How doctors who can’t spot cancer are cleared to work by medical watchdog that is powerless to stop them
GPs are missing obvious symptoms of life-threatening illnesses, from cancer to heart disease – and the medical watchdog is powerless to stop them, a major investigation has revealed.
The survey of surgeries nationwide uncovered a number of shocking cases, including a family doctor who advised an undercover patient who listed clear signs of bowel cancer to eat mangoes and pears. Another GP mistook the textbook symptoms of angina, a well-known complaint that greatly increases the odds of having a heart attack, for indigestion.
Worryingly, both men had previously been investigated by the General Medical Council for failing to spot cancer but were declared fit to continue treating patients.
The findings that failing GPs are slipping through the net – broadcast tonight on Channel 4’s Dispatches – come as the Government prepares to hand more responsibility to family doctors, giving them control of their budgets.
The investigation has led to calls for GPs to have spot checks and regular tests of competence. Experts have also branded the GMC, which polices doctors, a ‘medical brotherhood’, and called for an independent watchdog to be set up.
Professor Aneez Esmail, one of Britain’s leading experts on general practice and medical advisor to the Shipman Inquiry, set up after the conviction of Harold Shipman for the murder of 15 of his patients while he was a GP in Hyde, near Manchester, said: ‘The end result is not about picking on doctors. ‘The end result is to make sure we improve the system.’
For the Dispatches programme, actors were given information about the key symptoms of common but very serious illnesses, before booking appointments with GPs and secretly filming their consultations. A similar technique is used to train medical students.
One ‘patient’ complained of stomach pain, constipation and passing blood – classic signs of bowel cancer. He saw Dr Inayat Inayatullah in East Ham, East London, who spent much of the consultation on the phone, apparently ordering a photocopier or copying supplies.
He then prescribed a laxative for constipation and told the undercover actor: ‘Try to have plenty of vegetables and fruit. Get yourself some mangoes.’
When the ‘patient’ returned a month later, saying he was still unwell, the doctor simply gave him a stronger remedy for constipation – and recommended green pears. Two other GPs visited by the actor immediately referred him for tests.
Dr Inayatullah was brought before the GMC in 2006 for missing signs of cancer in a young mother of two. He was ordered to have retraining but was not considered a risk to patients. NHS East London said Dr Inayatullah had completed his ‘personal development plan’ and regular monitoring of his practice had ended last year.
Another doctor, Dr Vinod Shamprasadh, a GP in Luton, twice mistook an actress’s ‘heart complaint’ for indigestion, despite her telling him her father had died relatively young of a heart attack. Dr Shamprasadh was given a warning by the GMC last year for failing to spot bowel cancer. His lawyer said that the way he treated the undercover patient was ‘not unreasonable’.
The investigation also reported how a whistleblowing nurse and doctor revealed ‘catastrophic’ organisation of an Oxfordshire surgery run by GP Mark Huckstep last year. Letters about patients needing MRI scans went ‘unactioned’ and letters from consultants requesting a change in medication went ‘unread and unactioned’, it is claimed. In addition, there was a backlog of more than 300 abnormal blood test results and cancer referrals had been delayed, Dispatches claims.
Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust said it had done everything it ‘reasonably could’ when the situation came to light. Dr Richard Green, the trust’s head of clinical governance, added: ‘Very, very few patients – thankfully – had come to harm.’
Dr Huckstep, who was suspended by the trust, said he regretted that letters had not been dealt with properly but said the allegations regarding the blood tests and cancer referrals were inaccurate.
Dame Janet Smith, chairman of the 2005 Shipman Inquiry, which recommended doctors undergo an ‘MOT’ of competence every five years, said: ‘We really do need an independent adjudicator. ‘The leopard doesn’t seem to have changed its spots and it’s still protecting doctors, rather than serving the public interest.’
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said the watchdog’s job was not to punish doctors but to protect patients.
Goodbye, mother and father! Now Parent 1 and Parent 2 appear on British passport form
For decades, passport applicants have been required to provide details of their mother and father. But now, after pressure from the gay lobby, they will be given the option of naming ‘parent 1’ and ‘parent 2’.
The change, which is due to take place within weeks, has been made following claims the original form was ‘discriminatory’ and failed to include same-sex couples looking after a child.
It has led to claims the official travel document is being turned into a ‘PC passport’. Campaigners for family values said the move ‘denigrated’ the roles of parents bringing up children in traditional families. Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said: ‘Fathers and mothers are not interchangeable but have quite distinct roles to play in the care and nurture of their children. ‘To speak of “parent 1” and “parent 2” denigrates the place of both fathers and mothers. ‘Much as the equality and diversity social engineers might wish it were otherwise, it still takes a father and a mother to produce a child.’
The decision follows the revelation last month that details of the holder’s sex could be erased from all passports to spare transgender people from embarrassment.
The latest shift follows lobbying from gay rights groups, who argue that the current passport application form fails to recognise same-sex couples who are both officially registered as a child’s parents. Documents seen by the Daily Mail suggest the change was made as a result of lobbying by the gay rights group Stonewall.
The Home Office ‘Diversity Strategy’ states: ‘IPS [the Identity and Passport Service] is working with Stonewall in response to an issue about having to name a “mother” and “father” on the passport application form.’
Mr Wells added: ‘Like the Labour administration before it, the Coalition seems to be in Stonewall’s grip. ‘It is high time ministers started to represent the interests of the country as a whole and not capitulate to every demand made by a vocal and unrepresentative minority.’
Gay couples are registered as the official parents of any child they adopt. Those who use surrogate mothers must apply to the courts for a ‘parental order’ in order to be recognised as a child’s official parents.
Similar changes have been made in recent months to passport application forms in the U.S., outraging traditional family groups and religious conservatives.
Officials accepted that the move was made following lobbying from gay rights groups who claimed it was discriminatory. But a spokesman for the Identity and Passport Service insisted it was necessary to incorporate same-sex parents on the form so that accurate information is collected.
He said: ‘IPS is planning to amend the application form and associated guidance to deal with same-sex parents applying for a passport on behalf of a child. ‘Currently, the application form provides the relevant boxes of “mother” and “father” to be completed. ‘The new form to be introduced by December 2011 will in addition provide for “parent 1” and “parent 2”.
‘It is essential that any parent provides the necessary information on their status as parents or guardians when applying for a passport on behalf of their child. ‘This protects the interests of the child and ensures that IPS is able to issue passports securely and safely to the right person. ‘The passport application form is therefore being updated to incorporate same-sex parents.’
Gay lobbyists and politicians have long claimed that 10 per cent of the population is homosexual. But figures from the Office for National Statistics last week suggest that this is a wild exaggeration. According to the Integrated Household Survey, homosexuals and bisexuals make up only 1.5 per cent of the population. One per cent said they were gay or lesbian, while 0.5 per cent said they were bisexual.
More men than women declared themselves homosexual, with 1.3 per cent of men saying they were gay compared with 0.6 per cent of women who described themselves as lesbian.
Some 94 per cent said they were heterosexual, 4.3 per cent declined to answer the question or said they did not know, and 0.4 per cent said their sexuality was ‘other’.
AND MALE AND FEMALE ARE ON THE WAY OUT
The proposals are the latest shake-up to established rules for passports.
Last month, the Daily Mail revealed that the Government is preparing to introduce passports without details of the holder’s gender.
It would spare transgender people and those with both male and female organs from having to tick ‘male’ or ‘female’ boxes.
Supporters say it will solve the problem of embarrassing situations at border controls, where people whose sex appears to differ from that in their passport undergo questioning from guards.
As the rules stand, everyone must identify themselves as a man or women, even when they are undergoing sex-change therapy.
But, following pressure from the Lib Dems, the Home Office has begun a consultation on changing the rules.
An end to the male role of breadwinner? The 20-something British women who earn more than men
Women’s average hourly pay is now just over £10 an hour, compared with just under £10 an hour for men
The traditional role of men as the main breadwinner could soon be a thing of the past, it has been claimed. Young women aged between 22 and 29 are now being paid more on average per hour than their male counterparts.
Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admission Service, said the effect could be a result of higher numbers of better-qualified women coming into the work place. She believes it could mean a role reversal, with more women going out to work while their partners stay at home, to take advantage of their higher earning potential.
She said: ‘To me this is a particularly interesting point because if in their mid-twenties women are earning more than men, this opens the possibility that we could see a tipping point at which it becomes more the norm for women – as the higher earners in a family – to return to full-time work, leaving their menfolk to play the part of main carer for children in the family. ‘That could have a profound effect on the representation of women in senior roles and their pay rates across the spectrum.’
Recent figures, which contrast sharply with similar research from 1997 that showed the opposite trend, reveal the gap between men and women’s hourly pay is also closing among 18 to 21-year-olds and 30 to 39-year-olds. It is only among older workers, 40 to 49-year-olds, that men remain significantly ahead of women, earning just over £14 per hour on average while women earn just £12.
Mrs Curnock Cook, who was delivering the Elizabeth Johnson memorial lecture at the Institute of Physics, added: ‘I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’ve come and solved the gender gap in pay rates.’
She said a number of factors could affect future earnings of men and women, but the figures did show it could make sense in some households for the woman to go back to work after childbirth and for the man to take on the caring role.
Recent research found women bosses in their 20s were now paid more than men doing the same jobs. The survey from the Chartered Management Institute found their average salary was £21,969 a year, £600 more than a man could expect at the same level. But the report said across all age groups women executives were still paid 25 per cent less than men.
The findings were based on a survey of 34,000 managers, and backed up evidence from official statistics that the traditional gender pay gap has gone into reverse among the young.
The closing of the gender pay gap follows more than a decade of greater educational achievement by girls than boys and a view among some employers that they are more ambitious and efficient.
The institute also found salaries for women went up by 2.4 per cent in the year to February, compared with 2.1 per cent for men.
The £21,969 salary of a junior female executive – typically in food retail or the Health Service – compares with £21,367 for a male counterpart.
Britain waking up to the ill-effects of minimum wage laws too
The minimum wage may be pricing young people out of work because employers are finding it too expensive to give them their first job, Government pay advisers have said.
Firms may be reluctant to create jobs by recruiting inexperienced staff because they are put off by the increased wage bill, the Low Pay Commission has suggested.
The Commission’s intervention comes amid calls from businesses for minsters to freeze or even cut the rate to enable more young people to find work.
Conservative ministers meeting at the party’s conference are to promise a raft of measures to boost the stalling UK economy. The claims will add to pressure on the Government to go further.
New rates for the minimum wage took effect on Saturday. For 18-20 year olds, the minimum wage is now £4.98, up from £4.92. For 16-17 year olds, the new rate is £3.68, up from £3.64.
Tim Butcher, the commission’s chief economist told the Daily Telegraph that the body is launching a new investigation into the role the minimum wage has played in Britain’s growing youth unemployment problem.
Official figures last month showed that almost 1 million of the 2.5 million people officially counted as unemployed in Britain are aged between 16 and 24.
Almost 220,000 have been out of work for more than a year and some economists fear a “lost generation” of young people who never learn the habits of work and face a lifelong struggle ever to find employment.
In its official advice to the Government on this year’s pay rates, the commission raised concerns about younger workers, the first such warning since the introduction of the legal minimum rate in 1999.
The commission’s move is will put he minimum wage on the agenda as ministers search for ways to help companies prosper…. The British Chambers of Commerce said that the minimum wage should be part of the effort to reinvigorate the economy.
Adam Marshall, Director of Policy at the BCC said that there should be a freeze in the minimum wage for younger workers, followed by a consultation with employers about a gradual reduction in the rate.
“The concern is that the current rate is discouraging some employees from taking on young people and giving them a chance to get into the workplace,” he said. “Some companies are finding the rate is a real problem.”
Under this year’s rates, workers over 21 must legally be paid at least £6.08 an hour, up from £5.93. That is a 2.5 per cent rise. By contrast, this year’s rise in youth rates is 1 per cent, reflecting the commission’s concerns about youth unemployment.
Tories call up the ‘Sergeant Major’ to fix lawless schools — as boss of education watchdog
The tough-talking head of an inner city comprehensive is expected to become the new boss of the education watchdog. Sir Michael Wilshaw, known as ‘the Sergeant Major’ for his unashamedly traditional and disciplinarian approach to education, is likely to be appointed as chief inspector at Ofsted this month.
It is understood that Michael Gove has been trying to persuade him to take on the role for months to help him tackle lawless classrooms. The Education Secretary has long been an admirer of Sir Michael and once described him as ‘my hero’ for turning round an East London comprehensive.
Since becoming the head of Mossbourne Community Academy when it was launched in 2004 to replace the failed Hackney Downs School, Sir Michael has insisted on a strict code of discipline. His traditionalist views could make him as unpopular with unions and the education establishment as Sir Chris Woodhead, the head of Ofsted from 1994 to 2000.
Sir Chris’s tenure was marked by clashes after he claimed there were 15,000 incompetent teachers who should be sacked.
A source said Sir Michael had finally decided to take the job, but only after great hesitation, partly because of his age – he was 65 in August. Another said that, while contracts had not been signed, no significant obstacles remained.