Surgical items left inside patients as top cancer hospital has four major blunders in just six weeks
A leading cancer specialist hospital is in crisis after staff made four major patient blunders in just six weeks. Surgical items were left inside two patients, while a third case involved ‘wrong site surgery’ – where surgeons operated via an incorrect route into the body. In a fourth error the wrong implant was fitted inside a patient.
The multiple blunders at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridgeshire are known as ‘never’ events in the NHS because they are never supposed to happen.
A Cambridge University Hospitals spokesman said: ‘We deeply regret these incidents and have apologised to the four patients. Fortunately none of them came to any permanent harm. ‘This hospital has one of the best records in the NHS for patient safety – but we are investigating and will learn from these events. ‘We have already taken action to minimise the risk of them happening again.’
The spokesman added that no more information would be given due to patient confidentiality.
The medical director Dr Jag Ahluwalia sent an email to staff reminding them that the standard of patient safety should be ‘100 per cent.’
NHS chiefs will be holding an urgent meeting in the next few days to discuss why the events took place and how to prevent them happening in the future.
Peter Walsh from Action Against Medical Accidents, said: ‘They aren’t called ‘never events’ for nothing. There are basic safety checks in place to avoid this type of thing. There can be no excuse.’
Addenbrooke’s is an internationally renowned teaching hospital and is a leader in both neurological care and liver and bone marrow transplants. The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute is based within the hospital complex.
Patients face medicine shortages as their NHS drugs are sold off abroad
Patients face medicine shortages because drugs meant for the UK are being sold abroad for a profit, it is claimed. At least four out of five pharmacists are frequently unable to supply prescription drugs to NHS patients without delays.
Almost one in ten spends at least an hour a day on the phone trying to locate potentially life-saving drugs for conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure and asthma. A survey of almost 400 pharmacists working for Lloydspharmacy found 98 per cent were concerned that patient health was at risk.
Warnings about shortages surfaced last year, which led to guidance from the Department of Health in February to ensure patients should never wait more than 24 hours for medicines.
But latest evidence suggests the situation is getting worse, with the Patients Association saying half of members surveyed had to wait two or more days for their medication.
Medicines for UK patients – which have some of the lowest prices in Europe – are exported at a higher price by some wholesalers and pharmacists who enjoy a handsome profit. But drug company quota systems are failing to manage the shortfall, it is claimed.
Pharmacists feel they get a restricted amount and cannot automatically order more to meet rising demand.
Overall, 80 per cent of pharmacists have been unable to dispense items or have had to call a GP surgery for alternatives for four or more prescriptions a week.
Many have to track down vital drugs by phoning round stores and suppliers, with half losing up to three hours a week dealing with stock shortages. Eight per cent spend more than six hours chasing stock.
Lloydspharmacy, backed by the Patients Association and NHS Alliance, is calling on the Government, manufacturers and supply chain stakeholders to solve the issue.
Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy said it was an ‘unacceptable situation’, adding: ‘Having access to medicines prescribed by your doctor when you need them is a basic right.’
A Daily Mail investigation last year found one in ten pharmacists – as well as wholesalers, doctors and even NHS hospitals – are making money from an export trade worth an estimated £360million a year. Speculators are cashing in on the weak pound by selling drugs intended for NHS patients to EU countries – and pocketing the difference.
Despite Government guidance condemning the trade as unethical, it is legal.
Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said plans by the drug regulatory watchdog to stop trading abroad without a wholesaler’s licence would help stem export for profit. ‘Patients are the priority, and the industry has taken many steps to ensure that we are over-producing and supplying the quantities of medicines UK patients need,’ he added.
A Department of Health spokesman said it continues to work ‘to ensure NHS patients receive the medicines they need when they need them.’
Why not listen to the voters on immigration?
The British electorate want the Government to show some resolve before it’s too late
Immigration has been back in the headlines this week, as the Government wrestles with the UK Border Agency. For large periods during the summer, individuals appear to have been allowed into the country with no checks whatsoever, meaning that we have no record of who has arrived. This was clearly wrong, and the Home Secretary was right to order an inquiry.
At heart, however, this fiasco is an issue of process. No matter how far-reaching Theresa May’s inquiry, it will leave untouched the bigger issue: namely, the sheer number of people arriving here.
A week ago, the campaign group Migrationwatch launched a new e-petition calling on the Government to take all necessary measures to keep the population below 70 million. Within a week, it had 100,000 signatures. This is a remarkable success. The public have at last been given an opportunity to express their opinion, and have done so in unmistakable terms.
It is now up to the political system to respond – not just as a democratic duty, but as a matter of common sense. The latest projections show that our population will reach that 70 million figure in just 16 years. Two thirds of the increase, equivalent to five million people, will come from future immigrants and their children. To put that in perspective, it’s the same as adding five cities the size of Birmingham, or 10 new Bristols or Manchesters.
Of course, population projections can be wrong. But the Office for National Statistics has done pretty well in the past: over the past half-century, its 20-year forecasts have been accurate to within 2.5 per cent. So we can be pretty certain that these are not freak figures. They point to a truth that must be faced. Either we bring the level of net immigration sharply down, or we accept that our population will continue to increase at a rapid rate, in the teeth of strong and growing public opposition, putting enormous pressure on our housing, schools and hospitals.
True, Scotland and Wales are not short of space. But few migrants want to settle there. England, however, is the most crowded country in Europe, alongside Holland. Barring a few small islands, the only places with a denser population are Bangladesh, South Korea, Taiwan and Lebanon. The public are very conscious of this. A recent YouGov poll found that 80 per cent of people in England considered the country to be crowded. A text poll on the BBC last Sunday found 94 per cent agreement with the proposition that “Britain is full”.
It was this public concern, as well as the weight of the evidence, that prompted us to establish in 2008 the Cross-Party Group on Balanced Migration. In calling for a sharp reduction in immigration, we absolutely accept that no step should be taken that would put at risk the recovery, on which all else depends. The measures we support would not do that.
So what are our proposals? Above all, to break the link between migration and permanent settlement. In the past, anyone with a work permit has had an almost automatic right to remain. The Government, rightly, is consulting on this issue, so that only those of real value to the country will be allowed to stay on indefinitely. The Migration Advisory Committee has suggested that such selection should be largely based on salary. That means that business will not be much affected: under the current system, transfers of staff between international firms are entirely free of restriction above a salary of £40,000. In addition, there is an annual quota of about 20,000 work permits for skilled immigrants, of which only about half have been taken up this year.
Another major weakness requiring attention is the vast number of students admitted without proper checks. In recent years, we have admitted about half a million non-EU students and student visitors with no interview at all. The scope for abuse is enormous, and must be tackled.
The Coalition has declared its intention to get net immigration down from last year’s level of nearly 250,000 to the tens of thousands. But even that will not be good enough. In order to avoid the population reaching that 70 million, we have to get immigration down to 40,000 a year or less.
That will require real political will on behalf of the Government, which sometimes seems to be stymied by the Liberal Democrats. There is little doubt that this element is blocking some of the measures needed. This is greatly puzzling. Perhaps it is time the leadership considered the vast bulk of its supporters’ views, rather than those of its activists. Successive opinion polls have shown that three quarters of potential Lib Dem voters support the Government’s stance.
What is clear – not least from this week’s drama – is that significant measures to reduce immigration take considerable time. The process of policy formation, consultation and implementation requires around 18 months – and the courts will not allow a change in conditions for those who have already arrived.
Because of this, it is important that ministers get a whole batch of tough measures approved soon. They should then look at the legal challenges and judicial reviews that are blocking voters’ wishes, and see how these can be better balanced. This is one reason why the petition is so important. It is a wake-up call for the political class: that they need to show resolve and deliver. It will now go before Parliament, and we are confident that we will secure a debate. But the more signatures it obtains before then, the louder will be the alarm bell.
Hoteliers seek to retain ban on homosexuals
DEVOUT Christian hotel owners who refused to allow a gay couple to share a double room have insisted at an appeal court that they should have been allowed to impose the ban.
Peter Bull, 72, and Hazel Bull, 67, refused to allow Martyn Hall and his civil partner, Steven Preddy, to stay in a double room at their Cornwall hotel. This year a judge at Bristol County Court ruled the Bulls had acted unlawfully and ordered them to pay £3600 compensation.
Challenging the ruling at the appeal court in London, the Bulls argued they did not wish to undermine or disrespect Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, who are from Bristol. James Dingemans, QC, for the Bulls, told three appeal judges that Judge Andrew Rutherford at Bristol “erred in failing to balance the respective rights in this case”.
He said the Bulls believed that “unmarried sexual behaviour was wrong” but were not prejudiced against gay people.
Mr Dingemans said the law should be capable of accommodating Mr Hall and Mr Preddy’s rights under equality legislation and the Bulls’ rights to beliefs about sex before marriage.
He said: “[Their] beliefs may be considered outdated, uneconomic for those operating a private hotel, but, we respectfully submit, they are entitled to manifest those beliefs.”
He said the Bulls had an “absolute right” to believe that “unmarried sexual behaviour is wrong” and a “qualified right” to “manifest that belief”.
“If human rights is to have any value at all, it must be respecting of all rights,” he said.
The website to the couple’s hotel, Chymorvah, features a note: “We have few rules, but please note that as Christians we have a deep regard for marriage (being the union of one man to one woman for life to the exclusion of all others). Therefore, although we extend to all a warm welcome to our home, our double-bedded accommodation is not available to unmarried couples. Thank you.”
The hearing continues.
Are Britain’s Olympics chiefs ashamed of Britain’s proud naval history? In the days before Remembrance Sunday the HMS Belfast is airbrushed from poster
She is one of the most famous ships ever to sail in the British Navy. Assisting allies in World War II and fighting enemies in Korea she then retired to a permanent mooring on the River Thames as a museum.
However Olympic chiefs seem to be unconcerned with the illustrious history of HMS Belfast if the latest advertisement for next year’s event is anything to go by. The warship has been airbrushed from the Thames in this poster to advertise the Festival that will accompany the Games.
It was spotted yesterday on a Northern Line platform at Camden Town London Underground station just days before Remembrance Sunday.
Veterans from the Navy, some of whom may have served on HMS Belfast during the 1940s, will attend the annual service at the Cenotaph just a short distance away this coming Sunday.
The poster above is advertising the London Festival, which hopes to bring more than 10million opportunities to see 1,000 performances and events in London ahead of the Olympics.
HMS Belfast meanwhile is one of Britain’s most well known vessels and attracts around 250,000 visitors a year. It has been moored on the Thames since 1971 and became part of the Imperial War Museum in 1978. The ship was built in 1936/7 before it entered reserve in 1963.
Today visitors can explore its nine decks and experience what it was like to be in the gun turret during the middle of a Second World War battle.
‘They’re trying to create a template for all aspects of life’: Newest British Supreme Court judge slams human rights rulings
The newest Supreme Court judge yesterday accused the European Court of Human Rights of riding roughshod over democracy.
Jonathan Sumption QC said the Strasbourg human rights judges had tried through their rulings to set down ‘a template for most aspects of human life.’ He warned that the democratic ‘consensus necessary to support it at this level of detail does not exist.’
And Mr Sumption, who is shortly to be sworn in as a Supreme Court judge, said it was wrong for Strasbourg to treat Britain, a democratic country with high constitutional standards, in the same way as Romania, Russia or Turkey.
His scathing speech – which also accused British judges of becoming too political and stealing the democratic rights of ministers – made Mr Sumption the latest in a string of senior figures in the law to make public their unhappiness with the Court of Human Rights and its rulings.
Among them is Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, who said last month that in arguments between the European judges and Britain ‘maybe Strasbourg shouldn’t win.’
Mr Sumption became the first practicing barrister to be appointed to the Supreme Court in May. He attracted some criticism in the legal profession both because he has never served as a judge and because he has delayed taking up his post to represent Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich in his protracted court battle against former friend Boris Berezovsky.
Mr Sumption, who is thought to have been earning well in excess of £1 million a year throughout the past decade, will be sworn in to the Supreme Court when the Abramovich case is over.
He said in a speech to fellow lawyers that the problem with human rights was not the general principles but the way the Strasbourg court has produced ‘a very large number of derivative sub-principles and rules. ‘Many of these sub-principles and rules go well beyond what is required to vindicate the rights expressly conferred by the Convention,’ Mr Sumption said.
‘In addition, the Strasbourg court has taken it upon itself to decide not only whether states had proper institutional safeguards for the protection of human rights, but whether it agreed with the outcome.’
Mr Sumption said the court had made its landmark ruling in 1995 that three IRA terrorists shot by the SAS in Gibraltar were wrongly killed not because human rights rules were broken but because it disagreed with the findings of an inquest.
He said: ‘The Strasbourg court has treated the Convention not just as a safeguard against arbitrary and despotic exercises of state power but as a template for most aspects of human life. ‘These include many matters where are governed by no compelling moral considerations one way or the other. The consensus necessary to support it at this level of detail does not exist.’
Mr Sumption said that Britain had a strong public service tradition, a functioning democracy and an independent judiciary and ‘there is no reason why the protection of Convention rights should necessarily require the same measures in a country like the United Kingdom as they do in countries like, say, Romania, Russia or Turkey.’
He said that judges should stay out of making political decisions in what they considered to be the public interest. This, he sad, is a matter for politicians and ‘has no legitimate basis in public consent, because judges are quite rightly not accountable to the public for their decisions.’ He warned that if judges continue to take political decisions, they will be vulnerable to pressure for the public for an elected judiciary.
Kids get dangerous drugs instead of discipline
Soaring numbers of children as young as five are being chemically coshed with antipsychotic drugs, an investigation by Channel 4 News has found. A staggering 15,000 children under the age of 18 were prescribed the medication last year by their GPs – double the number a decade ago.
The drugs, such as Risperdal and Seroquel, are meant for serious mental conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and psychosis. But experts believe they are increasingly used as a chemical cosh to control children’s behaviour, for example to calm youngsters with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism.
Children can be left on the drugs for years and are not properly monitored, despite side effects such as dramatic weight gain, diabetes, heart disorders and a Parkinson’s disease-like tremor that continues even after the medication is stopped.
Worryingly, nobody knows what the long-term side effects are and pharmaceutical companies have blocked all requests for data on trials involving children. Experts are concerned about the effect the drugs have on developing brains.
Guidance provided by professional bodies, such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists, says a child psychiatrist must be involved in the prescription of drugs. But mental health experts believe this is increasingly not happening. Instead, the drugs are needlessly given out by GPs.
Professor Tim Kendall, director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, said the figures were ‘extremely concerning’. ‘As far as I am aware, there is no evidence that there has been a doubling in the rate of psychosis, so if there is a doubling in the rate of children being given antipsychotics, that is a worry,’ he added. ‘My worry is that these drugs are being used for other purposes.’
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show 14,999 children, up to the age of 18, were prescribed antipsychotics in 2010, compared with 7,649 in 2001. Of these, 253 were aged six or under, 3,205 were seven to 12 and 11,541 were 13 to 18.
The figures are for prescriptions issued by GPs only. No data exists for the number of prescriptions issued in hospitals.
Professor Peter Tyrer of Imperial College London, an antipsychotics expert, said the use of this medication was a ‘slow fuse to disaster’. The drugs affected almost every part of the body, he added.
The figures on antipsychotics follow the recent revelation that 661,500 prescriptions for Ritalin, or similar drugs for ADHD, were issued to children last year. This amounts to more than 12,000 prescriptions a week and an increase of 70 per cent in the past five years.
British Math teaching is so bad that teenagers leave school dangerously ignorant
Maths teaching is so poor that teenagers can leave school dangerously ignorant, an exam board chief has claimed. Many are unable to calculate a 25 per cent discount or a correct dosage of medication, he said.
Mark Dawe, chief executive of the OCR exam board, launched a scathing attack yesterday on the national maths curriculum in schools, a subject his organisation tests. He said employers can no longer assume that a grade C, or higher, in GCSE maths guarantees a reasonable level of competence. ‘Many [school leavers] are stumped by 25 per cent discounts or 33 per cent extra free,’ he said. ‘And they don’t understand the dosage of medicines. This puts them at a massive disadvantage in life and can even endanger them.’
His comments follow a survey of 566 employers by the CBI which found 35 per cent were unhappy with youngsters’ numeracy.
Mr Dawe believes that the problem is rooted in the limited scope of the maths national curriculum. He said: ‘Pupils can do simple sums. But outside school, they have calculators and computers to do this. ‘What pupils and school leavers cannot do is work out what sums to do to solve a problem. They don’t understand how to ask the question.’
James Fothergill, head of education and skills at the CBI, said: ‘There’s currently a gap between the standard of maths achieved by many school leavers and the skills that employers require. ‘We need to see young people who are confident with mental arithmetic, working out simple percentages, ratios and fractions and being able to spot errors and rogue figures which are essential for work and everyday life.’
‘We need to see young people who are confident with mental arithmetic, working out simple percentages, ratios and fractions and being able to spot errors and rogue figures which are essential for work and everyday life.’
This year a staggering 28 per cent of 16-year-olds failed to get A* to C in maths. To remedy this Education Secretary Michael Gove has said pupils will have to study the subject until they pass, or leave school. In 2015 the compulsory school leaving age will rise to 18.
A Department for Education spokesman, said: ‘It’s crucial that pupils master the basics in maths at school. ‘The UK is sliding down the international league tables in maths and we’ve got to reverse this trend if we expect our students to have the core skills that universities and employers demand.
‘That’s why we’re encouraging more maths specialist teachers for the state sector and prioritising funding for graduates with a 2:1 or first class degree in maths and sciences – so that we can drive up standards in schools across the country’.