NHS boss on the receiving end of bad treatment for a change
A health boss will have to wear a pacemaker for the rest of his life after a serious error from doctors as they performed routine surgery.
Steve Edwards, 51, was undergoing a third operation to try and regularise his heartbeat but surgeons at Bristol Royal Infirmary accidentally burnt away muscle on the wrong side of his heart.
The NHS manager, who was under local anaesthetic, was then shaken awake mid-surgery and told the life-saving device needed to be fitted.
The devastated father-of-two and practice manager for Worle and St Georges GP surgeries in Somerset, only realised weeks later how serious the blunder was.
While he was under local anesthetic doctors had burnt away the muscle on the right side of his heart rather than on the left side meaning doctors were forced to fit the battery-operated box.
Mr Edwards said today: ‘This was a serious matter and very traumatic. It’s shocking that a mistake like this can be made.
‘Every seven years I will need to be opened up so that the batteries can be replaced in my pacemaker and I may have to have a new one in time. ‘Both of these things pose risks as I get older. This whole thing affected my self-esteem and traumatised me.’
The potentially deadly mistake was made in April 2008 with hospital chiefs initially denying the blunder. But an apology has now been issued and Mr Edwards has been paid substantial out-of-court compensation.
In a letter, University Hospitals Bristol chief executive Robert Woolley admitted the operation had been carried out on the wrong side of the heart. Mr Woolley said: ‘I understand the trust has obtained information that indicates this occurred due to technical errors during the procedure.’
The hospital claims a piece of equipment slipped, causing the radio frequency to be delivered to the wrong side of the heart. It said that as a result of the mistake further checks are now made to make sure the equipment is correctly placed during such procedures.
Mr Edwards added: ‘I would wake up with nightmares, thinking that a little machine is keeping my heart going.
‘This was not a matter of blame but of making sure someone took responsibility for this and apologised for what happened. ‘It is frustrating that the trust did not accept fault earlier.
‘Sadly this is something that I all too often see in medical negligence claims and it only serves to delay settlement, unnecessarily increases legal costs and reduces patients’ trust in the NHS.’
Don’t sneer at ‘frequent flyer’ patients: Doctors told to stop using common NHS insult
Doctors are insulting seriously ill patients who are regularly taken to hospital by describing them as ‘frequent flyers’, a leading GP said yesterday.
Clare Gerada said the term was degrading as it referred to ‘people who are sick and need our care and attention’. The phrase is widely used by NHS staff out of patients’ earshot to describe anyone who is admitted frequently to a hospital A&E unit.
Many of those labelled as ‘frequent flyers’ are elderly or have serious illnesses such as asthma, heart problems or diabetes.
Dr Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said doctors must never forget ‘the simple act of caring’ for their patients. In a speech to 1,500 family doctors at the RCGP’s annual conference in Liverpool, she urged them not to lose sight of the patient as a person.
She also warned that the Government’s controversial health Bill risked turning the NHS into a ‘budget airline’ – with the wealthiest able to ‘muscle in first’.
In future there could be two queues of patients waiting for hospital treatment – the private and the NHS queue. She likened this to an easyJet or Ryanair flight which has a separate queue for priority boarding. Patients who could afford private treatment would be seen first while the rest would be left waiting ‘on the tarmac’, she said.
Dr Gerada was referring to specific proposals within the Bill which would allow NHS hospitals to treat many more private patients to boost their profits. Currently they can treat only a handful of private patients while the vast majority – at least 90 per cent – must be NHS patients.
The Government wants to allow the 140 top-performing hospitals, known as foundation trusts, to treat as many private patients as they like.
There are concerns that this would lead to wealthier patients jumping to the front of hospital waiting lists while those unable to pay would face lengthy delays for surgery or treatment.
Dr Gerada added: ‘I do worry that this won’t work out well for the vast majority of patients.’
She also warned that the health Bill – which centres on GPs being put in charge of local NHS budgets – could erode the relationship between doctors and their patients.
GPs would be under constant pressure to keep their budgets low and this could deter them from giving patients expensive but vital treatments.
She said that in future, doctors may not want to refer deaf children for an operation for a cochlear ear implant to enable them to hear. ‘We’ll have to choose between the best interests of our patients and the commissioning group’s purse,’ she added.
‘We’ll also be rewarded for staying in budget and not spending the money on restoring that child’s hearing. Now that’s what I call a perverse incentive.’
Brilliant new Leftist policy in Britain: Throw the elderly out of their homes to make room for migrants!
When I was there a third of a century ago, Brits seemed to love their OAPs (elderly) but with chronic neglect by the NHS — and now this — the change seems drastic. Britain seems to become a less civil society with every week that goes by — JR
How sickening that politicians who allowed mass immigration and failed to build enough houses are bullying the British elderly into giving up their homes
Have you ever heard of the Intergenerational Foundation? I hadn’t until yesterday. And yet this obscure organisation was wheeled out on the Today programme on Radio 4 and given the prime slot reserved for the most important issue of the day.
The Intergenerational Foundation, which is described as a charity, believes older people should be encouraged to move into smaller homes as part of the solution to the ‘housing crisis’. It says that more than half of over-65s are in homes with two or more spare bedrooms, which could be pressed into greater use. In fact, it claims there are 25 million unused bedrooms in England.
How gloriously simple! Why has no one thought of it before? Don’t panic, though, if you are an elderly homeowner — at least, not yet. At any rate for the time being, the suggestion, given such sympathetic and extensive treatment by the BBC, is that the aged should be coaxed, not forced, into giving up their supposedly large houses.
Everyone knows that, very regrettably, young people are finding it difficult to enter the housing market. This is partly because first-time mortgages are difficult to obtain as a consequence of the credit crunch.
A more fundamental explanation is that fewer homes are being built than at any time since the Twenties. Only 105,000 were put up last year. Ordinary houses in London, the South-East and some other parts of the country are among the most expensive in the world.
There are simply not enough new homes. Meanwhile, there are more than 700,000 unoccupied houses in Britain that no one seems to be willing or able to do anything about.
One aggravating factor, which is scarcely ever mentioned in polite circles, is the high level of net immigration into this country. Last year, it amounted to 239,000. The population of the UK is expected to increase by nine million to 70 million by 2025, largely because of immigration.
These people will have to live somewhere. Think of it. In little more than a decade, our population will grow by the equivalent of 20 cities the size of Sheffield or Leeds, in large measure because the last government did not control the influx of immigrants.
Enter the Left-leaning Intergenerational Foundation with its sinister new proposals.
Instead of urging the Government to increase the supply of new homes or to do something about reducing the demand, it fixes on elderly homeowners and tries to make them feel guilty about occupying so much space. A nasty new concept is entering the lexicon: ‘bedroom blocking’.
Isn’t this outrageous? If you own your own home and are in your 60s, the chances are that you have not long ago paid off your mortgage — or perhaps you haven’t yet managed to do so. You have saved, and probably sometimes gone without, in order to buy your own house, which, now that it is finally yours, interfering busybodies urge you to leave. It’s hardly your fault if it has risen sharply in value.
The suggestion that you should up sticks is not merely terribly unfair. It is also a form of ageism. The Intergenerational Foundation appears to think the elderly can and should be pushed aside in favour of rising generations. They are not allowed to enjoy the fruits of a lifetime’s labour.
Of course, some people in their 50s and 60s choose to down size. Maybe they want to liberate some capital. Or perhaps, living on a smaller income, they want to reduce the outgoings of having a larger house.
But many others do not want to move out. They have grown attached to the place where they live. They may associate it with bringing up their children. The house has become for them so much more than four walls. It is a continuing celebration of a shared family life.
Here we come to the absolutely crucial point which the Intergenerational Foundation, in its bleak and utilitarian way, ignores, or simply does not understand. We live in an age of atomised families, where grown-up children increasingly work far from where their parents live.
And so the enduring family home remains the thread that can still bind together disparate parts of a family. The second or third bedroom may sometimes, or even often, be unoccupied, but their existence allows children and grandchildren to come and stay, and the family to retain its sense of identity and unity in an otherwise splintered world.
In other words, the family home with its one or two spare bedrooms — we are not usually talking about mansions here — is the bedrock of family life. Take it away, and the family, already under threat on so many other fronts, will struggle even harder to survive.
To which the Intergenerational Foundation might reply: what about young people who are not in a position to start a family because they are unable to buy a home of their own? Surely, the answer to that question should not involve undermining existing, hard-pressed families.
Successive governments have failed to meet demand for the reasons I have mentioned. There are too many people chasing too few affordable houses. Until or unless the Government brings demand and supply into some sort of equilibrium, young people will continue to find it hard to get on the housing ladder, the more so as long as the economy remains in the doldrums.
What alarms me is that the Intergenerational Foundation’s ideas should have been treated so respectfully by the BBC, as though they had been brought down wholesale from Mount Sinai, and no one was given the opportunity to say they are discriminatory and coercive. Nor was it mentioned that some of the ‘brains’ behind the Foundation are those of the Labour shadow minister Tessa Jowell. She, of course, was a leading light of the last Labour administration, which was mostly responsible for the pressure on housing.
I’m afraid that the response of Grant Shapps, the housing minister, was somewhat less robust than one might have hoped. He said: ‘We do not agree that people should be taxed or bullied out of their homes.’
He could have added that people who have worked a lifetime have a right to stay in their homes without being made to feel guilty. He should have said that in maintaining family homes the elderly are often upholding family life.
In fairness to Mr Shapps, he wants to double the number of homes being built in this country, though he has been criticised for wanting to relax planning laws. The truth is that we are going to need much more than the 200,000 new houses a year envisaged by Mr Shapps if the crisis is ever going to be solved.
Governments, not home-owners, are to blame — for permitting the population to balloon and for not encouraging, or allowing, enough houses to be built. How sickening that Ms Jowell and her Foundation should be trying to bully the elderly into giving up their homes.
Thousands of Brits dying because they can’t afford heating bills… and green taxes are adding to the burden
More than 2,700 people are dying each year in England and Wales because they cannot afford to keep their homes warm, according to an official study.
The spiralling cost of gas and electricity combined with the impact of green taxes is putting health and lives at risk, researchers found.
The study concluded that green taxes on household power bills are `regressive’ and have a disproportionate impact on poorer households.
The warning of the dangers to health comes from social policy expert Professor John Hills, of the London School of Economics, in a study commissioned by Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne.
On the policy of adding green taxes to bills, Professor Hills said: `Those energy and climate policies that lead to higher prices will largely have a regressive impact.’
He highlighted a government study which found that the poorest one-fifth of households would see their income fall 0.8 per cent as a direct result of green taxes and the move to renewable energy, while the richest fifth would break even.
Professor Hills said: `Whether this regressive outcome, which would tend to increase fuel poverty, occurs depends on both more recent developments, such as the Warm Home Discount, and decisions yet to be taken.’
The Warm Home Discount of œ120 off electricity bills is currently being offered to around 600,000 of the poorest households.
Green taxes designed to meet a œ200billion bill to switch to wind, wave, solar and nuclear power currently add around œ100 to annual bills.
However, this figure is set to rise sharply in the next few years and will hit the poor, particularly pensioners on fixed incomes, harder than most.
Recent inflation-busting increases in energy tariffs have pushed average annual bills up by œ175 to a record high of œ1,345.
The figure for deaths is higher than the number killed on the roads and has brought demands for urgent government action.
Professor Hills’s interim report found: `Most dramatically, the UK has a higher rate of “excess winter deaths” than other countries with colder climates.
`Even if, at a conservative estimate, only a tenth of “excess winter deaths” are due to fuel poverty, that means 2,700 people are dying each year in England and Wales, more than die on the roads.’ However, his report conceded that the true number of premature deaths linked to the cold could be considerably higher at around 5,400. It said: `Health impacts caused by exposure to cold tend to relate to cardiovascular and respiratory problems.
`Low temperatures are also associated with diminished resistance to infections and the incidence of damp and mould in the home.
`These effects are most important for the youngest children and increase for the most elderly.’ Professor Hills found that poor pensioners and families are having to spend an extra œ1.1billion a year in total on heat because they often live in poorly-insulated, cold and draughty homes.
He said they do not have the money to pay for home insulation, double-glazing and gas efficient boilers at the same time as covering other essentials.
`People with hard-to-heat properties may trade off other necessities to keep warm, at the most dramatic facing a choice of “heat or eat”, with some evidence of reduced food spending at times of the very lowest temperatures by pensioners with the lowest incomes,’ he said.
Derek Lickorish, chairman of the Government’s Fuel Poverty Advisory Group, described the death figures as a disgrace and said they `should set an alarm bell ringing very loudly’.
He stressed it is important to find new ways to finance a move to green energy, other than what amounts to adding charges to everyone’s bill.
`Urgent action must start today to mitigate the impact of high energy bills including reviewing the way in which costs are recovered through energy bills to decarbonise our energy,’ he said.
British High School passes soar by 23% over 15 years as grade inflation runs rampant
Rampant grade inflation has apparently continued unchecked for yet another year as rising numbers of teenagers were awarded good GCSE grades. Official figures show 23 per cent more youngsters had good GCSE pass rates this summer compared with 1995/96.
This is the equivalent of an additional 150,000 teens reaching the government benchmark of five C grades or higher at GCSE, including English and maths. In the past year alone, the number of pupils who achieved the benchmark (58.3 per cent) represented a year-on-year increase of 4.5 per cent.
The astonishing figures from the Department for Education show the extent to which GCSE pass rates ballooned under the last Labour government.
And in another twist, just one in six pupils – 16.5 per cent – gained at least a C in the traditional disciplines of English, maths, languages and either history or geography, meaning teenagers are shirking rigorous, academic subjects required by leading universities and many employers. It suggests the Labour culture of schools steering teenagers towards ‘soft’ courses to improve league table rankings has continued apace.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said urgent action was needed to tackle grade inflation, and pupils and schools should expect exam results to drop in the next few years. Exam boards had made exams too easy, he added.
And Schools Minister Nick Gibb launched a scathing attack on schools for failing to ensure pupils sat core subjects. He said: ‘It is a scandal that four-fifths of our 16-year-olds did not take the core academic GCSEs that universities and employers demand – when far more are capable of doing so. ‘Parents across the country rightly expect that their child will receive a broad and balanced education that includes English, maths, science, a language and history or geography. ‘Sadly, all too often it is the pupils from the poorest backgrounds who are denied this opportunity.’
Yesterday’s damning data is based on GCSE results awarded this summer, and follows research from Durham University showing a ‘U’ in maths in 1998 is now equivalent to a B grade.
Meanwhile, research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reveals that England has tumbled down international league tables in the past nine years, going from seventh to 25th in reading, eighth to 28th in maths and fourth to 16th in science.
Dozens of British universities to cut fees after threat to slash student places
At least 28 universities and colleges plan to cut tuition fees to £7,500 or lower for students starting next year, it emerged last night. They have been granted a two-week window to reduce fees they have already set – amid fears they could lose hundreds of places if they fail to act.
The last-minute changes – which will cause confusion among the tens of thousands of teenagers who have already submitted university applications – have been triggered by a Coalition plan to discourage institutions that attract lower calibre students from levying the highest fees.
Ministers will take away places from institutions that want to charge more than £7,500 but which take on students with A-level grades lower than ‘AAB’.
After ministers raised the cap on tuition fees from around £3,000 to £9,000 a year, more than a third of universities set their fees at the upper limit. The Coalition had budgeted on only a minority of the elite universities charging £9,000.
But the larger-than-expected fees horrified ministers as they are funded initially by the Government-backed Student Loans Company – and the bill runs to billions of pounds. As a result, institutions which charge the top price but attract students with grades of less than ‘AAB’ will lose places.
The freed-up places will then be pooled, with only those institutions charging £7,500 a year or less able to bid for a share of them.
Research suggests many lesser universities stood to lose up to 8 per cent of their places. Institutions now have until November 4 to submit revised plans to the Office of Fair Access. Offa said yesterday that 28 universities have expressed an interest in submitting revised plans for 2012, but it refused to reveal names.
It must inform institutions whether applications have been successful by November 30. The deadline is tight as students have only until January 15 to submit university applications.
Toni Pearce, vice-president of the National Union of Students, said last night: ‘The Government’s incoherent and unsustainable changes to higher education funding are continuing to wreak havoc on students and universities as ministers realise that they failed to do their sums properly.’
Britain CAN trump Europe on human rights, says Britain’s most senior judge
The Lord Chief Justice yesterday cast fresh doubt on whether Britain should be following the instructions of European human rights judges.
Lord Judge said that in arguments with the French-based European Court of Human Rights, ‘maybe Strasbourg shouldn’t win’.
His remarks to a committee of peers were the culmination of a growing movement of criticism among senior judges of the court and the decisions it tries to force on this country.
They suggest that discontent with the human rights court from the public and politicians, which came to a head in the row over whether prisoners should have the vote, is increasingly mirrored among the judiciary.
Lord Judge, head of the judiciary in England and Wales, told the Lords Constitution Committee during a discussion of how its rulings should be treated: ‘I would like to say that maybe Strasbourg shouldn’t win and doesn’t need to win.’
He questioned whether the most senior British courts needed to be bound by Strasbourg judgments.
‘For Strasbourg there is a debate yet to happen – it will have to happen in the Supreme Court – about what we really do mean in the Human Rights Act, and what Parliament means in the Human Rights Act when it said courts in this country must take account of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.
‘I myself think it is at least arguable that, having taken account of the decision of the court in Strasbourg, our courts are not bound by them.’ Lord Judge added: ‘We have to give them due weight, and in most cases obviously we would follow them, but not necessarily.’
Up until two years ago, British courts accepted rulings handed down from Strasbourg without question.
Among the key decisions followed to the letter was the ruling that no British Home Secretary could set the jail term a murderer must serve, and the instruction that the treatment of children in the justice system must change because Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, the juvenile killers of James Bulger, did not receive a fair trial.
But the Supreme Court has recently challenged Strasbourg in at least two little-publicised cases.
Contested rulings: The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg’s decisions have only persuasive influence in British courts
Contested rulings: The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg’s decisions have only persuasive influence in British courts
Strasbourg judges are likely to make a new ruling on prisoner votes this autumn which will insist that Britain obeys the order to allow convicted offenders in the jails to vote in parliamentary elections.
Such a ruling could provide a major test of whether British courts are willing to defy the European judges.
Lord Phillips, head of the Supreme Court, indicated yesterday that he believed British courts had no choice but to obey.
He told the peers’ committee: ‘In the end, Strasbourg is going to win so long as we have the Human Rights Act and the Human Rights Act is designed to give effect to that part of the rule of law which says we must comply with the convention.
If we have Strasbourg saying “you can’t do that”, it raises some very real problems.’
Unhappiness among senior judges at the behaviour of the ECHR surfaced two years ago when newly retired Law Lord Lord Hoffmann warned that Strasbourg ‘considers itself the equivalent of the Supreme Court of the United States, laying down a federal law of Europe’.
Since then judges to question the Strasbourg court have included Lord Phillips, who said there were cases in which its judges should ‘think again’, and his deputy at the Supreme Court, Lord Hope, who said last year: ‘We certainly won’t lie down in front of what they tell us.’
A load of waste paper and a dog-mess bin in an art gallery? It must be Turner Prize time
At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that a group of painters and decorators had left behind a pile of their paint-spattered dust-sheets.
In fact this collection of crumpled paper, suspended plastic bags and scattered chalk is the work of one of the four finalists in this year’s annual Turner Prize competition.
The other artists’ work includes enamel paintings of mundane scenes including a dog dirt bin and a rundown pub, shaky split-screen videos of tower blocks and a piece titled ‘Do Words Have Voices’ which features a battered and scratched wooden table.
The exhibition for the world’s most controversial prize for modern art launches in Newcastle’s Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art tomorrow. This is the first time the Turner Prize has been held at a non-Tate venue in its 27-year history. But the displays are certain to generate the same amount of criticism about whether they deserve to be defined as art.
The prize is notorious for rows over the artistic merit of its exhibits – which have included an unmade bed, balls of elephant dung and a room with a light turning on and off. This year’s finalists are only slightly less controversial.
Karla Black’s innovative approach to sculpture sees her suspending plastic bags from the ceilings of galleries and using small scrunched up balls of dough in her pieces. She selects things she ‘cannot help but use’ which include powder-paint, plaster, crushed chalk, Vaseline, lipstick, topsoil, sugar paper, balsa wood, eye shadow, nail varnish and moisturiser.
Another Scot, Martin Boyce, has created atmospheric, angular sculptural installations which have philosophical names like ‘Do The Words Have Voices.’
Hilary Lloyd uses still and moving images as well as sound to portray abstract urban environments. She makes her technical equipment a part of her sculptures, clearly displaying the audio-visual tools.
George Shaw’s naturalistic paintings of urban landscapes, council estates and abandoned houses are small in scale but give out a strong message. He paints the landscape of his adolescent life. Each scene exists within a half-mile radius of George’s childhood home on the Tile Hill estate in Coventry.
The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, located on the south bank of the River Tyne in Gateshead, has a world class modern art collection of its own – as well as offering almost unparalleled views over the city of Newcastle.
It is the UK’s largest display space for contemporary art outside London, and was created from a derelict 1940s grain warehouse as part of a drive – spearheaded by Gateshead council in the 1990s – for transformation through culture.
SOURCE (See the original for pix)