Medics ‘missed three chances to save life of heart-attack father’ who was sent home with antibiotics
Family history is a major diagnostic tool but even that was ignored
A father died after three medics failed to spot that he had suffered a heart attack, an inquest heard yesterday.
Dean Beresford, 44, said he was having chest pains and struggling to breathe, and that he had a family history of heart problems.
But after speaking to an NHS Direct nurse and to a GP by phone and being seen by another doctor, he was sent home with antibiotics for a cough. Less than two weeks later he collapsed and died.
A post-mortem examination showed his death was due to myocardial infarction – a rupture of the heart caused by his untreated heart attack.
Recording a narrative verdict, Coroner Stuart Fisher said it was clear there had been ‘serious deficiencies’ in Mr Beresford’s care.
He said there had been ‘three medical chances’ to save his life – all of which had been tragically missed. Lorry driver Mr Beresford lived with his partner Tina Coupland and their daughter Isobella, now four, in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. Miss Coupland said: ‘The failings and mistakes by the NHS were there for all to see.’
The inquest in Lincoln heard that Mr Beresford called NHS Direct on Saturday, July 31, 2010 after suffering from crippling chest pains.
During a 17-minute telephone call with a nurse, he said: ‘I have had chest pains all week. I have pain shooting down my arms. The pain in my chest is slightly to the left. It’s a muscular throbbing and it feels like I have a fever. There is pain on the back of my neck.’
Nurse Beatrice Makonyola should have called an ambulance for him ‘within a minute’ of him describing these symptoms, the inquest was told. Instead, she recommended he wait to talk to an out-of-hours GP on the telephone. At the inquest Nurse Makonyola admitted it had been ‘obvious’ he was suffering from a heart attack. But at the time, she believed he was probably just suffering from a cough.
When he spoke to the out-of-hours GP, Mr Beresford repeated his symptoms and even mentioned that his mother had died of angina and his father had recently suffered a heart attack.
During that three-minute conversation, Dr Richard Smith, also failed to realise he was suffering from a heart attack – but told him to go and see a doctor face to face.
He then went to see out-of-hours GP Dr Kevin Lee at John Coupland Hospital in Gainsborough. After a ten-minute examination, Dr Lee diagnosed Mr Beresford with a ‘chesty cough’, gave him antibiotics and sent him home.
Mr Beresford, the brother of former professional footballer Marlon Beresford, stayed off work for a week. On August 11, two days after his return, he collapsed. He died later in hospital.
NHS Direct clinical director Tricia Hamilton admitted Nurse Makonyola was ‘out of her depth’, but added that she was now back at work after being suspended and sent for further training.
Conspiratorial NHS lawyer is given £100,000 after she lost her job
An NHS lawyer who asked a doctor to suppress details of how a patient died has won a payout of more than £100,000.
Kate Levy was fired from her job as head of legal services at scandal-hit Stafford Hospital after details of the cover-up were exposed. But after taking her former employers to a tribunal, she has now been awarded £103,000 for ‘wrongful and unfair dismissal’.
Her sacking centred on a request she had made to consultant Ivan Phair over a report he had written into the death of John Moore-Robinson.
Mr Moore-Robinson’s father, Frank, branded the payout ‘morally criminal’. His 20-year-old son had been taken to the casualty department of Stafford Hospital after a mountain bike accident on Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, in 2006.
An X-ray revealed he had broken his ribs. He was vomiting and in agony but a junior doctor failed to spot a ruptured spleen and sent him home with painkillers. Within hours his parents called 999 because he was still in severe pain. He died minutes before paramedics arrived.
Mr Phair later wrote a report into the death for the coroner, which stated it was ‘avoidable’ and there was a ‘high probability that the level of care delivered was negligent’.
But when Miss Levy, 56, read the report, she wrote to Mr Phair asking him to delete the criticism to spare distress to Mr Moore-Robinson’s family and avoid ‘adverse publicity’.
Miss Levy was suspended and sacked after details of the cover-up were exposed in a Sunday newspaper two years ago. She lost an appeal against her dismissal and then started tribunal proceedings against the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
At the start of this week’s hearing, the Trust conceded Miss Levy was ‘wrongfully and unfairly dismissed’, and authorised a settlement of £103,000.
Mr Moore-Robinson’s parents had received just £13,000 from the NHS litigation authority over their son’s death, to cover his funeral costs and their legal expenses during the 2007 inquest.
In the end, neither Mr Phair’s original report nor the amended version were sent to the coroner.
Last night Mr Moore-Robinson’s father said that senior executives at the Trust admitted to him that they had ‘cocked up big-time’ over the way Miss Levy’s dismissal was handled. He added: ‘In my opinion, the decision to sack her was correct. But it seems they went about it the wrong way.
‘I can accept that technically, the hospital may have been wrong to sack her but giving her a six-figure payout beggars belief. ‘What she did was despicable and I hope she can live with herself. I just think it is obscene when you consider what we received for John’s death.’
In a statement, the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust said: ‘Following legal advice we received from our barrister at the start of the tribunal, we conceded that Ms Levy was wrongfully and unfairly dismissed.’
Miss Levy, who had previously been cleared of any wrongdoing by both the police and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, said: ‘I have always maintained that my actions were entirely consistent with my duties as a lawyer, and that I was not in breach of contract or otherwise guilty of any misconduct.’
Stafford Hospital was first hit by scandal in 2009 when a report by the NHS regulator, the Healthcare Commission, said appalling standards of care there may have contributed to the deaths of at least 400 patients.
Robert Francis QC then chaired an inquiry which concluded that patients were routinely neglected by a Trust that was ‘preoccupied with cost cutting and targets’.
Useless British police put on the spot
‘Three strikes’ rule to tackle yob gangs: Police must act on complaints or face the sack
Police will no longer be able to ignore homeowners whose lives are being made a misery by yobs, the Home Secretary is set to announce. Once three separate complaints have been lodged, officers will have no option but to take action, Theresa May will say. The same will apply if five individuals from five different households in the same neighbourhood complain about the same issue.
If they still fail to respond, they can be hauled in front of a ‘crime commissioner’, who will have the power to fire chief constables.
Ministers hope the ‘community trigger’ system will halt a string of shocking cases where police and councils have failed to intervene to prevent homeowners being tormented.
They want to prevent a repeat of the case of Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her disabled 18-year-old daughter Francecca – who had a mental age of four – when her cries for help went unheeded.
An inquest heard that yobs screamed obscenities at them, hurled stones and eggs at the windows, shoved dog excrement and fireworks through the letterbox, and threatened Miss Pilkington’s dyslexic son Anthony with a knife.
Despite receiving 33 desperate 999 calls in ten years, police said Miss Pilkington, 38, was ‘over-reacting’ and dismissed her as ‘low-priority’.
Unable to bear the torment any more, she decided death was her only escape, and killed herself and her daughter by setting fire to their car near their home in Barwell, Leicestershire, in October 2007.
A separate report by the police watchdog revealed officers were failing to visit tens of thousands of families whose lives are made a misery by louts. The Chief Inspector of Constabulary’s report said the true number of anti-social behaviour incidents could be twice as high as the 3.6million estimated by the Government in 2008-9.
In a speech in London today, Mrs May will say: ‘It’s too easy to overlook the harm that persistent anti-social behaviour causes. ‘Many police forces, councils and housing providers are working hard, but I still hear horror stories of victims reporting the same problem over and over again, and getting no response.
Will police revert to Dutch protocol
‘These long-running problems – and the sense of helplessness that goes with them –can destroy a victim’s quality of life and shatter a community’s trust in the police. ‘The “trigger” will give victims and communities the right to demand that agencies who had ignored a problem must take action.’
The new power will target Community Safety Partnerships, which are joint panels of the police and local authority officials. It specifically deals with anti-social behaviour: low-level offending such as vandalism or intimidation.
Officers have in the past viewed it as a council job – leading to criticism they do not take bad behaviour seriously. But now either the police or council will be required to take steps to resolve a problem once it has reached the trigger stage, and reply to the complainant detailing a plan. Only ‘malicious’ complaints can be rejected.
From November, that reply will be copied to elected police and crime commissioners – who will be elected for the first time in November. These commissioners will have the power to fire under-performing chief constables.
Why should my granny pay £40 a year for your solar energy?
The debacle over payments for solar energy in Britain is dragging on
We currently have an excessively generous system that pays people with solar panels 43p per kWh to generate energy – £1,000 a year, on average, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
This system, known as the feed in tariff, was designed to incentivise people to ‘go green’ and is paid for by all consumers, in the form of higher energy bills.
But if these lavish payments continue, it will add £40 a year to every household’s electricity bill by 2020. The Government had budgeted for each household to pay just £23 – an already iniquitous sum.
These green subsidies need to be curbed now to avoid spiralling bills. The Government is going to cut it to 21p per kwh from March – but will this reduction be enough?
The feed in tariff, launched in April 2010, is already proving to be a costly disaster for the Government. It desperately needs to rein in the cost or we will all end up paying the price.
At a time when there are already 5.5 million people in fuel poverty – where one tenth or more of a household’s income goes on fuel bills – it is madness to add to the burden of rising fuel bills with green initiatives.
Solar panels can cost around £10,000 to install, meaning they are usually the preserve of the well-off. Indeed, only 80,000 households have had them installed, out of 28 million households in total. Yet those with solar panels have already cost us £24 million in just three months from July to September 2011.
It seems particularly perverse, and totally contrary to the Government’s own aims to eradicate fuel poverty, that pensioners huddled under a duvet because they cannot afford to turn their heating on should be footing the bill. It is these pensioners who are paying to slash the energy bills of already-wealthy households.
In fact, the only people that have benefited from the feed in tariff are solar panel salesmen and the savvy investors looking for a good return on their cash. And sadly, research from Which? – as well as Money Mail’s postbag – reveals that many households who have bought solar panels have been mis-sold by unscrupulous salesmen who exaggerated the benefits.
The Government has mishandled the situation by failing to foresee that the cost of panels would fall as more people had them installed, thereby making the returns from feed in tariffs too generous. It has therefore been forced to cut the subsidy very quickly, leaving thousands of installers in doubt about their future.
Of course it would be great if we could secure thousands of jobs and lower our carbon emissions by incentivising people to adopt green energy. But the current feed in tariff is not the way to do it. It is expensive, regressive and unsustainable.
Global cooling strikes again
Britain to shiver in temperatures ‘colder than the South Pole’ as health chiefs say more than 1,500 people a week could die from killer freeze
A cold snap that has left dozens dead across Eastern Europe will reach Britain by the weekend. Temperatures are set to plunge far below freezing point making the country even colder than the South Pole. Forecasters are expecting overnight temperatures of between -8c (18f) and -10c (14f) on Friday.
The McMurdo research facility in Antarctica is currently recording -6c (21f) at night. The bitter cold has forced some countries to deploy their armed forces and set up emergency accommodation.
Health chiefs have also started warning that as a result of the freezing conditions, more than 1,500 people a week could be killed by the weather.
The Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer said that around 1,560 people, many elderly, would die due to cold weather each week between now and March in normal winter weather. That figure will rise ‘substantially’, however, due to extreme cold like that we are currently experiencing.
During last year’s big freeze, the death rate in England and Wales shot up by 21 per cent from 9,220 a week to 11,193. Dame Sally Davies said: ‘Mortality rises by 19 per cent in winter months in England, amounting to 27,000 excess deaths or 1,560 more people per week compared with the rest of the year. And very severe weather can substantially add to this death toll.
‘The majority of UK deaths are among older people, especially women, and those with underlying health problems – but they are not people who would have died anyhow at that time.’
To help deal with the extreme cold, the Army has been put on standby. Around four inches of snow and ice could cover part of the country after a high pressure system hanging over Scandinavia which is pushing raw winds towards the UK.
Cold Weather Watch has now upgraded its severe weather warning to a level three, after stating that there was a 100 per cent probability of ‘severe’ conditions across most of England this week. With severe weather warnings already in place and chaos on the roads, the military have been put on standby should there be a level four ‘major cold weather incident’.
When freezing conditions struck in 2010, members of the armed forces were called in to help clear snow from the roads and assist residents in particularly hard-hit areas. Mobilised soldiers will also help clear special locations such as doctors’ surgeries, care homes and hospitals.
According to the Met Office temperatures will drop to as low as -6C (21.2F) tomorrow and on Thursday, when daytime maximums will be no more than 3C (37.4F). Severe weather warnings for ice were also issued for last night and this morning across eastern parts of England and Scotland, and Northern Ireland, south-west England and south Wales.
Police in Devon and Cornwall have warned motorists in some parts of the region not to travel unless it is essential after snowfall over the higher areas of Exmoor and Dartmoor.
The Department of Health issued a ‘Level 2’ cold-weather alert running for the next two to three days, which is triggered when low temperatures give rise to significant health risks. It warned that low temperatures can especially be dangerous for the young and the elderly or those with chronic disease.
British selective school pupils wrongly expelled after Facebook smear campaign saying that they had sex in a store cupboard
Two grammar school pupils were expelled after a malicious gossip campaign broke out on Facebook claiming the pair had sex in a school store room and toilet. Trevor Evans and his girlfriend were 16 when they were first suspended from West Kirby Grammar School, in Wirral, where they were sixth-formers.
Within two days they were expelled, but an independent tribunal has found that the school failed to investigate the claims properly. It also ruled that not enough evidence had been found to permanently exclude the pair.
Trevor, now 17, strongly denies having had sex with his then girlfriend. He insists that he was consoling her in a toilet cubicle after she became upset.
His mother, Honora, heard about the allegations when she received a letter from headteacher Glenice Robinson in October last year. Since then she has been fighting to clear her son’s name and insists the allegations were spread on Facebook.
She said: ‘This was a vindictive campaign hatched by some girls at the school who posted malicious rumours about him on Facebook.’
Trevor, a keen musician, said: ‘I just want to get back to school and resume my studies.’
Mrs Evans, who lives in the affluent village of Meols, said she had endured a traumatic three months in order to expose the school’s failure to carry out a proper investigation. She said: ‘The way the school dealt with this was a knee-jerk reaction and the right to education should be supported, not taken away.’
Headteacher Mrs Robinson said: ‘It would not be appropriate to discuss specific details but the school always acts in the best interests of pupils.’
An announcement on whether the pair can return to school is yet to be made.
Complementary medicine courses in universities: how I beat the varsity quacks
The teaching of complementary medicine has no place in British universities, says David Colquhoun. David Colquhoun is professor of pharmacology at University College London
What would you think if your child went off to university to be taught that amethyst crystals “emit high yin energy”? Or that cancer can be cured by squirting coffee up the fundament? What if they were told in a lecture that the heart is not, as medical science has believed for centuries, a pump for circulating blood around the body but instead “the governor of our rational thought and behaviour”? Well, you’d probably want your tuition fees back for a start.
For more than a decade, “facts” such as these have been peddled by more than a dozen fully accredited, state-funded British universities: the above examples come from the University of Westminster and Edinburgh Napier University. Indeed, since the mid-1990s, such ideas have been presented and taught as if they were real medicine.
The teaching of “complementary” (that is, non-evidence-based) medicine is something about which scientists and rationalist campaign groups have been raising havoc for years. It may seem harmless and even a welcome alternative to traditional perspectives. But teaching people that homoeopathy is evidence-based when it isn’t, and encouraging students to distrust the scientific method, not only runs counter to reason, but can be dangerous.
“Complementary” medics can cause harm by persuading patients to shun medicines that can cure or alleviate their condition. In extreme cases – such as the prescription of herbal remedies for potentially fatal diseases such as Aids – it can kill. Steve Jobs, for example, might still be alive if he had not initially decided to treat his pancreatic cancer via diet, rather than radiotherapy.
As a senior scientist in one of Britain’s biggest and most respected universities, I was bemused when I first learnt of the existence of these bizarre courses. After all, we are beset by a plethora of regulatory agencies that are meant to put a stop to worthless degrees. Moreover, these bodies are supposed to guarantee that students are paying for accredited academic courses, not ones that professional scientists would dismiss as teaching ”magic’’.
The sad fact is that none of these regulators did anything to stop the infiltration of the mainstream. The Quality Assurance Agency has ticked its boxes and rubber-stamped these dubious courses. The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority has allowed the misleading labelling of quack medicines. Trading Standards has been useless. The Department of Health has vacillated, and will not allow Nice (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence) to investigate, despite many requests to do so. Parliament has been unhelpful (perhaps not surprising, when one MP, David Tredinnick, got into trouble for buying astrology software on expenses).
The only organisation that has done anything sensible is the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which has said – for example – that advertisements placed by homeopaths cannot name particular diseases that they purport to treat. The ASA also reprimanded Boots for misleading claims on its homoeopathic “remedies”.
The true villains of the piece, however, are the vice-chancellors, who must take responsibility for what is taught at their university. In 2008, I wrote to the then vice-chancellor of the University of Wales, Marc Clement. I asked him, as a physicist, what his opinion was of this statement: “Implosion researchers have found that if water is put through a spiral, its field changes, and it then appears to have a potent, restorative effect on cells.”
This was written by the course leader for an MSc in “Nutrition” run by the Northern College of Acupuncture, but validated by the University of Wales. The validation committee did not appear to have noticed it. And Prof Clement did not reply to my request for an opinion about the wonders of “spiralised water”. The consequence of this, and hundreds of other “validations” conducted by the University of Wales, was that it was abolished, thanks to Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews. Yet action was only taken after the scandal was flagged up first by bloggers, and then in two programmes by BBC Wales. There is, surely, something very wrong when academic standards have to be maintained by online amateurs and local broadcasters.
What is encouraging, however, is that the tide appears to have turned. At the beginning of 2007, 16 universities offered 45 BSc degrees in make-believe medicine. There were even five degrees in homoeopathy (the medicine that contains no medicine). Now there are none. Likewise, degrees in naturopathy, reflexology and aromatherapy have all vanished from Britain’s universities. “Nutritional therapy” has almost gone, too.
This is especially good news, since the people who deal sensibly with nutrition are called dieticians. Anyone can be a self-styled “nutritionist”: the terms “nutritional therapy” or “nutritional medicine” usually refer to an individual who claims to be able to cure almost anything by diet, but whose aim is to sell you expensive and unnecessary – or even harmful – supplements. This practice was exposed in a recent investigation by Which? magazine, in which 14 out of 15 consultations were deemed “fails” and six out of 15 gave dangerous advice.
There are two obvious reasons for this welcome return to sanity. One is that the Freedom of Information Act allows anyone to find out what’s being taught to students. Universities have fought tooth and nail to hide the information, but they were overruled by the Information Commissioner, who decided that taxpayers should be able to see how their money was spent. The internet has also been a factor: vice-chancellors don’t like it when Googling their names produces references to “yin energy”.
But a more positive explanation may be that we seem at last to be emerging from the age of what we can call the “endarkenment”. People are less willing to believe things that aren’t true – whether it’s the presence of WMD in Iraq, the effectiveness of bankers’ derivatives, or the power of homoeopathy. They are also less willing to pay for them. The huge rise in tuition fees will cost the taxpayer money (through the loan scheme), but at least it may put the last nail in the coffin of quackery. Vice-chancellors seem remarkably insensitive to the contents of what’s taught, but they care a great deal about the money.
In terms of the remaining degrees, the courses that are predominantly in Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Chinese remedies are almost completely untested, and they are frequently contaminated and dangerous. They also contribute to the slaughter of rhinos, tigers and bears.
Acupuncture is more interesting. There is no doubt that it has had, in the past, greater acceptance by the medical establishment than other forms of alternative medicine. One welcome consequence is that there has been a lot more research into this practice than others. However, almost all of it points to the conclusion that it is no more than a theatrical placebo.
If you get yourself poked with needles, and the next day you feel better, there are two possible reasons. One is that you are experiencing a placebo effect. The other is the “get better anyway” effect or, in scientific parlance, “regression to the mean”. Acupuncture might sit at the respectable end of the fruitloopery spectrum, but I believe it has no place in a university, other than as a good example of how easy it is to fool yourself.
Over the past few years, bloggers and campaigners have made an enormous contribution to the resurgence of rational thinking. It is a shame that the official bodies that are supposed to protect us from the snake-oil salesmen have not done such a good job.
British bus drivers must not call passengers ‘babe’
“A bus company is a warning drivers to not call passengers ‘babe’ in a bid to avoid lawsuits from offended women. Brighton & Hove Buses posted warnings to drivers in its head offices after a complaint from a woman who said she felt insulted by being called ‘babe’ when she boarded a bus.
The company also warned drivers they could face the sack if they call passengers ‘love’ or ‘darling’.
One employee, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It’s just the height of political correctness. The drivers know how to best speak to customers. ‘People don’t want their drivers to be robots. What is the world coming to when you can’t have a bit of friendly banter with passengers?’
Managing director Roger French said: ‘A lady complained to us that she thought the language used by a driver was demeaning to her.
“Babe” is always complimentary as far as I know so the woman who was offended must have had “issues”.
Outside the Home Counties in England it is quite common for people to address one-another with terms of endearment — with “Love” being the most common of such terms — as it is in Australia. It is rather like the Southern U.S. “Honey” or “Hon”. My favourite is one area where women commonly address one another as “M’dook” (My duck)!
‘Blasphemous’ UK Film Featuring Jesus Being Seduced on the Cross Approved 23 Years After Being Banned
This sounds pretty sick but as long as people are warned well in advance about the nature of the film, I see no reason to ban it. If you don’t like it, don’t buy a ticket. If you do buy a ticket, it says something about you
A victory for freedom of expression? The only movie ever banned in Britain for blasphemy was finally approved for distribution Tuesday, 23 years after it was outlawed.
The experimental short film “Visions of Ecstasy” features scenes of Jesus being seduced on the cross and became a free-speech cause celebre after Britain’s film censors refused to give it a rating, a requirement for legal distribution.
The British Board of Film Classification ruled in 1989 that a fantasy scene in which the Spanish mystic St. Teresa of Avila sexually caresses Christ’s body could constitute blasphemous libel. The board judged that cutting out the potentially blasphemous material would shorten the 19-minute film by half, so they refused to approve it.
Blasphemy was abolished as an offense in 2008 and on Tuesday the film board gave Wingrove’s film an “18” rating, meaning it may be viewed by adults.
The board acknowledged the film would be “deeply offensive to some viewers,” but was unlikely to cause harm.