Shamed hospital accused of leaving dying patients to starve
A hospital has been accused of leaving dying patients to starve in a catalogue of cases of alleged neglect. Lawyers are planning a “class action” on behalf of 23 families who contacted them with “shocking” claims of indignities and the most basic failings in care.
They believe the families who have contacted them so far about care at Alexandra Hospital, in Redditch, West Midlands, may represent “the tip of the iceberg”.
The number of potential claims make it the biggest group action of its type since hundreds died in appalling conditions at Stafford Hospital, leading to a public inquiry which is expected to criticise the wider failings of the NHS and of regulators’ failures to protect patients, when it reports next year.
The cases against Alexandra Hospital include:
* A 35-year-old father-of-four who his family say wasted away because staff did not know how to fit a feeding tube
* A retired NHS worker who died after allegedly being left without food or crucial heart medication
* A man who fell into a coma after contracting E.coli, apparently from a filthy catheter
* The claims include allegations that vulnerable patients were left to starve when trays were left out of reach, while others left in soaking bedsheets
Official statistics show death rates at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals trust, which runs the hospital, were 10 per cent higher than the national average in 2010/11 – meaning there were 239 deaths more than would be expected.
The legal action comes amid increasing concern about the standards of care for hospital patients and failures to protect the vulnerable.
Earlier this year, a report by the Health Service Ombudsman condemned the service for its inhumane treatment of the elderly. The investigation found hospitals were failing to meet their most basic needs, with many left hungry, unwashed or given the wrong drugs because of the “casual indifference of staff”.
Legal firm Leigh Day & Co, which previously won the largest-ever group claim against a single NHS hospital for 119 victims of the Stafford hospital scandal, said they believed that the families who had contacted them so far about the Alexandra Hospital may represent “the tip of the iceberg”.
The legal action facing the trust comes after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published the findings of spot check visits to 100 hospitals to inspect care of the elderly in October. Half were found to be failing basic standards. “Major concerns” were found at two – including Alexandra Hospital, where failings were so fundamental that it was warned in May that it was breaking the law.
So many patients on its wards were left at risk of dehydration that doctors were forced to prescribe water for them.
Since then, almost two dozen families have contacted lawyers about cases. While some have been fighting almost ten years for an explanation from the hospital, other cases in the group occurred as recently as July.
Emma Jones, a human rights lawyer for Leigh Day & Co, said many had given up hope of getting answers until they saw the CQC report into Alexandra Hospital.
Lawyers will say that the treatment of many patients was so degrading, and so compromised their privacy, that it constituted an abuse of the Human Rights Act. The firm has been instructed by 17 families, and is considering six further cases.
Miss Jones said: “The common themes we have encountered include patients being left dehydrated and starved – feeding tubes not given to patients who could not swallow normally, food being plonked out of reach of patients, and others left to eat with their fingers because they weren’t given cutlery. “Buzzers went unanswered, several patients were left sitting in soaking bedclothes for hours, or in their own faeces.”
Chris Grande, a father of four, was just 35 when he died, four days after being admitted to the hospital last Christmas with breathing problems. His widow Sonya says her husband, who suffered from spinal muscular atrophy, was left to starve because hospital staff did not know how to fit a feeding tube for him after he was admitted on Boxing Day.
His body was pumped with fluid, to address dehydration, but nurses failed to heed her warning that her husband’s condition meant he would quickly weaken without food, she said.
Mrs Grande, 42, said her husband was stripped of his basic dignity. Nurses left him to lie in his own faeces for more than three hours, ignoring her pleas for help to turn him, to clean him up, she said.
When an elderly man fell from the next bed staff were slow to help him up, and no one checked for any head injury, she said. Two hours later, a nurse returned and found him dead, only to laugh, said Mrs Grande, and comment that the dead body was not what she had come looking for.
The former personal assistant said she felt “haunted” by her husband’s screams, as his condition worsened. She said: “He said it felt like his body was burning, he was screaming out, it was unbearable. He could barely speak for the pain.”
The widow believes that errors meant fluid was being pumped into his skin tissue, instead of into his vein, causing the agony. A do not resuscitate decision was taken by the medical team – against the couple’s wishes.
Mrs Grande said: “They starved my husband to death. Chris spent his last few days in agony, and terrified of the people who were supposed to be helping him.”
Frank Bushell, 63, was admitted to the hospital in May, for a hip operation. Within a week the retired publican was lying in a coma, and suffering multiple organ failure, triggered by an infection of E.coli – caught from a dirty catheter.
After 10 days unconscious, and several weeks in hospital, he was finally discharged in a wheelchair. Nurses stood chatting as his wife Patricia, who is just 4 foot 8 inches tall, tried to help the 6 foot man into a taxi, she claims. Mrs Bushell said: “After all we had been through, the nurses did not lift a finger. We were desperate to get him out of that hospital, it was not a safe place. “It seems incredible that a man can go into hospital for a hip operation, and be left battling for his life.”
Reginald Iliffe was admitted to the hospital aged 85 with problems swallowing, three days after being diagnosed with cancer, when doctors said they expected him to live for 18 months. The pensioner, who had worked for the NHS all his life, was left unwashed, and often lying in soaked sheets, his daughters say.
For the last seven days of his life Mr Ileffe was given neither food nor the crucial heart medication he had been taking for 20 years, they say – a criticism which was confirmed by an independent investigation by the Health Service Ombudsman.
Nine days after being admitted to hospital, the former dental technician died of a heart attack.
For more than six years, his bereaved daughters say they have been fighting for an explanation from the hospital. They say that although hospital doctors had prescribed the heart medication for Mr Iliffe, as well as nutrition supplements, nurses gave him neither, on the grounds he was nil by mouth, when they should have arranged for an intravenous drip.
Joan Checkley, now 61, said she and her sister had been fearful about the care he was getting and checked his medical chart every day – but did not know until after his death that codes indicated medication was not being administered. Mrs Checkley, who works as an NHS receptionist, said they were horrified by the “degrading” way her father was treated. “In nine days they never washed him, and they wouldn’t even give him a bottle – they would just tell him to go in the sheets,” she said.
“Dad had every faith in the health service. He worked for the NHS all his life and he loved it, working in dental hospitals in Liverpool and Birmingham. “He would have never have believed they would let them down the way they did.”
In November, the CQC published a further report, which said return visits found the hospital to be meeting the basic standards on dignity and nutrition it had failed in May.
Helen Blanchard, the trust’s Director of Nursing and Midwifery, said: “We actively encourage patient and family feedback and where there is any indication that standards of care fall short of the high standards we expect all staff to deliver we will always address it.”
Girl, 16, told by arrogant female GP in front of her mother that she must be six months’ pregnant — when she actually had a giant TUMOUR… and now can never have children
A 16-year-old girl told by an insistent GP that she must be six months’ pregnant was given a scan only to find that the ‘baby’ was actually a giant ovarian tumour.
Phoebe Quatre-Morgan, from Bolton, visited her doctor after returning from a holiday with a swollen stomach, sickness in the mornings and a lack of appetite. After visiting A&E with her mother, she was first told she had severe constipation and was sent home with medication, but when her symptoms worsened she consulted her GP and was told she was pregnant.
Phoebe insisted that it would be impossible for her to be pregnant and when she went for an ultrasound, the scan revealed the ‘baby’ was instead a lump.
Nurses referred her to The Christie hospital in Manchester, which specialises in cancer treatments, and was diagnosed with an ovarian tumour. The teenager underwent surgery to remove the tumour, followed by three months of chemotherapy.
But after being given the all-clear in January, in April she was told the cancerous growth had returned. Pheobe, now 17, then underwent a hysterectomy and another six-month cycle of chemotherapy to beat the disease. She has now been given the all-clear once again but will never be able to have her own children.
Phoebe said: ‘I knew there was no way I was pregnant and to be told that I was, by my GP in front of my mum, was devastating. ‘The doctor was convinced I was, telling my mum that it was common for young girls to hide pregnancy from their families – my mum was just as shocked as me about what the doctor was telling us. I kept telling the GP I wasn’t, but she just didn’t listen.
‘When we went for the ultrasound there was obviously no baby, so I had a sense of relief, but at the same time we still didn’t know what the massive lump was causing the swelling.
‘When I got the diagnosis, I had a mixture of emotions, from a sense of relief that they had finally found what was wrong with me, but at the same I had just found out that I had cancer – at 16 years old.’
Phoebe said: ‘It’s been hard to come to terms with being told that I’ll never be able to have my own children. ‘I always saw myself having a family, but cancer has taken that decision away from me. Having had cancer has definitely made me a stronger person. ‘It has made me not take things for granted and to just enjoy life,’ she said.
Phoebe is supporting a campaign to raise awareness of ovarian and testicular cancer in young people.’
British Judge rules new ban on immigrants who can’t speak English IS legal
An Indian woman who argued that immigration rules preventing her husband from moving to the UK because he cannot speak English were a breach of the couple’s human rights has lost her case.
British citizen Rashida Chapti, 54, argued that her husband of 37 years, Vali Chapti, should be allowed to join her from India.
But immigration rules announced by Home Secretary Theresa May last year introduced new English language requirements for those moving to Britain to join a spouse.
Mrs Chapti, who has six children with her 57-year-old husband, argued in the High Court in Birmingham that the rule was a breach of the couple’s right to a private and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Using legal aid to fight her case, she also argued that it was a breach of the right to marriage, and the right to be free from discrimination.
Yesterday, Mr Justice Beatson ruled that the English language requirement did not amount to a breach of the couple’s human rights and dismissed the case.
He said: ‘The new rule does not indirectly discriminate on the ground of nationality, ethnic origins or disability.’
Mrs Chapti, from Leicester, who speaks only halting English herself, vowed to appeal against the decision.
Through a translator, she said: ‘Naturally I feel very disappointed. It is Christmas and I will be alone without my husband. We will keep fighting for him to come here.’
She said it would be easier for Mr Chapti, a farmer from the Gujarati village of Valan, to learn English in Britain than India. He cannot read, write or speak the language. She has previously said that he was ‘too old’ to learn English even if he did get leave to stay in Britain.
Mrs Chapti, a machinist in a clothes factory, moved to the UK with her parents six years ago, using a British protected passport issued when they lived in Malawi, which was a UK colony. Mrs Chapti is believed to have been commuting between India and Leicester for several years.
After successfully applying for naturalisation as a British citizen, she attempted to ‘send for’ her husband and their youngest child. But under the new immigration rule, her husband was refused a spouse visa.
Previously, spouses and partners were required to demonstrate an ability to speak English two years after moving to Britain. Now they must speak a minimum level of English when they arrive.
Mrs Chapti and her husband were one of three couples who challenged the immigration law requiring people to be able to speak English before coming to Britain.
At an earlier court hearing, Mrs Chapti’s lawyer Manjit Gill QC said the rule was a breach of the couple’s human rights. He said: ‘The rule is particularly striking in that it prevents mere residence even though one of the parties is fully entitled to live in this country.’
He said it discriminated against people on the grounds of nationality and race.
Dominic Raab, a Tory MP spearheading a parliamentary campaign for human rights reform, said learning the language helped newcomers and encouraged ‘integration rather than segregation’. He said: ‘It’s extremely important that the requirements for newcomers to this country to learn English are upheld and maintained. ‘It is vital for those arriving in this country to be able to get on and for community cohesion.’
Mrs Chapti previously told the BBC: ‘It’s my right to be with my husband and I want to be with him. He is too old to learn English and he lives in a very remote place. ‘It is impossible for him to learn English.’
British PM chides Church of England leader for not defending Christianity
Rather a disgrace to the Archbishop. But most of the Anglican episcopacy in Britain don’t even seem to believe in God so some such rebuke was long overdue. They are just dressup queens who go along with any thinking that is fashionable
David Cameron last night called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead a return to the ‘moral code’ of the Bible. In a highly personal speech about faith, the Prime Minister accused Dr Rowan Williams of failing to speak ‘to the whole nation’ when he criticised Government austerity policies and expressed sympathy with the summer rioters.
Mr Cameron declared Britain ‘a Christian country’ and said politicians and churchmen should not be afraid to say so. He warned that a failure to ‘stand up and defend’ the values and morals taught by the Bible helped spark the riots and fuelled terrorism.
At Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, where Dr Williams used to teach, Mr Cameron said the time has come for public figures to teach ‘right from wrong’, and questioned whether the Church of England has done enough to defend those values in the face of the ‘moral neutrality’ that pervades modern life.
And taking aim at the Archbishop, Mr Cameron tackled head-on his public criticisms of the Government over the last 12 months.
The speech was a bold Christmas gamble by Mr Cameron. In making a speech about religion, he did something that Tony Blair always longed to do but was talked out of by spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who flatly told him: ‘We don’t do God.’
The clash between the Government and Church is at its most acute since former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Robert Runcie clashed with Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s.
The Prime Minister appeared emboldened by his opinion poll bounce since his decision to wield the veto during the Eurozone crisis summit in Brussels last week.
Admitting that he had ‘entered the lion’s den’ by addressing an audience of churchmen, Mr Cameron said: ‘I certainly don’t object to the Archbishop of Canterbury expressing his views on politics. ‘But just as it is legitimate for religious leaders to make political comments, he shouldn’t be surprised when I respond.
‘I believe the Church of England has a unique opportunity to help shape the future of our communities. But to do so it must keep on the agenda that speaks to the whole country.’
At an event to mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, he said: ‘We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so. ‘The Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend.
‘Whether you look at the riots last summer, the financial crash and the expenses scandal or the on-going terrorist threat from Islamist extremists around the world, one thing is clear, moral neutrality or passive tolerance just isn’t going to cut it any more. ‘Put simply, for too long we have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong. “Live and let live” has too often become “do what you please”.
‘Bad choices have too often been defended as just different lifestyles. To be confident in saying something is wrong is not a sign of weakness, it’s a strength.’
Mr Cameron’s demands for a ‘moral code’ were directed at human rights apologists and Left-wing politicians who recoil from promoting Britain’s Christian heritage.
But they also covered the hand-wringing pronouncements of many senior churchmen, who refuse to condemn lawbreaking by rioters and show unwillingness to take on militant Islam for fear of offending Muslims.
The PM said an ‘almost fearful, passive tolerance of religious extremism’ had let Islamic extremism grow unchallenged and called for the promotion of ‘Christian values’ saying it was ‘profoundly wrong’ to believe that promoting Christianity would ‘do down other faiths’.
British toddlers banned from making their own gestures as they sing Twinkle Twinkle ‘in case it offends deaf people’
Generations of children have grown up singing along and performing actions to the nursery rhyme favourite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. But one toddler group has been told not to make the twinkling ‘star’ sign with their hands for fear it could offend the deaf.
Parents were told that the sign – which resembles a diamond shape when made with forefingers and thumbs – is used in official sign language to represent female genitalia.
The decision was made after staff attended a sign language course and were made aware that the one they were using had potential to cause offence. However there are currently no deaf children or parents who attend the Sure Start toddler group, in Acomb, North Yorkshire.
Yesterday mothers criticised the ‘politically correct’ decision. One said: ‘These are innocent little children just making a sign to show a star. No one would give it a second thought.’
Another added: ‘It is good that kids are aware of other people’s methods of communication but has anyone actually asked a deaf person if they take offence to it?’
John Midgley, co-founder of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said the teachers needed to ‘grow up’. He added: ‘This is a ridiculous example of political correctness where adults are trying to put their views into the minds of children who would not have known there was anything wrong with what they are doing.’
Jill Hodges, assistant director of education, children and young people’s services at the City of York Council, which runs the group, insisted it was ‘a sensible decision taken to prevent deaf children or deaf parents being offended’.
She said it was made after staff at the Sure Start group returned from a course on children’s sign language, Makaton, at which they were told the ‘star’ gesture they had been using was similar to the sign used for female genitalia in British Sign Language.
As a consequence, Mrs Hodges said, staff realised the issue was sensitive and decided to ask parents to start using the Makaton symbol for a twinkling star – the opening and closing of a fist – instead. ‘Parents have not been banned from using the other sign and City of York Council does not have a policy over this matter,’ she added.
The sign for female genitalia is an inverted diamond held in front of the crotch. During the rhyme, children hold their hands high in an upright diamond. Signing experts said those who use Makaton or British Sign Language would not misinterpret the meaning because it depended on context.
Lynn Delfosse, of the charity Action on Hearing Loss, said: ‘The signs alone can have more than one meaning, as with any language, and need to be contextualised in terms of grammar and of the situation in which they are used.’
Exposed: the snobbery and intolerance of the EU elite
The chattering classes’ hysterical reaction to David Cameron’s veto of a revised Lisbon Treaty reveals the dark heart of pro-EU sentiment
As I drive along listening to the BBC Radio 4 show, The World At One, I am left in no doubt as to this programme’s deep hostility to prime minister David Cameron’s decision to veto changes to the EU Lisbon Treaty.
When the presenter, the usually sensible Martha Kearney, asks Andrus Ansip, the prime minister of Estonia, if he thinks there is increasing anger in the EU over Cameron’s actions, I realise that something very weird is going on. Why ask the leader of a small Baltic state how he feels about the prime minister of Britain? Since when have the emotions of foreign political leaders been a serious topic of concern for a programme titled The World At One?
Kearney does not simply pose the question to Ansip; she prefaces it with comments about how other EU leaders are very angry at Cameron. Nevertheless, her attempt to incite her interviewee to reinforce the BBC consensus on the state of European emotionalism doesn’t quite succeed. ‘I am not angry’, replies Ansip. Possibly he is too ‘old Europe’ and too old school to be conversant in the values of today’s communications clerisy, which cleaves to the doctrine of emotional correctness. Ansip disagrees with Cameron but he does not suffer from the emotional incontinence demanded of him by the BBC.
At first sight, it is difficult to understand the intense level of anger and outrage directed at Cameron by opinion formers and cultural entrepreneurs. Since when have the EU and the Lisbon Treaty acquired such a sacred status among the clerisy? The EU is many things, but it has never been a much-loved institution. So why is it that, all of a sudden, scepticism towards this institution is treated as the moral equivalent of Chamberlain’s act of treachery in Munich in 1938?
It is one thing to accuse Cameron of committing a diplomatic faux pas or the Foreign Office of ineptitude. But the criticisms currently being made of Cameron verge on the hysterical. When I listen to the hyperbole about what will apparently be the consequences of his destructive behaviour, it almost sounds as if he has committed an act of political betrayal in order to appease a handful of incorrigible reactionary Eurosceptics.
Why this over-the-top reaction to what could turn out to be a relatively minor case of diplomatic miscommunication?
Outwardly, the anger of the cosmopolitan clerisy is directed at Cameron’s alleged appeasement of Tory Eurosceptics. The term Eurosceptic has a special meaning for the adherents to cosmopolitan policymaking. In their view, Euroscepticism is associated with values they abhor: upholding national sovereignty, Britishness and a traditional way of life. The moralistic devaluation of these values was vividly communicated by the New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, who this week characterised Tory Eurosceptics as the ‘pinstriped effluence of an ex-imperial nation’. He seeks to dehumanise these people by arguing that this ‘specimen’s ascendancy’ was reflected in Cameron’s behaviour during the treaty negotiations. Cohen’s moral devaluation of Eurosceptics, his dismissal of them from the ranks of humanity, is captured in his description of them as a ‘bunch of insular snobs who seem to have a hard time restraining their inner fascist’.
The intemperate language suggests that the venomous anger directed at Eurosceptics cannot simply be driven by the clerisy’s love affair with the European ideal. Rather, what is at issue here is the clerisy’s preference for the technocracy-dominated and cosmopolitan-influenced institutions of Brussels. From their standpoint, the main virtue of the EU is that its leaders and administrators speak the same language as the UK clerisy. They read from the same emotional and cultural script, which they believe to be superior to the script and values associated with national sovereignty. That is why it isn’t surprising that a BBC journalist can casually ask the Estonian prime minister to have a go at her own national leader. The UK-based communications clerisy has a greater affinity with the outlook of EU technocrats and political administrators than it does with the outlook of its own people.
Of course, Cameron may be isolated in the corridors of power in Brussels – but the clerisy is more than a little out of touch with popular sentiments in Britain. Indeed, their visceral castigation of Eurosceptics is actually a roundabout way of morally condemning what the old oligarchy used to call ‘the little people’. The main sin of Euroscepticism is that it has the potential for mobilising popular sentiment. And certainly, the anger of the cosmopolitan elite does not resonate with people getting on with their lives in Birmingham, Newcastle or Leeds. Those who want to expose the heinous Eurosceptic plot to undermine the EU should remember that opinion polls demonstrate that the majority of the UK electorate does not like the EU, and when the Mail on Sunday carried out a poll asking ‘was Cameron right to use the veto?’, 62 per cent of respondents said ‘yes’.
In Britain, even at the best of times the EU has rarely been conceptualised as anything more than a pragmatic convenience. Historically, significant sections of both the left and the right have been critical of the bureaucratic ethos of this institution. Even those of us who love Europe, its history and its culture, and who strongly value the coming together of European peoples, have never had much affection for the institutions of the EU.
One final point: the cosmopolitan values of the clerisy have no progressive content. They contain no real universalist aspirations but rather reflect the sectional outlook of a cultural oligarchy that revels in drawing distinctions between itself and the great unwashed. The clerisy’s alternative to national sovereignty is not some other form of democratic decision-making; on the contrary, it fervently advocates insulated decision-making. The pro-EU elite continually tries to establish institutions that insulate decision-makers from citizens, and it prefers the rule of technocrats and experts over elected representatives.
Scepticism towards the EU is a legitimate, democratically informed standpoint. Scepticism towards Europe is not, of course. Some of my German friends are more than a little astonished to have discovered that a small number of English towns have decided to cancel twinning arrangements with local authorities on the continent. Yes, some of these arrangements were administratively orchestrated and did not genuinely bring together the peoples of Europe. But on balance, we need to be reaching out to our fellow citizens across the continent, to show that Europe is not an artificially constructed institution but is its people!
British Children must learn times tables by age nine under tough new curriculum plans
Children will have to learn their times tables by the age of nine under plans to toughen up the National Curriculum.
Education Secretary Michael Gove wants to create a ‘gold standard’ lesson plan modelled on the most rigorous exam systems in the world.
He will signal the change on Monday when an independent review publishes evidence that standards in England lag far behind other countries.
The report by Tim Oates of Cambridge Assessment, a research group and exam board attached to Cambridge University, found that pupils in Singapore are expected to master times tables and division by the age of nine, compared with 11 in England. And secondary school pupils are taught quadratic equations at 13, a year or more before their English counterparts.
Meanwhile, pupils in Hong Kong learn about plant and animal cells aged ten, while the subject is not tackled by English students until secondary school.
Mr Gove is also expected to introduce separate grammar lessons in response to fears that many get to 16 without a basic grasp of spelling and punctuation.
He will also set more rigorous reading lists, including Homer, Sophocles and Shakespeare, after learning that countries with ‘fast improving’ education systems such as Poland expect their pupils to read extensively.
The Government had originally intended to publish details of the new curriculum in the New Year, but ministers have decided to delay the move for a further 12 months because they want such a radical re-write.
A Government source said: ‘We want to create a gold standard National Curriculum that survives longer than a government’s term of office.’
Iron supplements ‘could help stave off DVT and other life-threatening blood clots’
This concerns people with one particular disease only. It may have no application to others
Iron supplements could be used to prevent deep vein thrombosis and other life-threatening blood clots, new research shows.
Each year, one in 1,000 people in Britain is affected by clots that form in the veins, and scientists now believe the risk could rise in those with a lack of iron. DVT is often associated with long distance air travel and other situations that involve being immobile for long periods of time.
Clots frequently form in the legs causing painful swelling and, in some cases, a danger that lumps of blood will dislodge and travel to the lungs with fatal results.
Researchers at Imperial College London studied 609 patients with blood vessel disease haemorrhagic telangiectasia, who have a higher risk of blood clots. They found that this increased risk disappeared when the HHT sufferers took iron supplements. Many of the patients had low iron levels, because of iron loss through excessive bleeding – a symptom of HHT.
The study, published in the journal Thorax, found that a blood-iron level of six micromoles per litre compared with the normal mid-range figure of 17 micromoles led to a 2.5-fold increase in venous thrombosis risk.
Lead researcher Dr Claire Shovlin, from the university’s National Heart and Lung Institute, said: ‘Our study shows that in people with HHT, low levels of iron in the blood is a potentially treatable risk factor for blood clots. ‘There are small studies in the general population which would support these findings, but more studies are needed to confirm this. ‘If the finding does apply to the general population, it would have important implications in almost every area of medicine.’
Iron deficiency anaemia is thought to affect at least one billion people worldwide. Its association with clotting may have been missed before because blood iron levels fluctuate during the day. Other markers of iron deficiency can go unnoticed if certain medical conditions are present.
The scientists said that obtaining reliable data depended on consistent timing of blood samples.
Low iron levels were associated with higher levels of Factor VIII, a blood protein which promotes normal clotting. This in turn was a strong risk factor for blood clots. Making the blood clot more easily after losing iron might be an evolutionary trick to aid survival, suggested Dr Shovlin.
She added: ‘We can speculate that in evolutionary terms, it might be advantageous to promote blood clotting when your blood is low in iron, in order to prevent further blood loss’.