NHS GPs sent me away 13 times and dismissed me as neurotic. Now I’ve been told that I am dying of cancer
No scans. Scans cost money
A mother has been given 18 months to live after doctors failed to diagnose her cancer more than a dozen times. Ruth McDonagh, 46, pleaded with GPs for two years to test her for the disease but was repeatedly ‘fobbed off’, and dismissed as ‘neurotic’.
Medical records show she visited GPs 13 times complaining of symptoms before she was finally diagnosed with bowel cancer.
Despite being in excruciating pain, doctors told her simply to take warm baths or eat different foods. And when she became so ill she couldn’t eat, an extraordinary doctor’s note shows she was prescribed a herbal remedy, with the GP noting: ‘Admits is neurotic.’
By the time she was diagnosed in January last year, doctors found the tumour had progressed to the most severe stage, rendering it virtually impossible to treat. Now 4in long, it has spread to the bottom of her spine and is likely to kill her.
Her only hope is an operation that would involve removing the tumour with part of her spine, but she has been unable to find a surgeon capable of carrying it out. Her chance of surviving such an operation would be low and, if she did, she would be unable to use the lower half of her body.
Mrs McDonagh, an office PA from Enfield, North London, is instructing solicitors to compile a compensation claim against the NHS to help provide for her son Brandon, 11.
She said: ‘I knew the symptoms of bowel cancer so I went back again and again, but I couldn’t get anyone to take it seriously. I was just fobbed off. I was in such excruciating pain and I couldn’t eat. It was obvious that something was seriously wrong with me. ‘I feel I’ve been failed by the NHS. I might have been cured by now if I had been diagnosed when the symptoms began.’
She added: ‘Who’s going to look after my son if I go? It’s been awful for him. He’s having nightmares and even wrote to Santa asking for me to be cured. It’s heartbreaking.’
Medical records show Mrs McDonagh, a divorcee, first visited her GP in December 2008, when she complained of bleeding. She asked the doctor whether it could be due to bowel cancer, but was told it was a result of digestion problems.
Over the next two years, she visited GPs in Potters Bar and Enfield another 12 times, complaining also of bloating and abdominal pain – both symptoms of the disease.
In June 2009, she was referred to Chase Farm Hospital for an X-ray, which found several abnormalities in the bowel. But several days later, when she visited her GP yet again, she was told to take warm baths and drink warm fluids.
Iona Millais, a solicitor at Russell Jones and Walker, said: ‘She feels very strongly that she brought the key symptoms to the attention of the medical professionals. ‘By the time she was diagnosed, many of the treatments were no longer available to her.’
Mrs McDonagh has launched a website, http://www.helpruthie.co.uk, to raise funds and seek a doctor to volunteer to carry out the operation that might save her. She said: ‘If it weren’t for my son I might give up, but I need to keep fighting for his sake.’
NHS North Central London and NHS Hertfordshire, which are responsible for the two GP surgeries that treated Mrs McDonagh, said she should contact their complaints departments. A spokesman for Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust, which oversees Chase Farm Hospital, said: ‘We are currently investigating this case.’
British insanity: Local councils will be handed £5bn to combat obesity
And it won’t make a scrap of difference. It never does. Even when people do lose weight, they eventually put it back on — and more
Local government is to take back responsibility for public health for the first time since the 1970s and will be given more than £5billion a year to stem obesity, binge drinking and smoking.
Powerful new public health directors based in councils will be asked to transform the NHS so it focuses much more on preventing illness rather than dealing with its consequences.
Announcing the plans today, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley will argue that a decade of failure has seen obesity rates spiral – with more than a quarter of adults now dangerously overweight – sexually transmitted infections double and gaps in life expectancy between rich and poor areas persist.
Mr Lansley, who aims to create a new ‘public health service’, will say that under Labour, public health was seen as ‘something to be sidelined’.
He will announce that next year £5.2billion will be spent on public health as responsibility is returned to local authorities for the first time since 1974. In a speech to health professionals, he will also pledge that the Government will increase health spending in real terms each year after that.
From April 2013, for the first time the funding will be ringfenced, meaning public health cash can no longer be raided to bail out other parts of the system.
Public health is currently the responsibility of primary care trusts. But as these will be scrapped with the introduction of GP consortiums in 2013, it has been decided that it should revert back to local government – which is responsible for wider determinants of health, such as housing, transport and leisure.
Local government will devise its own schemes for promoting public health, though ministers favour ‘nudging’ people to make healthy choices by presenting them as social norms rather than Labour’s ‘nanny state’ approach.
One example was the use of signs in shops saying ‘most people who shop here buy at least two pieces of fruit’, a tactic which proved effective in trials.
Under the new system, local authorities will be judged against a wide range of measures including tooth decay in children and reducing the number of falls in older people, and wider factors such as school attendance, domestic abuse, homelessness and air pollution. There will also be a major push to promote breastfeeding.
Mr Lansley will say: ‘The job of the Government – and my responsibility – is to help people live healthier lives.
‘The framework is about giving local authorities the ability to focus on the most effective ways to improve the public’s health and reduce health inequalities, long-term, from cradle to grave. Moving away from an old-style, top-down, target-driven regime, and towards outcomes that we all want to see.
‘Some are straightforward and obvious. Others are more complex, maybe things you wouldn’t immediately think of. ‘But they all help us live longer, healthier lives, and improve the health of the poorest, fastest.
He will also point out that ‘2000 to 2010 was a decade in which public health was seen as relatively unimportant, something to be sidelined’.
He will say: ‘Obesity rates from 2000 to 2010 rose from 21.2 per cent to 26.1 per cent so now over a quarter of adults are obese; sexually-transmitted infections, after the steep declines in the Eighties to Nineties, doubled in the subsequent decade; and health inequalities persist, with gaps in life expectancy of over a decade between people born in the richest areas and people born in the poorest.’
Mr Lansley will cite last year’s National Audit Office report which was unable to conclude that the £20billion Labour spent on reducing health inequalities was good value for money.
Councils who succeed will be rewarded with a ‘health premium bonus’ to spend on public health in the following year.
‘I want local government to be bold,’ Mr Lansley will say. ‘Really push to make things better. The health premium will encourage that, rewarding local authorities that make a real, demonstrable difference.’
‘Breast is best advice is too posh’: Charity stops promoting it in ante-natal classes
A leading childbirth charity will stop telling mothers to breastfeed over fears its image is ‘too posh’.
The National Childbirth Trust will no longer promote the practice to all women in its ante-natal classes. Instead it will encourage those who have already decided to take it up to do it properly.
The change follows concerns that its ‘breastapo’ tactics are alienating some women reluctant to breastfeed, particularly among the working class. The charity wants women from more diverse backgrounds to attend its classes.
The NHS recommends that babies are breastfed exclusively for six months. Breastfeeding rates range from 90 per cent for more affluent women, to just over 70 per cent for those in the poorest social classes and only 63 per cent for teenage mothers.
It provided ante-natal classes for about 90,000 couples last year, 16 per cent of them free through the NHS. But it has been criticised for alienating women who decide not to breastfeed or those who chose to have a caesarean.
Last year TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp claimed that she and thousands of mothers were being made to feel a ‘failure’ for having c-sections.
Spokesman Anne Fox said: ‘We need to get the message out that the NCT is for everyone, not just for “posh” parents as some people assume. ‘We want to have a more diverse reach. We have always worked on word of mouth, but now we want the person who says “You should go to NCT” to be a pregnant 15-year-old in central Manchester. ‘Our practitioners and volunteers are training to support all parents; those from ethnic minority groups, families that are newly arrived and those who parent on their own.’
The NCT, formed in 1956, has 100,000 members, making it the biggest parenting charity in the country.
The hypocritical Milibands — Rather what you expect from the sons of a prominent Marxist theoretician
David Miliband takes lucrative new job with a Pakistan-based City firm backed by a Swiss playboy as brother Ed rails against Capitalist predators
David Miliband has taken a lucrative job with a Pakistan-based City firm which will push his post-ministerial earnings to £500,000 – at a time when brother Ed is campaigning against capitalist ‘predators’.
The former Foreign Secretary, who has picked up a string of highly paid positions since losing the Labour leadership battle to his brother, has been appointed as a senior adviser to Indus Basin Holdings.
The firm, set up last year to funnel investment into Pakistani agriculture, boasts a number of colourful backers, including a Swiss aristocrat playboy called Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Mr Miliband, who will earn about £50,000 a year from the part-time position – which is not expected to occupy him for more than a few days a month – is starting to emulate the money-making success of his political patron, Tony Blair. And like Mr Blair, he has constructed his business affairs in a way that appears to limit tax liability.
Mr Miliband would pay income tax at the normal rate on his £65,000 salary for being an MP.
His non-parliamentary earnings, however, are paid into a company called The Office Of David Miliband Limited, which is subject to corporation tax of between 20 per cent and 27.5 per cent – substantially less than the 50 per cent rate of income tax for those earning more than £150,000. Last night, a leading City accountant estimated that using the company device would have lowered his tax bill by £127,000.
The accountant added that shares in the company were split 50-50 between Mr Miliband and his wife – a move usually deployed to ‘split incomes’ so both partners can exploit their lower tax bands to the full. Last night the former Minister’s office did not respond to questions about tax.
Earlier this month it was disclosed that Mr Blair’s firms had paid just £315,000 in tax on a £12 million annual income.
News of Mr Miliband’s latest job comes as his brother tries to turn around his sagging political fortunes by attacking ‘fat cat’ executive pay and joining cross-party calls for reckless former RBS banker Sir Fred Goodwin to be stripped of his knighthood. The Labour leader used last year’s party conference to condemn capitalist ‘predators’ who are ‘just interested in the fast buck’.
Indus Basin Holdings (IBH) was set up by Aamer Sarfraz, a merchant banker at London-based investment company Tigris Financial, to make money out of burgeoning farm businesses in Pakistan.
As Foreign Secretary, Mr Miliband had frequent contact with Islamabad – including personal visits – as part of anti-terror negotiations. Last night his office stressed that none of the contacts he made in his official work had helped him land the job.
IBH’s investors include Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza. The 48-year-old film-maker is the son of five-times-married billionaire art collector Heini Thyssen-Bornemisza and British fashion model Fiona Campbell-Walter. Known to have lost his virginity at 15 to a prostitute, in his youth he was linked to the models Koo Stark and Baroness Andrea von Stumm.
Another IBH investor is Tim Draper, a US venture capitalist known for being an early backer of Skype internet telephone technology.
Before securing his new job, Mr Miliband had already amassed more than £400,000 from speeches, lectures and consultancy work in the past 15 months.
The jobs include more than £92,000 a year from the Californian ‘clean energy’ firm VantagePoint, £75,000 a year as vice-chairman of Premier League football club Sunderland, and one-off fees including £24,000 for a week of teaching at a US university and lectures in the Middle East at £25,000 a time.
After losing the leadership battle in September 2010, Mr Miliband opted to walk away from the party front bench. By the next General Election in 2015, however, he is likely to have secured his financial future, putting him in a strong position for another run at the leadership.
He said in a statement yesterday: ‘I care deeply about Pakistan, the development of its economy and its future in the wider region. ‘I look forward to working with IBH in building support and investment in Pakistan’s agricultural capacity and productivity.’ His spokesman said the IBH job had been cleared by the relevant Government’s Advisory Committee.
And Red Ed isn’t as green as his eco-bag proclaims
As he leaves for work, Ed Miliband looks for all the world like the eco-friendly politician he is supposed to be.
The Labour leader emerged from his house in North London earlier this month clutching a reusable bag bearing the slogan ‘My Green Bag’ – clearly advertising his environmental credentials.
But within seconds, Mr Miliband, who was Climate Change Secretary in the last Labour Government, was spotted climbing into the back of a powerful Jaguar XF as if worries over global warming were a thing of the past.
The Jaguar XF range goes from a £29,250 2.2-litre diesel version to a £63,780 five-litre petrol model capable of 155mph.
Last night, Labour defended Mr Miliband, insisting the car provided for the Opposition leader came from the same fleet used by Ministers.
The party said: ‘The car is from the Government Car Service. It’s what Coalition Ministers are given.
‘As it is with the official car service, they meet high environmental standards.’
The spokesman said that Mr Miliband was not always given the same car, but the models used were always diesel.
Evil British social workers again
Under the pretext of “caring”, they do all they can to hurt and frustrate people
An elderly couple were banned from going on holiday together after their local council said it was too risky. In an astonishing example of the nanny state at work, Norman Davies and Peggy Ross were told by Cardiff Council that they could not go on the planned Mediterranean cruise, just days before they were due to leave.
Over-zealous social workers claimed Mrs Ross, who suffers from dementia, was in danger of wandering off or falling overboard.
But the 82-year-old woman and her 81-year-old husband fought the court order and were eventually able to set sail from Southampton on the 16-day holiday of their dreams.
Despite the dire predictions of the interfering council, the couple enjoyed the trip of a lifetime and Mr Davies said the break had in fact benefitted Mrs Ross’s mental alertness.
In October, after the council learned about the £3,200 holiday the pair had planned, it tried to use mental health laws to prevent from Mrs Ross leaving her care home.
Furious Mr Davies, a former engineer who lives near Newport, told ITV Wales: ‘I’m with her 24/7. The cabin is a self-contained unit and we go down for meals together – she’s just never left on her own.’
The couple have been together for around 20 years and have often gone on around 30 cruises.
They were horrified when jobsworths at the council obtained a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguard authorisation and then applied to the Court of Protection for a declaration to say Mrs Ross was unable to travel.
‘They just didn’t want me to go,’ said Mrs Ross. She admitted she sometimes gets confused. but added: ‘I do look after myself, and we’re usually in the same room together, so he notices if I try to go out. It’s not often.’
She had been admitted to the nursing home in July 2010, suffering from memory loss, and her social worker claimed she lacked ‘capacity to make a decision’ about the holiday because her ‘ideas/beliefs are not based in reality’.
Luckily, Mr Davies and his daughter Gaynor Lloyd moved quickly and instructed a solicitor to challenge the order, with days to go until they were due to set sail from Southampton.
The case was heard at Cardiff Regional Court a mere three days before they were set to go away, and to the couple’s great relief, the judge ruled that it was in Mrs Ross’s best interests to go.
Judge Crispin Masterman said that even if others believed Mrs Ross’s decision to go on the holiday was ‘unwise’, that did not show she was unable to make it.
He said the social worker and care home staff obviously had her safety in mind, but were too concerned with ‘trying to find reasons why Mrs Ross should not go on this holiday rather than finding reasons why she should’.
The judge concluded that she did have capacity to make the decision and the couple sailed away on their holiday.
His lawyer said the victory revealed that the over-cautiousness of modern life had to be tempered with common sense. Lawyers from Essex Street chambers said the case highlighted ‘a tendency among local authorities to focus on risk-prevention at the expense of emotional wellbeing.’
Previous cases have seen councils and health bodies try to prevent a man having sex, force a woman with a low IQ to take contraception and even stop a man bringing his grandmother home for Christmas.
A Cardiff Council spokesman said: ‘The council has always had Mrs Ross’s best interests at heart and we worked with her to find an alternative holiday where we could be confident that the required level of care which she requires on a daily basis could be provided.’
Her care home manager said that nothing stopped Mrs Ross leaving the care home and she was ‘free to have a lovely life with her partner.’ But she said she was concerned over the 82-year-old being away for 16 days.
Oxford finalists are little better than High School, claim tutors
About a quarter of Freshers at Harvard are sent off to remedial English and mathematics classes so the blight of High Schools not preparing students well is not unique to Britain
They are supposed to be the brightest in Britain. But some Oxford University students show a “distressing” grasp of their subjects and the answers to their final exams are often little better than A-level standard, according to their tutors.
Some are unable to spell words such as ‘erupt’ or ‘across’ correctly and give answers that show a “worrying degree of inaccuracy,” according to examiners’ reports seen by the Daily Telegraph.
Academics said a culture of box-ticking at A-level had left students with poor general knowledge and unable to think for themselves.
One English examiner wrote: “We encountered a distinct sense of undeveloped critical thought, first year level work, or at the lower end of the run, A-level-style responses: information dumped but not tackled.”
A tutor marking Cold War history papers said: “The clotted residuum of A-level work was noticeable in a clutch of questions.
“Candidates would do well to abandon the assumption that they can use their schoolwork without significant addition to their reading and analysis. “The intellectual thinness and out-datedness on topics such as the Soviet Union was embarrassing.”
Examiners were delighted by some candidates, whose work was good enough to be published in academic journals. But they were scathing about large numbers whose answers were “dull” – or worse.
English papers carried “haphazard and random generalisations”, they wrote. Only seven candidates in a class of 80 studying Irish poetry could say which country the city of Derry is in, and “very few” could explain the significance of 1916, the year of the Easter Rising.
In answers on Jane Austen, tutors wrote: “There was too much simply bad writing, which was poorly thought out and critically inattentive”. Students’ knowledge of scholarship on Dickens was “plainly deficient”, they said.
Answers on Cicero were “tending towards the dreadfully banal” while Alexander the Great fell victim to “manifest guesswork”.
In answers on Old English, “names were badly mangled and often forgotten – the tendency was, if in doubt, to call everyone Aelfric.”
Modern languages tutors were no kinder. In German, some scripts were “depressingly poor”. Spanish words, including the names of authors and their works, were “consistently misspelled”. French translation was often “appalling”. Italian candidates were “undeniably of a mediocre level” and the worst Russian oral candidates were “embarrassingly weak”.
Tutors in many subjects complained that students had failed to revise properly, and instead memorised old class essays and regurgitated them regardless of the question asked.
Other candidates, meanwhile, were almost too clever for their own good. “Some tyro de-constructivists perversely feigned not to understand the simplest phrases and tortured their texts into contradiction and unintelligibility,” the examiner of a paper on modern poetry wrote.
But it was students’ “startling” abuse of English that shocked dons the most. Some could not spell ‘illuminate’ ‘bizarre’ ‘blur’ ‘buries’ or ‘possess’ correctly, with tutors blaming a dependence on computer spellcheckers.
Handwriting was so poor that “scripts from dyslexic candidates proved a welcome relief because they were typed,” one added.
“Examiners were once again concerned that students graduating from Oxford having studied foreign languages should have such a precarious command of their own,” one Spanish tutor wrote.
More than a quarter of Oxford students received a first class degree in 2010, with 63 per cent receiving an upper second and just 1 per cent getting a third. No candidates failed their degree.
David Palfreyman, Bursar of New College and director of the Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies, said: “Kids are so constrained by being brought up thinking ‘I only do for the exams at GCSE or A-level what the mark scheme says I should do, I never think out of the box because I don’t get rewarded if I do’. What’s missing is the cultural heritage.
“You can’t assume that if you say to a kid ‘this is a kind of Micawber personality’ that the kid understands what that means because the historian may not have ever encountered somebody called Dickens at school.”
Professor Peter Oppenheimer, an emeritus professor at Christ Church college, said: “Any Oxford tutor will tell you that the standards nowadays forthcoming from schools are appallingly low, and certainly much lower than a generation ago.
“In modern languages part of the problem is they aren’t taught English grammar, so how should they learn the grammar of foreign languages?”
A university spokesman declined to comment.