‘We thought we had lost her’: Mother angered after hospital prescribes three-year-old with medicine dose 20 times higher than recommended
A mother has told how her daughter was left unconscious after a hospital issued medicine that was incorrectly labelled. Three-year-old Ruby Plummer was diagnosed with epilepsy last March, a condition which affects the brain and causes seizures.
The youngster was prescribed buccal midazolam, a muscle relaxant which is rubbed into the gums and used to treat prolonged attacks lasting five minutes or more.
However her mother Helen, 29, claims the bottle she was given at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, Teesside, recommended 2.5ml doses instead of 0.25ml.
And on one occasion she was told to double the measure because it had taken so long for Ruby to recover from a seizure – meaning she gave her daughter a dose 20 times higher than the recommended amount.
As a result, Ruby lost consciousness and her family feared the worst. Mrs Plummer, from Marske, Cleveland, said: ‘Her lips went blue and we thought we had lost her. ‘She deteriorated drastically and stopped breathing and went blue. She vomited and was choking.
‘It was horrendous. She was in hospital for the whole night. The doctors didn’t notice that she had been given too much. It was me that noticed. ‘I’m angry and annoyed. I feel let down.’
NHS guidelines suggest that children aged six months to 12 months, should be given a 0.25ml dose of buccal midazolam, while those aged one to four should be prescribed 0.5ml.
As a precaution, each time Mrs Plummer uses the medication with her daughter she returns to hospital for a check-up. But she claims that during visits medics never questioned the dose she was administering and it was only when her daughter lost consciousness that it was clear something was wrong. She added: ‘When I looked at it I thought ‘that’s a lot’ but I thought the doctor was right. I have not been to medical school.’
Since the incident Mrs Plummer who is married to John, 24, and has a son Liam, seven months, has issued a complaint. South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust confirmed they are investigating the case and have apologised to the family.
A spokesperson said: ‘We are very sorry for any distress and anxiety that Ruby’s family have experienced. ‘We take every complaint we receive very seriously and are currently carrying out our own investigation into this case which is ongoing and, as such, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.’
According to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) database, midazolam overdoses should not present a threat to life unless the patient has pre-existing respiratory or cardiac problems and it is combined with other central nervous system depressants.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said as it is a fairly new medication, it is regularly being monitored.
British Border Agency ‘sorry’ after missing chance to deport failed asylum seeker who went on to kill partner and children
The UK Border Agency missed the chance to deport a failed asylum seeker who went on to murder his partner and their two children before taking his own life.
Aram Aziz killed Joy Small, 24, their son, Aubarr, 3, and daughter Chanarra, two, at their flat in Leicester, in February last year, before hanging himself.
It has now emerged officials from a department of the UK Border Agency had been searching for Aziz, an Iraqi Kurd, between May 2005 and November 2006, to expel him from the country after he had been denied asylum.
But they did not know another branch of the agency had moved him to Leicester and was paying for him to stay in asylum seekers’ accommodation.
The 32-year-old was branded an ‘abusive monster’ by friends of Ms Small who say he once poured lighter fluid all over her.
Agency bosses said if the two departments had realised they were dealing with the same man, they would have deported him to Slovenia – the first country in which he had claimed asylum after leaving Iraq.
Gail Adams, UK Border Agency regional director, said: ‘Our deepest sympathies are with the family.’ She added mistakes had hindered his deportation – and apologised.
Aziz left Iraq in February 2005 and first applied to the UK for asylum in April that year under the name of Saman Ali Rahim. That was refused a month later because it was found he had already made an application in Slovenia. He then vanished before re-emerging to make a second UK application, this time in the name Aram Aziz, in January 2006. He was moved to Leicester while that application was considered.
In December 2008, the UK Border Agency denied asylum – but because he had met Ms Small in early 2006 and had two children he was granted a three-year stay in the UK as a partner of a British national.
An investigation carried out by the Leicester Safeguarding Children Board published its findings, following an inquest earlier this week. Its report revealed Aziz had two applications to remain in the UK turned down and twice absconded when efforts were made to deport him.
It concluded the tragedy could not have been predicted, but added ‘the only known preventative factor’ would have been if the agency had succeeded in their attempts to deport Aziz to Slovenia.
Ms Adams said the agency had tried to remove Aziz from the UK three times. She said: ‘On two of these occasions, arrangements were made to detain Mr Aziz but he absconded. ‘We recognise that mistakes internally hindered his removal on the third occasion and for this we apologise.’ She said the agency had since changed the way it worked.
Ms Small’s father Kevin Wathall said: ‘Aziz should have been removed from the country before any of this happened. ‘There was the chance to do that but the border agency messed it up because one lot sit in a different office to the others. I would have liked a personal apology but the most important thing is nothing like this should happen again.’
The report also revealed Aziz he was given a conditional discharge for assaulting Ms Small in September 2007. Police asked if he could be deported but the border agency turned down the request because of his pending asylum decision.
Britain’s finest again. Nobody can tell them anything. All they know is political correctness. Do they even learn first aid any more?
Woman driver dying from a stroke was arrested by traffic police who thought she was drunk
Traffic police arrested a woman for drink driving when she was actually dying from a stroke, an inquest heard today. Julie Hawkins, 55, crashed her car and was tended by another motorist who noticed the side of her face was drooping.
But when police arrived on the scene they arrested her on suspicion of drink driving – even though another driver told them Mrs Hawkins was displaying the classic symptoms of a ‘catastrophic’ stroke.
The officers breathalysed the mother-of-three because her speech was slurred and she could only give them one-word answers.
The inquest heard mother-of-three Mrs Hawkins collapsed as she was taken from her car in Pontyclun, Wales, on October 14 and died of a stroke less than five hours later. A post mortem examination showed Mrs Hawkins, from nearby Pontypridd, had no alcohol in her blood or urine at the time of the accident, as she drove home for a 50th birthday party.
Driver Jonathan Sharpe told the inquest how he went to help after seeing Mrs Hawkins’ Peugeot 107 swerve into an oncoming car. He said: ‘I opened the car door and at first I thought maybe she had too much to drink. ‘But then I saw her face was drooping, I think on the left-hand side. ‘They were the classic symptoms of a stroke. I would liken it to the advert on TV.’
Mr Sharpe said as soon as police arrived he told them about Mrs Hawkins’ symptoms but they went ahead and arrested on suspicion of drink-driving. After Mrs Hawkins collapsed and an ambulance arrived paramedics noticed her lips were purple.
Pc Rhodri Wilson told the inquest Mrs Hawkins gave only single word answers to his questions and he arrested her on suspicion of drink driving. He said her speech was slurred and she replied ‘no’ when he asked if she had been drinking.
A spokeswoman from South Wales Police said: ‘The officers acted in good faith based on the information presented to them in difficult circumstances.’ [Rubbush!!]
The Cardiff inquest heard Mrs Hawkins was taking painkillers for headaches in the weeks before the crash. She died at 3.30am on October 15 at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, after a scan revealed a stroke.
Mrs Hawkins is survived by sons Kristian and Nicholas and daughter Laura, all in their twenties.
Pathologist Dr Allen Gibbs told the hearing: ‘In my opinion she lost control of the car when she began to have a stroke which later became catastrophic.’
The jury returned a narrative verdict that Mrs Hawkins, of Llanharan, near Pontypridd, South Wales, died of a stroke.
British scientists preparing to fight to keep mean time at Greenwich
British scientists are prepared to launch a defence of Greenwich Mean Time ahead of an international decision on whether the world should move to strict atomic time instead.
The move would eliminate the need for ‘leap seconds’, which are quietly added to global timekeeping systems every few years to ensure we remain exactly in sync with the rotation of the Earth.
At a meeting of the International Telecommunications Union in Geneva next week, representatives from 190 countries will gather to vote on whether or not to stop using this system and align ourselves strictly with atomic time.
This would mean that every 80 years or so we would move about a minute further away from GMT, the method first adopted in Britain in 1847 and used by the rest of the world before the introduction of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) – essentially the same measurement – in 1972.
It would cut the link between our time and the rising and setting of the Sun, and cause us to gradually drift away from Greenwich Mean Time, judged by when the Sun crosses the Greenwich Meridian.
The problem lies in the fact that the Earth’s rotation is irregular and is gradually slowing down by about two thousandths of a second every day.
This means that atomic clocks, which measure the length of a second with extreme accuracy based on reactions in caesium atoms, are ever so slightly out of kilter with astronomical time.
Additional seconds are added to the time signal when needed to account for this deviation, with 24 having been used since they were first introduced in 1972.
Britain remains determined to defend the traditional method of timekeeping, insisting that the inconvenience of adding leap seconds is nothing compared with the difficulty of adding additional minutes or hours further down the line when our gradual deviation from astronomical time would become noticeable.
But a host of other countries including the USA and China are set to vote in favour of the move because it would eliminate the need to regularly update the world’s clocks.
Debate on the issue has been rife for many years but it is thought that this meeting could finally mark the demise of GMT with the majority of nations favouring the move.
Peter Whibberley of the National Physical Laboratory, who will represent the UK at next week’s meeting, said the switch would mean we could no longer refer to UK time as GMT. “One you break that link UTC would just drift away from GMT and you would have to refer to it as UTC”, he said. “The problem is, once you have broken that link there is no way to restore it, it is just too difficult.
“We have had leap seconds for the last 40 years so we can handle them, but there is no equipment in the world that could handle a leap minute or hour … it could be 200 years down the line but it would be just impossible.”
British ice rink which put up sign banning travellers is accused of inciting racial hatred
“Travellers” (Gypsies) are notorious scofflaws. Almost ANY business would like to exclude them but that is illegal in Britain
Staff at an ice rink have been accused of inciting racial hatred after placing a sign in the reception stating: ‘No travellers’. Managers said they put up the notice following a series of incidents at the Ice Arena in Blackburn, Lancashire.
Hughie Smith, life president of The Gypsy Council, said the sign was ‘inflammatory, illegal and in danger of inciting racial hatred’.
Bosses have now apologised and have launched an investigation.
Mr Smith said: ‘This manager has definitely got it wrong. It is very rare to see this because people have learned it is discrimination. It is sad in this day and age.’
A duty manager at the rink put the sign up following a series of incidents and it remained on display for five days.
The sign has also infuriated ethnic minority groups who said it breached race relations law.
Arena bosses said it went up without their permission and have apologised for any offence caused.
A spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said refusing to serve someone because of their race, including their colour, nationality or ethnicity, was an offence under the Equality Act 2010.
He said: ‘Consumers have the right to be treated fairly and without discrimination by shops or services. Refusing to serve someone because of their race would usually be unlawful, but only a court can decide if the law has been broken.’
One skater said: ‘I am disgusted. It is like saying no whites or blacks. It is discrimination. ‘Anybody can cause trouble, not just people from the travelling community. I won’t be going there again.’
The notice was put up after police were called to the venue in Lower Audley last Thursday night by staff after a group of youths refused to leave. Four youths who were inside the ice rink opened the fire exit doors to let their friends in without paying. Staff were alerted by the alarm going off and the youths were asked to leave. But the group demanded a refund, which was denied, and a row broke out in the reception area.
Officers arrived and the nine youths left at around 8.44pm. No arrests were made during the incident. A police spokesperson said: ‘We attended as there was a group being hard work. They left after police advice.’
Arena bosses said there had also been a number of incidents over Christmas and the New Year involving travellers.
In a statement from senior managers, they said: ‘Police were called on several occasions to quell public order offences by groups of youths. ‘This led to a duty manager erecting signage at the entrance to the Arena to advise that members of the travelling community were not to be admitted due to these problems which had arisen.
‘Senior Arena management were not aware such a sign had been erected and on discovering it immediately took steps to remove it and the management wishes to apologise for any offence caused. ‘The Arena does not seek to discriminate against any persons as a category and the management does not condone any form of discrimination.
‘The Arena management reiterate that it has no policy of discrimination for users of the Arena but it will seek to exclude known trouble-makers who violate the rules of using the Arena premises in the future.’
Joe Dykes, head of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Achievement Service for Lancashire County Council, said if the sign had not been removed, legal action could have been taken. He said: ‘There is case law behind this under the Race Relations Act. Many years ago, a pub put up a sign up saying no travellers which went to court. ‘The groups protected under the law are Roma gypsies or travellers of Irish heritage. ‘Travellers is such a global word but it would be unlawful to place a sign like that.
‘People do put signs up in frustration after incidents happen but I would hope in this day and age some people would think carefully beforehand. ‘It is unfortunate that it has happened. I hope the management taken appropriate action and it won’t happen again.’
A Blackburn Council spokesman said the issue was a police matter.
Yesterday police said they had not received any formal complaints.
You’re asking for trouble: Parents’ anger after British school builds unisex toilets for its pupils
Parents have accused a Hartlepool school of ‘asking for trouble,’ after it built unisex toilets for secondary school pupils.
The toilet block at Dyke House Sports and Technology College was rebuilt as part of a £12.4m revamp and features three floor-to-ceiling cubicles, each for males and females.
The new design, unveiled after the school was remodelled under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, sees both sexes walk out from the cubicles to the same room and use communal sinks.
Mother-of-two Lynsey Smith, 32, who has a son at the school and lives in nearby Avondale Gardens, Hartlepool, said: ‘If I had a daughter I wouldn’t like to think you have got boys there giving it ‘howay’, carrying on while the girls are going through periods and all that sort of stuff. ‘And if people are dating they might end up in the toilets. ‘It’s asking for trouble really.’
One mum, who took to Facebook to express her anger, wrote: ‘[My daughter] said she’s refusing to go to the toilet for the next 4 and a half years.’ She said she has contacted Hartlepool Borough Council and her local councillor over the issue.
School bosses have defended the new facilities, claiming the toilets are ‘the way forward in 21st Century schools.’ They say the block will always be monitored by a staff member, and will combat the problem of ‘smokers’ corners’.
Andrew Jordon, headteacher at the 1,050-pupil school, said two parents had raised concerns about the toilets, but had changed their minds once they had been invited to see the lavatories.
He added: ‘What we had at the old Dyke House was girls’ and boys’ toilets in the same block, but with a rat-run of places where people could smoke. ‘We have got them contained within the same block, but it’s much more of a pleasant experience. ‘The toilets are very separate – they all have individual cubicles which have floor-to-ceiling doors.
‘There will be a set of toilets for each individual year group that have three individual cubicles for boys and three for girls.’
Mr Jordon said the school had spent 18 months working on the design with contractors Balfour Beatty and that the open-plan format was a ‘stock-design’ for the national construction firm.
He added that the toilets are supervised by a member of staff – either by a progress leader during lessons, whose office is beside the toilets, or by a member of supervisory staff during breaks and lunchtimes.
He acknowledged that the issue of girls’ periods had come up in a lengthy consultation involving the school, architects and pupils, and it was felt the floor-to-ceiling design addressed this matter.
Peter McIntosh, head of schools transformation with Hartlepool Borough Council, said: ‘The layout of the toilets at Dyke House School is an increasingly accepted practice in modern schools. ‘Indeed, the same concept already exists and works well at the town’s Space to Learn facility. ‘When we were in the planning stages for Dyke House we looked at several new schools elsewhere which had adopted this design and the feedback was very positive.
‘There are still dedicated toilets for girls and boys with floor to ceiling privacy and it is very much the way forward in 21st Century schools.’
Nostalgia for the good old coin-in-the-slot parking meter
Computerizing everything has appeal as a cost-saver to service providers but the report from Britain below says it has made life more difficult for us all. I agree. I used to be happy to park at a parking meter, drop a coin in the meter and be on my way. Such meters have now vanished from my environment. Instead there are computerized monsters with lots of buttons that I just don’t get on with. I tried them a couple of times and failed to make them work for me. So I drove off and took my business to a supermarket that had free onsite parking. I always do that from the beginning now. No more parking meters for me!
And I too find voice-recognition software at the end of a phone line quite hopeless. I speak with a native Australian accent in Australia but I am still often not understood. So now I just say “bum” to every query and that usually gets me through to a human being a little faster
It was a freezing cold, blowy day and I had rather misjudged my outfit. My sweater was too thin and my coat not warm enough so, as I went to pay to park my car, I wanted to be as quick as possible.
It used to be simple enough. I would buy a ticket and stick it on my car windscreen; mission accomplished. Now, of course, it’s not so straightforward. Now, I have to negotiate with a computer for my ticket via my mobile phone.
First, I have to set up a credit card account but, according to the electronic apparatchik on the end of the telephone line, there’s a problem with my card. There isn’t, but it’s too late – it’s hung up on me.
I try again but press the wrong number. ‘Invalid response, please try again,’ it says. I try again. And again. Finally, I think I have beaten it, only to be told: ‘Your parking has failed.’ We have reached an impasse. The voice tells me I need assistance – even it agrees I need the help of a real person.
I am put through to a human being and my account is set up within moments and I can now finally purchase my ticket – more than 15 minutes after I first stepped out of the car.
This is just one of many services that have become mechanised in recent times. Everywhere I turn, humans are being replaced by machines. So when Channel 4’s Dispatches team asked me to help make a programme on the issue, I didn’t hesitate. What I discovered shocked me.
In truth, I found it quite sinister. Before making Richard Wilson On Hold, I had thought the amount of automation creeping into society was a bit of a worry. Now I am not just appalled at the extent of it – but at the companies that inflict it upon us.
Retailers and local authorities claim this technology is an improvement, that it provides a better service that benefits us all. But is that true? We took four automated systems – parking meters, checkouts and two different types of phonelines – and tested them to see whether they are more efficient.
I quickly discovered that cashless parking is of little benefit to me. Yet the benefits to the authorities are obvious. They don’t have to collect any money, nor do they have to count it or bank it, which saves them a fortune in administration costs.
So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that in the past five years more than 100 authorities across England – two-thirds – have adopted pay-by-phone parking. Councils in England already make nearly £1.5 billion in parking fees and fines; now they can make even more. Very often they also receive a call-handling commission from the phone service they use.
And worse, in some instances, the phone service provider receives a commission too. A percentage of the extra money the council makes is not spent on us, the taxpayer, but is passed on to the private companies which manage the parking system.
So while they make ever more money, I’m the one doing all the work, taking all the pain – and paying for the privilege.
As part of our investigation, we surveyed 2,000 people and asked them which self-service system most annoyed them. Fifty per cent said automated telephone lines were the biggest nuisance – so we set up our own call centre with nine students and five volunteers from Age UK.
One of the things I have learned is the way in which automation alienates elderly people. For a lot of them, going to the shop is the highlight of their day, but now they don’t even get to talk to the shop assistant when they’re there. They also find the increased reliance on computerised phone lines challenging. Many have problems with their hearing and for arthritis sufferers it can be difficult to keep up with all the numbers you are asked to press. Our volunteers made 400 calls over three days to eight of the country’s largest banks and utility companies. We wanted to see how long it took before each call was answered by a human voice.
In fairness, the banks performed very well. Halifax responded within 40 seconds, Barclays in 28.
The energy companies came out bottom. One volunteer had to wait nearly half an hour to speak to Southern Electric, while E.ON took 58 minutes 17 seconds to answer.
When we contacted E.ON, they said their average waiting time was 59 seconds and they provided a range of alternative helpline numbers for customers. They also said they were upgrading their entire phone network soon.
However, it’s not just the time wasted I object to – it took 14 people 27 hours and 42 minutes to make 400 calls – it’s the cost. These companies use ‘non-geographical’ numbers that may incur costs that an 0800 number would not. We estimated that the call to E.ON would have cost £4.41 on a landline, £6.96 on a mobile.
A spokesman from Which? told me: ‘The costs of calls may not be apparent to you when you pick up the phone. More and more of us are using mobile phones when we are contacting utilities, banks and so on. ‘It could be costing you 40p a minute if you are using an 0844 number. They are premium rate numbers and Which? feels strongly that they are inappropriate for customers.’
At least our volunteers got through to a human voice, albeit by an often tortuous route. The telephone system I personally find most annoying is the automated voice recognition service increasingly used by cinemas, airlines and train companies.
In the TV programme, I try to book a cinema ticket. The computer asks me which film I’d like to see.
I tell it: ‘The Adventures Of Tintin.’
‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?’ it responds.
I repeat: ‘The Adventures Of Tintin.’
‘Johnny English Reborn?’ it asks.
I try once more: ‘The Adventures Of Tintin.’
It replies: ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin.’
‘No, we don’t,’ I say, before slamming down the phone in frustration.
Now, I know I have a Scottish accent but it is hardly broad. And I don’t think RADA would be too happy to think one of its students couldn’t make himself understood by such a thing.
I visited Martin Russell, a voice recognition expert, and he told me the system works best if it’s a voice or an accent it has heard before. He said: ‘The computer has an expectation about how every word in its vocabulary will be pronounced. It builds that expectation by listening to recordings of lots of people speaking. If all of the recordings it hears are from people in the south-east of England, then it would expect you or any other user to speak as if you came from the south-east of England.’
So now it appears that this machine might even be racist, too.
They could improve the service by increasing the database of recordings – but that would cost more and, as ever, this is all about the money.
I interviewed Rob Crutchington, sales director at Encoded, a leading provider of automated phone systems. He explained that the average salary for a phone operator is £15,000 plus a further £10,000 in recruitment and training fees. In contrast, an interactive phone service might cost £5,000 and can answer 60 to 120 calls simultaneously. The savings are substantial. Once again, the benefits for the service provider are clear, the benefits to the consumer less so.
It was a depressingly similar story when we looked at the self-service checkouts which are sprouting up in supermarkets everywhere. They were introduced in 2002 and there are now 21,000 of them. Supermarkets insist these checkouts benefit us, that they offer us a more efficient, quicker system.
We put their claims to the test, sending teams of two shoppers to four supermarkets. Each person had an identical shopping list of ten items. One went to the automated till, the other to the old-style checkout. The automated tills were slower every time, often considerably more so.
At Marks & Spencer, a self-service meltdown meant the automated checkout clocked up a time of 13 minutes – more than ten minutes longer than it took at the staffed till.Yet stores will continue to introduce more and more of them because they save money.
We spoke to a former supermarket manager from Morrisons who did not want to be named. He said that the chain had calculated it could save £5 million by introducing computerised checkouts in 120 stores. And that’s just in the first year – profits increase over time as they no longer have the cost of installing the equipment.
Automation doesn’t help us – I failed to find any benefits. If anything, it makes us miserable. Yet automated Britain will continue apace – whether we want it or not.