Why won’t they help our daughter to walk? Girl, 3, with cerebral palsy refused treatment available at local hospital
A three-year-old girl has been refused life-changing treatment on the NHS, leaving her family outraged. Evie Tucker is unable to walk unaided as she was diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition which causes problems with movement and coordination.
In a bid to help their daughter, Evie’s parents applied for corrective surgery, but healthcare bosses have refused to fund the £23,000 operation, available just miles away at a local hospital.
The Tuckers are now desperately trying to raise funds for the operation, known as a selective dorsal rhizotomy, which could see Evie walk for the first time. Her mother Karissa Skidmore, 28, from Avonmouth, Bristol, said: ‘Without the surgery she will not be able to walk by herself. ‘She has a walker, which she probably manages about ten steps with before she gets really tired so mainly she crawls around.’
‘I want Evie to have the surgery as close to her fourth birthday in March as possible as she is not at school yet and it will not interfere with that. ‘I can see in her face how frustrated she gets at not being able to join in with her friends walking and dancing and will make a difference to all of us as a family.’
Evie was delivered ten weeks early after her mother suffered a fall. She spent her first seven weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at Southmead Hospital, Bristol, where brain scans revealed that she had cerebral palsy. While she can do many of the things that her peers can, she can only crawl or walk a few steps with the aid of a walking frame.
But her mother came across a new type of surgery which could help her daughter get back on her feet. The operation involves cutting nerves in the spinal cord to overcome the tightening of muscles that makes it difficult for many with cerebral palsy to walk.
Previously the treatment was only available in the U.S. but Ms Skidmore was delighted when she discovered that a local hospital was one of the first to offer the service in the UK. The family applied immediately through their local NHS. However a funding panel refused the application stating that Evie’s case was not strong enough.
The family are now facing the challenge of raising the funds themselves.
A letter from NHS Bristol said: ‘The panel agreed that there is a small but significant cohort of patients who may benefit from this new developing procedure. ‘They had not been supplied with sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Miss Tucker has the potential to benefit over and above other patients with a similar condition for whom this treatment is also not currently available.’
The family appealed against the initial decision, but now they are focused on fundraising to pay for the treatment on a private basis.
Ms Skidmore, who also has a five-month-old son, Jack, with partner Dan Tucker, added: ‘This is a postcode lottery – they are saying the treatment is not available to other children but it is to those in other parts of the country.’
Since last May, when the surgery was first introduced at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, 12 operations have been carried out by consultant neurosurgeon Kristian Aquilina, who learnt the technique at St Louis Children’s Hospital in the U.S.
As the only hospital in the UK currently offering the procedure, referrals have come in from across the country, with most being paid for by the NHS.
A further 14 children have been assessed by Mr Aquilina and had funding refused by their local NHS trust.
A spokesperson for the primary care trust said: ‘Unfortunately, the need for healthcare services usually exceeds the resources available. ‘We cannot always provide NHS funding for all of the treatments that patients request.’
It is estimated that 1 in every 400 children in the UK is affected by cerebral palsy and 1,800 babies are diagnosed with the condition each year.
Senior judge attacks UK border system after Lithuanian sex offender was able to enter the country
A senior judge has railed at the UK border system asking “do we let anyone in?” after a dangerous Lithuanian sex offender was able to enter the country and then rape a woman.
Lady Justice Hallett demanded to know if serious criminals were allowed to just “walk in to the country” after hearing the case of Victor Akulic.
Akulic raped a 40-year-old woman in 2010, just months after arriving, and then forced her to watch a recording of the horrific attack.
It emerged at his trial that he had committed a string of serious offences in Lithuania, including the rape of a seven-year-old girl, before arriving in the UK. However his previous offences did not show up when he entered Britain because of the poor information exchange between some EU countries.
Immigration officials here are reliant on individuals owning up to previous offences themselves or their home nation passing on details to the police.
But despite her concerns, Lady Justice Hallett reduced Akulic’s life sentence to an indeterminate sentence for public protection.
Hearing the appeal, the judge asked Akulic’s barrister, Catherine Purnell, how he was allowed to enter the UK with such a serious conviction to his name. She said: “He comes into this country with a conviction for raping a child. Do we let in just anyone, even if they have such a serious conviction?”
When Ms Purnell said Akulic is a Lithuanian national and Lithuania is now part of the European Union, Lady Justice Hallett retorted: “I appreciate that, but do we have to take in anybody, even if they have a conviction for raping a child.”
Ms Purnell replied: “I’m afraid I don’t know about that; it may be that if the authorities had known about that then something may have been done earlier. “I do know it was very difficult for the prosecuting authorities to find out details of the offence.”
Akulic was jailed for life, with a minimum of eight and a half years, at Maidstone Crown Court in February last year, after being convicted of rape, assault and intimidation of a woman.
Akulic, 44, of Alexander Road, Sheerness, raped a woman in August 2010 and subjected her to three vicious assaults – including one in which he knocked her to the ground and stamped on her head – before trying to intimidate her following his arrest.
The court heard he amassed a number of previous convictions in his native country before he came to the UK in early 2010. In 1992, in Lithuania, he was convicted of assault causing grievous bodily harm, for which he received a seven-year jail term, and in 1997 he was handed a five-year jail term for another offence – which was unrecorded. He was jailed for eight years in March 2001 for raping a seven-year-old girl and was released in February 2009.
Ms Purnell accepted Akulic was a “dangerous offender”, but the Appeal Court replaced his life sentence with less draconian imprisonment for public protection and reduced his minimum term to seven years, after which it will be a Parole Board decision as to whether he can be released.
However, Ms Purnell said Akulic is in the process of applying for a transfer to a prison in Lithuania, and told the court: “Hopefully he will not be a burden on the taxpayer too much longer.”
Judge attacks immigration ‘merry-go-round’ that allowed Pakistani man to make 16 applications to stay in Britain
A senior judge today condemned the immigration ‘merry-go-round’ that allowed an asylum seeker to stay in Britain for a decade.
The Pakistani national was allowed to make a staggering 16 appeals or new applications despite being rejected at every turn, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of at least £250,000.
Lord Justice Ward said the ‘depressing story’ was typical of asylum cases in which ‘endless fresh claims’ were allowed to ‘clog up’ the system. He said: ‘This is another of those frustrating appeals which characterise – and, some may even think, disfigure – certain aspects of the work in the immigration field.
‘Here we have one of those whirligig cases where an asylum seeker goes up and down on the merry-go-round leaving one wondering when the music will ever stop. ‘It is a typical case where asylum was refused years ago but endless fresh claims clog the process of removal.’
The Court of Appeal judge rejected the man’s latest appeal and insisted he should now be returned to Pakistan. He concluded: ‘I would therefore dismiss this appeal. It is time the music stopped and the merry-go-round stops turning. ‘His claim for judicial review is now dismissed. Enough of the whirligig. The Secretary of State is now entitled to take steps to remove him.’
The 38-year-old man, whose identity is hidden by the court, first arrived in Britain in August 1998, and claimed asylum one month later. His claim was rejected by the Home Secretary two years later after an official rejected documents he presented as evidence as ‘false’ and found they ‘cast doubt on his credibility’.
The man claimed he was a member of a religious minority in Pakistan and faced persecution in his home country.
He appealed to a tribunal and lost and in November 2001 he was due to be deported – but this was stopped after he claimed it would breach his ‘human rights’.
At this point, Lord Justice Ward said ‘the merry-go-round had started’. The new application was refused in December 2001. The man appealed, and lost his case before an official adjudicator in 2004.
Recounting these events, LJ Ward commented: ‘Notwithstanding that setback, the carousel continued to go round and round, because, nothing daunted, the appellant had submitted a fresh claim.’ The new claim was rejected on October 1, 2004, but new claims were made two weeks later, and again in January, May and December of the following year. He was arrested in February 2006, but made another new claim, which was rejected by the Home Office in March 2006. But according to the judge, the ‘whirligig kept turning.’
On March 13, 2006, the applicant made a new claim for judicial review of the decision to remove him, which the High Court approved in July 2008. Lord Justice Ward said: ‘This was to all intents and purposes a new challenge, another ride on the roundabout. On my count, this was the 15th submission of a fresh claim.’
The claim for judicial review was dismissed, but the case then went before the Court of Appeal, leading to a hearing in July this year, and yesterday’s written ruling.
Around £100million is spent annually on legal aid for asylum seekers, but this does not include the cost of courts and tribunal system hearing the cases or the cost to the government of fighting the cases and processing the paperwork.
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has pledged to end abuses of the legal aid system by failed asylum seekers.
More Grammar (selective) schools would put Britain in the Premier League
In Britain, you can be too clever by half, but there is no such thing as too sporty by half
Is Stephen Twigg out of his tree? The shadow education secretary is trying to get Liberal Democrat MPs to join Labour in fighting a change in national admission rules which gives English grammar schools the freedom to take more pupils. Twigg claims the plan will “expand academic selection by the back door”. Disgraceful! I mean, what have grammar schools ever done for Britain?
Er, unleashed the potential of the most meritocratic generation in our history? Yeah, but what else?
Supplied a rigorous education enabling children from modest backgrounds to compete with offspring of the wealthy for university places, thus breaching bastions of hereditary privilege and creating a more diverse group of people at the top of society?
Yeah, OK, but who wants more evil and socially divisive grammar school places?
There are currently about 12 applicants for each of the 158,000 grammar school places. At Wallington in Surrey, police were called to maintain order at an entrance exam when nearly 1,500 pupils battled for 126 places. No wonder. In 2007, grammar schools outperformed private and public schools in exams for the first time, and have kept outperforming their rivals.
Parents will lie, move house, bankrupt themselves with tutors and even engage in high-class prostitution to get their child a precious grammar place. Yet such is the ideological myopia of Mr Twigg and his fellow zealots that selection, even when it is proven to offer the only chance of social mobility, is deemed to be the enemy of something they hilariously call fairness.
Well, the other day I met a child who is going through the most brutal form of selective education imaginable. Matthew is 15 and he wants to be a professional footballer. At nine, Matt was spotted by a London club and was given a scholarship place at their Academy. Getting in, which was ferociously hard, turned out to be the easy bit. Competition within the Academy is relentless. Of the 150 aspiring youngsters, maybe only two will make the final cut. When Matt’s team travels abroad it is accompanied by coaches who spot future stars among dirt‑poor street kids. Matt is not only competing in the Academy against his British peers but the very best boys from Europe and Latin America.
It’s hideously pressurised and the prospects of achieving the ultimate goal are slim. Matt loves it. Piglet in clover. I have never met a happier teenager.
Now let’s imagine another boy or girl like Matthew. This child is also from a working-class background, but with a brain as nimble and special as Matt’s right foot. She or he is the stand-out pupil at junior school. Given the right training, their brain has the potential to do something spectacular, but it can’t be singled out from the rest. He or she will not be stimulated by the ability of other similarly talented kids in an institution dedicated to nurturing the professors or inventors of the future.
For, verily, it has been decreed that selection according to nimble feet or muscular arms or dancing grace or vocal ability is permissible and selection according to intelligence is wrong. In Britain, you can be too clever by half, but there is no such thing as too sporty by half. Unthinkable, isn’t it?
You may have noticed that, as a result of these contrasting ethos – Darwinian selection in soccer, denial of the fittest in schools – we have tumbled down the international Premier League table to 17th in reading and 24th in maths, but are rather good at football. If school was a football club, it would be time to call in Martin O’Neill (himself the brilliant product of one of Northern Ireland’s 69 grammar schools).
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the new head of Ofsted and, I very much hope, education’s answer to the Sunderland manager, said this week that more than a million youngsters are trapped in “coasting” schools. Coasting schools are to good schools what Billericay Five A Side is to Manchester United. Sir Michael is abolishing Ofsted’s “Satisfactory” rating, beneath whose euphemistic cloak has been hidden all manner of shocking failure. Let me clarify. Schools rated Outstanding by Ofsted are generally pretty good, though an astonishing 53 per cent of those schools achieved that rating without being outstanding in teaching and learning. What are they brilliant at, then – recycling? Knifelessness? Schools rated Good by Ofsted are usually not too bad and as for Satisfactory schools, well, carry a pepper spray. In an age of slippery, relative standards, grammar schools remain a rock of excellence.
Still, Stephen Twigg is right about one thing. There should be no more academic selection by the back door. Too right. Let there be selection by the front door. We should send out search parties to liberate every bright kid trapped in a “satisfactory” school.
Recently, in BBC4’s The Grammar School: A Secret History, Michael Portillo, the son of a Spanish immigrant, recalled a reunion at his alma mater, the fiercely competitive Harrow County School for Boys. Sadly, one old boy was unable to attend, but at least he had a good excuse. Paul Nurse was in Sweden collecting the Nobel Prize for Medicine. Raised in Wembley by his grandparents – granddad was a mechanic at the Heinz factory, nanna a cleaner – Sir Paul is a prime example of what selective education can do for a child’s life chances.
Is there a small boy in 2012 living in a poor home who is going to grow up to be President of the Royal Society and a Nobel Laureate? Without a grammar school education to drive him on and make him take those difficult science A levels, there’s not a hope in hell.
There is, however, one chance for that boy to go to a place of fierce competition and unapologetic excellence. If, that is, he is gifted and talented. With a ball.
In England, where I live now, I let a house to a group of students. In 2004, the Blair Labour government passed a new Housing Act which, among other things, required landlords like me to install a hand basin in every bedroom, ‘where practicable.’ This clause is now operative, so just before Christmas, I met at the house with my tenants, a qualified plumber, and an inspector from the local Council to determine whether it was ‘practicable’ to install basins in the five bedrooms.
I admit I wasn’t much in favour of the idea; it is an expensive job and I have visions of drunken students heaving basins off the wall and flooding the whole house. My tenants didn’t like the idea either. They thought basins would take up valuable wall space that could be better occupied by desks, book cases or Che Guevara posters. The man from the Council thought the new rule was ridiculous, too, but his hands were tied. And my plumber had to admit that, with a soil pipe immediately outside two of the windows, it would be quite ‘practicable’ to install basins in two of the five bedrooms.
So we all agreed that in two of the five rooms, basins would have to be installed to comply with the Act, even though it made no sense to do so. The tenants promptly asked me to delay this ‘improvement’ until after they move out.
At the last election, the Tories promised to scrap all unnecessary red tape, so I wrote to my local Conservative MP and suggested that this particular provision of the 2004 Housing Act might be a good place to start. She forwarded my letter to the (Liberal Democrat) Minister responsible for such matters (the Tories are in coalition, remember, and all the boring jobs have been given to Lib Dems). He has just replied to me.
He tells me that the law requiring a hand basin in every room is necessary ‘to ensure that standards are decent.’ The implication seems to be that, unless we are tightly controlled, we avaricious landlords will condemn students to live ‘indecently’ (in my experience, many students manage this quite nicely with no prompting from me).
I have written back to the Minister asking why he thinks a politician in Westminster is a better judge than the landlord who owns the house, the tenants who live in it, and the local council that regulates it, to determine whether or not a bedroom requires a hand basin. I’ll let you know if I get an answer.
Meanwhile, on the same day that I received the Minister’s letter, I had an email from a certain Ben Plowdon, who tells me he is ‘Director of Surface Planning’ at something called ‘Transport for London’. I don’t know Ben, but he seems to know me, for he addresses me personally. He writes: ‘Dear Mr Saunders, I am writing to both drivers and cyclists reminding them to take care on London’s roads.’
I can’t remember the last time I drove or cycled in London. Nevertheless, I was so touched by Ben’s concern for my welfare that I decided to write back immediately:
Dear Mr Plowden,
Thank you for your email telling me to “take care on London’s roads.”
Up until now I did not realise it was necessary to take care when driving in London.
I will do my best to follow your advice in the future – just as soon as I have taught my grandmother to suck eggs.
PS How many GCSEs do you need to do your job?
SOURCE (GCSEs are a middle school qualification, well short of a degree)