman saw a nurse giving out food after taking a patient to the lavatory, while in a separate case a woman claimed her friend would have starved in a geriatric ward if she hadn’t gone in to help her eat and drink.
Pauline Myers, chairman of the Townswomen’s Guilds, said: “As one of Britain’s leading women’s groups, and with a membership of over 30,000 ladies, we are concerned that older and other more vulnerable patients are suffering due to insufficient care and staffing levels when they are required to stay in hospital.
“The stories we have heard from our own members have been extremely distressing and unfortunately they will not be alone as thousands of older people continue to suffer unnecessarily. The importance of this issue can’t be overstated as the current state of affairs amounts to nothing short of abuse.”
The survey of 222 members found that 74 per cent said the care they or an elderly relative had received in hospital was “less than satisfactory”, while 69 per cent said they would be reluctant to be admitted because of the expected standard of care.
In addition, 54 per cent said they had been left disappointed by hospital care and 49 per cent said they had been “spoken down to” by NHS staff.
The guild’s Hear My Voice campaign is called for every hospital to employ a consultant, known as a geriatrician, to provide specialist care for the elderly.
Demonic British police
A mother was arrested for murder after hospital misdiagnosed her son, 3, and sent him home to die. Is every parent who loses a child to be treated as a murderer?
The young mother of a three-year-old toddler who died of a chest infection was arrested on suspicion of his murder and held in a police cell for 24 hours, an inquest heard today.
Abby Podmore, 20, whose son Alfie Podmore had been misdiagnosed by hospital staff, was prevented from seeing his body until 10 days after his death.
In a statement to the inquest at Birmingham Coroner’s Court, Ms Podmore, from Quinton, Birmingham, described her arrest as a ‘horrifying’ event which had robbed her of the chance to grieve for Alfie.
In the statement, which was read to the court by Birmingham Coroner Aidan Cotter, Ms Podmore told how her son was taken ill while at his nursery on February 2.
Alfie, who was not known to social services, was taken to Birmingham Children’s Hospital the following day, but was discharged after staff failed to diagnose a developing infection on his lung.
The inquest heard that antibiotics may have saved Alfie, but he was instead given antacid medication and he died at his home on February 6.
Ms Podmore was arrested on suspicion of his murder just hours after his death. In her statement, Ms Podmore said a doctor at the hospital had told her that Alfie, who had a fever and shoulder pain, was suffering from a virus.
The grieving mother, who works as a dental nurse, said: ‘We just thought this was a 24-hour bug and he would get better.’
Relating how she tried in vain to revive Alfie when she found him on the morning of February 6, Ms Podmore added: ‘I knew he was not breathing so I started to give him CPR.’ An ambulance then arrived, the inquest heard, but police then asked Ms Podmore to leave the house and change out of her clothes.
Commenting on her arrest for murder, Ms Podmore said: ‘I found it distressing because I wanted to be with his body. ‘I was in a state of shock and didn’t know what was going on.’
Two riot vans and a total of 15 police officers then arrived at the address and Ms Podmore’s partner was also detained by the police. Ms Podmore continued: ‘I couldn’t believe what was happening – I felt like I was being treated like a criminal.’
Neighbours had looked on as Ms Podmore and her partner were arrested, Mr Cotter was told, and the pair were then taken to separate police stations.
It was only when a doctor acting on behalf of the Birmingham Coroner informed police that Alfie had died from natural causes that her innocence was recognised. A post-mortem later revealed that he had suffered from pneumonia, a bacterial infection and septicemia.
Although Ms Podmore’s partner was released quickly, she was kept in custody until the following day. ‘I remained in a police station for 24 hours,’ she said. ‘Looking back, I feel I have been robbed of the chance to say goodbye to Alfie.’
Ms Podmore only just returned home this week after living with relatives since the incident. She said some members of the community still believed she played some part in Alfie’s death.
Paying tribute to her first son, she said; ‘He was boisterous, happy. He was always smiling, dancing. Everything he did made me laugh. I have lost all that now. It has been hard to come back home because he is not here so it doesn’t feel like the same place anymore. The happiness has been sucked out.’
In a statement released in July, West Midlands Police said it had launched an internal investigation into the circumstances of the 21-year-old mother’s arrest.
Suspicious British social workers ‘wouldn’t even allow you to adopt your own children’
Most people would be barred from adopting their own children because of the rules imposed by social workers, the head of a children’s charity said yesterday.
Anne Marie Carrie, of Barnardo’s, said couples coming forward to adopt were treated with ‘enormous suspicion’ and their treatment was a tragedy both for them and the children left languishing in state care.
She spoke amid a chorus of disappointment from charity leaders, ministers and the Government’s ‘adoption czar’ over figures showing that the number of children escaping the care system to new adoptive families is in decline.
Although numbers in care, with regularly changing foster parents or in children’s homes, have shot up to 65,520, numbers adopted have fallen to 3,050, 5 per cent down in a year.
Only 60 babies, barely more than one a week, were adopted last year – even though all evidence shows that the younger a child is placed with a new family, the better their chances in life.
And the figures, released on Wednesday by the Department for Education, show that white children in care have a three times better chance of being adopted than black children. The failure follows years in which governments led by both Labour and Tories have promised to encourage adoption.
Earlier this year Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said the apartheid-style race rules that have long prevented couples adopting a child of a different ethnic background would be swept away.
But social workers still insist on extensive home trials of would-be parents and exhaustive examinations of both their parenting skills and their attitudes and thinking. Middle-class couples regularly complain that they are effectively bullied out of trying to adopt.
And in 1998 then council social services head Moira Gibb – now a government adviser on social work training – said society ‘has decided it no longer wants to see babies farmed out to middle-class mothers’.
On Radio 4’s Today Programme yesterday, Miss Carrie, chief executive of Barnardo’s, said: ‘It is a tragedy for those children who have been languishing in the care system, and it is a tragedy for those people who have come forward who want to be parents and adopt a child. ‘We treat them with enormous suspicion, and we set thresholds for people who want to be adoptive parents that frankly mean you and I would not be allowed to adopt our own children.’
She added that social workers still try too hard to return children to incapable or evil parents who cannot or do not look after them. ‘We are too slow to see that some parenting is not good enough,’ she said, adding that some mothers were allowed ‘chance after chance’.
Her criticisms were echoed by the Government’s adoption adviser, Martin Narey. He said there was a shortage of adoptive parents ‘because of a process of parental assessment that is attitudinally and procedurally flawed: a process that discourages too many applications in the first place, wears out excellent would-be adopters along the way and, even when it works satisfactorily, takes too long’. Mr Narey said the adoption figures would soon improve.
Within hours of the startlingly low figures being released, hundreds of Mail Online readers swamped our messages boards with details of their personal battles to adopt. The comments of one, Alistair from Co Durham, were typical. ‘We already have one child of our own but felt we could offer another child a home,’ he wrote. ‘But they want to know every single fact of our lives right back to childhood. It’s truly terrifying and of the 12 couples who applied with us I know of ten who withdrew. The entire fostering and adoption process is a brutal inquisition filled with threats and intimidation.
‘When we and some other couples who dropped out of the adoption inquisition got together we came to the conclusion that actually the social workers do not want to place children in homes as it would put their jobs at risk if all the kids were found homes and it would remove from them the almost god-like power they have over the families and children.’
Numbers of children taken into care rose quickly after the Baby P scandal in 2008. Children who are not adopted and remain in care are unlikely to do well in life. Wednesday’s figures showed that one in three teenagers who has recently left state care is a NEET – not in education, employment or training.
Batty British bureaucracy again
Van travels 100 miles to take a suspect in cuffs 60 yards to court… and, you’ve guessed, the farce is all to protect his human rights
A prison van was sent almost 100 miles to take a suspect to court because it was claimed that walking him in handcuffs for 60 yards could breach his human rights.
Oliver Thomas, 27, accused of public order offences, was due to face magistrates after spending the night in a cell at the police station next door in Banbury, Oxfordshire.
But to spare him the shame of a 30-second walk in public, the private company which transports prisoners sent a fortified van across three counties to drive him there at an estimated cost of £1,000.
This made him late for a separate appearance on an attempted robbery charge at Oxford Crown Court, where Judge Tom Corrie condemned the waste of taxpayer cash.
‘I’m not quite sure why he couldn’t be walked across the street rather than sending a van from Southampton,’ he said. ‘I wonder how much public money has been wasted.’
Thomas had been held at the police station after being arrested over two alleged public order offences. GEOAmey, the company responsible for transporting prisoners, is based in Oxford, a few miles from Banbury.
However, it claims, its local staff were all busy so it decided to send a van on the two-hour journey from Southampton to avoid walking Thomas between the two buildings and to protect his identity. A spokesman insisted: ‘Police wouldn’t expect us to turn up at Banbury, handcuff a prisoner and take him down the street and to the court.
‘Generally speaking we don’t see that in this country. It strays into the area of human rights. They have a right to have their identity protected.’
GEOAmey is paid more than £90million a year to transport defendants between prisons, police stations and courts on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. Glyn Travis, of the Prison Officers’ Association, said: ‘This is a prime example of how the privatised system is a constant drain on public resources.
‘In the past police would have been able to walk him to the station themselves but now because of the contracts with private companies they are not able to do so. It is wrong for the contractors to think they needed to move a van nearly 100 miles to protect the human rights of the prisoner.
‘It is not unusual to walk prisoners in handcuffs through the streets in situations where the distance is short or there is no access for prison vans. This is another example of where the human rights of offenders is completely disproportionate to reality.’
GEOAmey boasted it would bring ‘innovation and maximise efficiencies’ when its ten-year contract was awarded in March. Its spokesman added: ‘Our staff collected Mr Thomas from Banbury in the morning and assisted with duties at the court until mid-afternoon, then delivered prisoners to other prisons.’
A police spokesman said: ‘It may be possible for officers to assist with prisoner transport, as we work in partnership with the contractor. ‘However, every situation will need to be decided on its merits.’
British middle-class students face fresh squeeze on university places
Middle-class teenagers face missing out on university places next year after institutions were ordered to admit more disadvantaged students. Currently, universities set their own targets on increasing the number of applicants from ‘under-represented’ groups, such as those from low income families.
From today, universities have been ordered to set ‘at least one target’ on increasing the number of such students they actually admit, instead of simply focusing on attracting applications.
The change, demanded by the Office for Fair Access, the higher education watchdog, is a trade-off for being allowed to charge up to £9,000 a year in student tuition fees. Universities could be stripped of the right to charge the higher fees unless they meet the new demand.
Elite universities will face intense scrutiny from OFFA next year as figures show that only one in seven students at Oxford and one in eight at Cambridge qualify for full maintenance grants – available only to poorer students – from the Government.
This compares to more than 50 per cent at Bedfordshire University. All institutions wishing to charge above the basic current fee of £1,285 a year must have an approved ‘access agreement’ in place with OFFA. This lays out the targets set by the university for improving access among ‘under-represented’ groups.
A report for 2009-2010 published today by OFFA found that one in four universities had not yet met their targets. These included universities such as Cambridge, Bristol and Warwick.
Sir Martin Harris, director of OFFA, said he was ‘concerned’ to understand the reasons why the targets had not been met. He added that from 2012-13, OFFA will ‘require institutions to set themselves at least one target around broadening their entrant pool’. Sir Martin went on: ‘Up to now it has been possible for institutions to restrict their targets to broadening their applicant pool’.
But Dr Tim Hands, headmaster of Magdalen College School, Oxford, said: ‘It’s difficult to see that [this] isn’t social engineering. ‘It’s also difficult to see that it won’t affect subjects like engineering, maths and modern foreign languages which the Government has identified as crucial to the economy.’
British schools will be judged on gay and gipsy pupils’ progress
Schools will be penalised if they fail to improve the progress of ‘vulnerable’ groups of pupils such as those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual.
New Ofsted guidelines reveal that heads of primary and secondary schools must show their education ‘meets the needs of the range of pupils’ in their classrooms, including gipsy and traveller children.
Schools could see their teaching being judged ‘inadequate’ if they do not reduce gaps in achievement between different groups who make up a significant proportion of their student population.
New Ofsted guidelines reveal that heads of primary and secondary schools must show their education ¿meets the needs of the range of pupils¿ in their classrooms, including gipsy and traveller children.
New Ofsted guidelines reveal that heads of primary and secondary schools must show their education ‘meets the needs of the range of pupils’ in their classrooms, including gipsy and traveller children. Picture posed by models
However, critics hit out at the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual pupils in an Ofsted list of groups that could be monitored for signs of progress.
They insist that head teachers will not wish to pry into the private lives of pupils and claim that youngsters should be treated as individuals, not groups.
There are also fears that teachers will feel forced to categorise pupils by their sexuality at a time when they are young and impressionable.
But an Ofsted spokesman insisted last night: ‘It is about schools being aware of the different groups of pupils that might attend their schools and doing all they can to ensure they reach their full potential. ‘These groups could differ depending on the nature and type of school and Ofsted does not have a prescriptive list.’
Today Ofsted unveils a new inspection framework which will make it harder for schools to be ranked ‘outstanding’. From next January, inspectors will concentrate on four key areas: achievement of pupils; quality of teaching and learning; effectiveness of leadership and management, and standards of behaviour and safety.
However, there will be an even greater focus on ‘narrowing gaps in performance’ for different groups of pupils such as ethnic minorities and children in care. Inspectors will evaluate the standards achieved and progress made by these cohorts compared with other pupils in the school and with national trends.
New Ofsted guidance says: ‘It is important to test the school’s response to individual needs by observing how well it helps all pupils to make progress and fulfil their potential, especially those whose needs, dispositions, aptitudes or circumstances require particularly perceptive and expert teaching and/or additional support.
‘In any particular school, such pupils may include disabled pupils; boys; girls; groups of pupils whose prior attainment may be different from that of other groups; those who are academically more able; pupils for whom English is an additional language; minority ethnic pupils; gipsy, Roma and traveller children; pupils known to be eligible for free school meals; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual pupils; young carers, pupils from low income backgrounds and other vulnerable groups.’
Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders criticised the highlighting of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual pupils. He said: ‘I’m not aware of any way in which such pupils might be identified in a school. It would be inappropriate for any headteacher to pry into the private lives of children.’
Russell Hobby of the National Association of Head Teachers said: ‘It would be simpler to say that every pupil should reach their potential. Each school will have different groups and communities.
‘What an inspector used to do, and should do, is go in and look and what the broad types of pupils are and look at whether there are any groups that are falling behind and home in on those. ‘But if you start getting rigid and start defining all these subcategories at length, the data can become less and less meaningful.’
Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham University branded the list ‘absurd’. He said: ‘Schools have my sympathy. It’s political correctness that will get in the way of educating every child to his or her potential.’
The new Ofsted framework, which will come into effect in January, applies to all primary and secondary schools in England.
Bee sting vaccine on the NHS
A very welcome development
A ‘vaccine’ that protects people vulnerable to severe reactions from bee and wasps stings is to be made available on the NHS. People who have already suffered a serious reaction to a bee or wasp sting will be able to ask their GP for the ‘vaccine’
About one in 200 people suffer from anaphylaxis when stung by a wasp or bee.
Every year between two and nine people die after going into anaphylatic shock – the most extreme form of anaphylaxis – as a result of being stung. Contrary to popular belief, wasp stings actually cause twice as many deaths due to anaphylaxis as bee stings.
Now the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which decides on whether treatments can be prescribed on the NHS in England and Wales, has indicated it will approve a product called Pharmalgen.
Given in a series of injections, this works by gradually introducing higher doses of the allergens in bee and wasp venom. Over time, this desensitises a person by gently stimulating their immune system. Treatment is carried out in two phases: the initial phase and the maintenance phase, which lasts three years.
Anaphylactic reactions are when the immune system responds inappropriately to an allergen, releasing large quantities of chemicals called histamines, that cause blood capillaries to dilate and blood pressure to drop. In extreme cases airways can collapse and the heart can fail.
In draft guidance that is highly likely to be confirmed early next year, Nice announced it was recommending Pharmalgen for people who had experienced “a severe systemic reaction to bee or wasp venom”.
Nice also recommended it for those who had experienced a “moderate systemic reaction” and were also at “a high risk of future stings”, had a raised level of a blood serum known to indicate anaphylaxis, or were “anxious about future stings”.
Professor Peter Littlejohns, clinical and public health director at Nice said: “The reactions that some people experience to stings from bees and wasps can be distressing, frightening and sometimes life-threatening.
“People who have had a serious reaction to a sting can often experience extreme anxiety about possible future stings, and this can affect their daily lives. “So we are pleased to be able to recommend Pharmalgen as an effective, preventative treatment in preliminary recommendations issued today.”
Pharmalgen is the first preventative medicine for bee and wasp stings that Nice has recommended for approval.
Anaphylaxis can be effectively controlled by quickly administering adrenaline by injection. This constricts blood vessels, relaxes muscles in the lungs to aid breathing, stimlulates the heart to beat properly and stops facial swelling.
However, sometimes it cannot be given quickly enough. Last October farmer John Croall, 52, died after being stung while herding sheep in a remote field near Balkeerie, Angus. Ambulance crews were unable to reach him soon enough and the father-of-three died after suffering anaphylactic shock.
Moira Austin, of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, welcomed Nice’s decision to approve it. She said: “The Anaphylaxis Campaign has been participating as a patient/carer consultee in the Pharmalgen appraisal, representing those living with severe allergy to bee or wasp venom.
“We have spoken with many individuals who have been successfully treated with Pharmalgen and who have, as a result, experienced a significant improvement in their quality of life. “We are delighted with the appraisal committee’s preliminary recommendations and look forward to their final recommendations.“
There could be some eyebrows raised about the cost of providing the treatment. Nice usually sets a ceiling of £30,000 per ‘quality adjusted life year’ (QALY) that a medication brings.
Its appraisal committee modelled the cost at £13,800 per QALY, but this was based on a course of Pharmalgen remaining effective for 20 years, for which members admitted there was no evidence.
The committee also said the cost assumption was highly sensitive to the number of stings a person might receive: the fewer, the less cost-effective it was.