Britain’s production line hospitals, by worried GPs: Family doctors say patients are being put at risk because of ‘dangerously poor’ care
A third of family doctors say their patients are being put at risk in NHS hospitals because of ‘dangerously’ poor care, a survey has revealed. They liken wards to ‘factory production lines’ and admit they would not refer their own family.
One said he would not even like his dog to be treated at one hospital.
One in ten thinks that in the past 12 months at least one of their patients died unnecessarily because the hospital either misdiagnosed them or they were not given the correct treatment.
The poll exposes a widespread lack of faith in NHS hospitals.
More than one in five (21 per cent) believe the care at their nearest hospital is so dire they would not want to be treated there themselves – and they would not send in their relatives.
One family doctor in the North East said that when his wife recently went to hospital there was ‘no appreciation of the human side to her care’. ‘She was in a tunnel where she went in one side and came out the other as if on a factory production line,’ he said.
Another unnamed GP in South London said that in the local hospital he was aware of ‘patients not being fed, not being washed, the sort of care that none of us would want ourselves or for our patients’.
One from Romford, Essex, said he had written to the chief executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospitals telling her care was so bad that if he had his way he ‘would not refer a single patient’.
Some 34 per cent of doctors said that in the past 12 months at least one of their patients had been subject to hospital care that was ‘dangerously sub-standard’. And nearly three quarters, 74 per cent, said patients had complained to them about the poor treatment on wards.
A fifth said they had taken patients to one side before they were admitted to warn them about care. And a third (32 per cent) said they had written to NHS managers to voice their concerns. Another 18 per cent said the hospital care that either they or a family member had received was below standard.
Five hundred GPs were questioned for the survey by family doctor magazine Pulse.
Last year a series of damning reports by the Care Quality Commission, the Health Service Ombudsman and the Patients Association unearthed harrowing cases of neglect in many hospitals. But this poll reveals for the first time the extent of unease among the NHS’s own doctors.
One Oxford GP said that when he asked John Radcliffe Hospital to investigate why his patient had died because staff had misdiagnosed her ovarian cancer, the trust replied saying it had done nothing wrong.
Another, in Norfolk, said that his patients are ‘frequently’ being sent home from hospitals too early and many end up going back ‘within a few hours’.
Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said: ‘That so many GPs do not have faith in their local hospital is deeply concerning. These results should not be swept under the carpet.’
Dr Richard Vautrey, of the British Medical Association’s GPs committee, said doctors should raise issues directly with the hospital concerned, adding: ‘If we want the best care we must not stay silent when issues arise.’
A spokesman for the Department of Health said the poll only represented a ‘small proportion’ of the 40,000 GPs in the country.
He added: ‘That said, we are never complacent about patient safety, and have made it very clear that unsafe care will not be tolerated. This is exactly why we want GPs to take charge of services, in order to arrange the care they think is best for their patients.’
One in four patients needing specialist treatment having appointments changed at short notice
One in four patients is having a hospital appointment cancelled and moved back to a later date, a major survey has revealed. Last year some 23 per cent had their consultation with a specialist postponed once, twice or even three times.
This was an increase on 2009, the last time a poll was conducted, when 21 per cent had their slots put back.
A poll of 72,000 patients by the Care Quality Commission watchdog also reveals that half are waiting more than a month to get a hospital appointment. Nearly a third (31 per cent) said their symptoms got worse during this time.
Once seen, 36 per cent of patients said they were not warned by doctors or nurses about potentially dangerous side effects of their medication. Another 33 per cent claim they were not told what ‘danger’ symptoms to look out for if their condition got worse.
The same proportion of patients said hospital staff did not bother to inform them who they should contact if they were worried about their illness or treatment.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Patients are not at the centre of their care if they are given inadequate or confusing information about their condition.
‘This is an area that significantly needs to improve if the Department of Health is to meet its pledge of “no decision about me, without me”.’
The CQC claimed the survey showed that some aspects of basic hospital care had improved since 2009 when a similar poll was undertaken, but insisted there was still more to be done.
The survey also found that 17 per cent of patients do not think their doctors know enough about their medical history, including 5 per cent who said they knew ‘little’ or ‘nothing’.
Public health minister Anne Milton said: ‘We want people to feel involved at every step of the care they get in hospital. There really should be “no decision about me, without me”. ‘It is clear that there is more to do to improve the experiences of our patients. This is why we are modernising the NHS to put patients first.’
Frozen to death as fuel bills soar: Hypothermia cases among the British elderly double in five years
Energy is cheap — but not when throttled by Greenie laws and regulations
The number of pensioners dying from hypothermia has nearly doubled in five years, a period when a succession of cold winters has been coupled with drastic rises in energy bills.
The official figures emerged after several days of Arctic conditions which drove temperatures across the whole country as low as minus 10C (14F). They showed that 1,876 patients were treated in hospital for hypothermia in 2010/11, up from 950 in 2006/07.
The number of sufferers who died within 30 days of admission shot up from 135 to 260. Three-quarters of victims were pensioners, with cases soaring among the over-60s more than any other age group.
The increasing toll of hypothermia over the past five years coincides with a surge in energy costs, especially gas prices which have gone up by 40 per cent.
Soaring energy bills are pushing more and more pensioners into fuel poverty, forcing them to choose between heating and eating. One industry analyst, uSwitch, estimates that eight in ten households are already rationing their energy use and have called for a cut in VAT on power bills.
The row over energy prices is poised to be reignited later this month when the ‘big six’ energy companies reveal their latest profit figures.
Campaign groups said yesterday it was ‘scandalous’ that pensioners in modern Britain could be suffering from hypothermia.
Michelle Mitchell of Age UK urged the Government to take more action to protect those at risk of freezing to death. ‘We like to think of ourselves as a civilised society which protects the most vulnerable,’ she said. ‘The fact that there are still older people who are suffering and dying of hypothermia is deeply shocking.’
A survey carried out by Age UK last month found that half of pensioners have turned their heating down to save money even when they are not warm enough. Many more are so cold they go to bed when they are not tired or move into one room to keep energy bills down.
Hypothermia occurs when body temperature drops below 35C (95F) from its normal 37C (98.6F). Symptoms can include violent shivering, confusion, delirium and unconsciousness.
The statistics from the NHS Information Centre show that three-quarters of hypothermia cases are among the over-60s, and the increase in admissions has been the highest among this age group.
In 2006/07, there were 633 hypothermia admissions among the over-60s, rising to 1,396 in 2010/11. This is a rise of 120 per cent. There have, however, been increases across all age groups. Among adults aged 15 to 59, cases have risen by 54 per cent to 276. There were 50 hypothermia cases among children aged 14 and under, a 22 per cent increase. The figures on deaths are not broken down by age, but show that almost 20 per cent of those admitted die within 30 days. A further 6 per cent die between 30 and 90 days from admission.
Meanwhile, taking inflation into account, the price of gas has increased by 40 per cent in the last five years to 3.4p per kilowatt hour. Electricity prices have risen by 21 per cent to 11.8p per kilowatt hour. This has led to a surge in the number of pensioners in ‘fuel poverty’, which means the costs of energy bills make up more than 10 per cent of the household budget.
Age UK says that more than three million older people in England – nearly 1.2million of whom live alone – are in fuel poverty. This total is a quarter of all pensioners and has trebled since 2003.
The elderly receive cold weather payments if the temperature falls below a certain level, but campaigners argue that the money is clearly not enough to stave off hypothermia in many cases.
The parent companies of Britain’s big six energy firms are expected to announce total profits of £15billion in the next few weeks, although UK consumers only contribute a small part of these profits as far as at least four of these firms are concerned – RWE nPower, E.ON, Iberdrola (Scottish Power) and EDF (France).
Ofgem, the energy regulator, says the average profit per customer in Britain was £100 last month but could fall in the summer months to £70.
Neil Duncan Jordan of the National Pensioners Convention described the expected profits figure as ‘scandalous’. He said: ‘It is a graphic example of the failure to protect some of our most vulnerable individuals.’
Last night public health minister Anne Milton said: ‘We have introduced a Cold Weather Plan to reduce the number of deaths. We have also set up a Warm Homes and Healthy People Fund of £30 million to pay for local authority projects to reduce effects of cold weather. ‘Winterwatch is also providing professionals and the public with updates and practical advice from the Chief Medical Officer.’
The Department of Health said the main cause of excess winter deaths was not hypothermia but heart and respiratory disease.
Stand up for your faith! Muslim minister gives a rallying cry to Christians
Christianity is in grave danger of being marginalised, Britain’s only Muslim cabinet minister will tell the Vatican today.
Baroness Warsi will call for Europeans to take more pride in their religious roots and for Christianity to play a greater role in public life. She will attack the ‘basic misconception’ that Christianity needs to be ‘erased’ for minorities to feel welcome in society.
Social cohesion will improve if individuals feel more confident in their religious beliefs, she will tell the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome, a college which trains priests for diplomatic and secretariat duties.
Baroness Warsi is leading a UK delegation to be received by the Pope at the Vatican today. With seven ministers, it is the largest ever UK mission to the Holy See.
The peer, who is co-chairman of the Conservative Party, said she feared that religion was being increasingly downgraded or dismissed as an eccentricity.
Baroness Warsi will call for faith to be given proper space in public life. ‘People need to feel stronger in their religious identities, more confident in their beliefs,’ she will say.
‘In practice this means individuals not diluting their faiths … and nations not denying their religious heritages. If you take this thought to its conclusion then the idea you’re left with is this: Europe needs to become more confident in its Christianity.
‘Too often there is a suspicion of faith in our continent. It all hinges on a basic misconception: That to create equality and space for minorities we need to erase our religious heritage.’
Her comments come just days after a landmark legal ruling banning the saying of prayers at council meetings.
Christians and politicians reacted with dismay after a judge overturned centuries of custom by stopping a town hall in Devon putting prayers on the formal agenda.
It prompted concern that it would pave the way for Parliament to abandon prayers before Commons and Lords business, mark the end of hospital and military chaplains, and even lead to the abolition of the coronation oath.
The ruling came on the same day that two Christian guesthouse owners failed in their attempt to overturn a £3,600 fine imposed on them for refusing to allow a gay couple to occupy a double room.
Before Christmas, David Cameron declared Britain to be a Christian country and urged people to ‘stand up and defend’ the values of the Bible.
Lady Warsi will say that centuries of Christianity have shaped British culture and civilisation and will praise faith for ‘inspiring, driving and motivating’ good works.
‘You cannot and should not extract these Christian foundations from the evolution of our nations any more than you can or should erase the spires from our landscapes,’ she will say.
However, the Cabinet minister will warn: ‘I see a great danger to this confident affirmation of religion today. It is what the Holy Father called the increasing marginalisation of religion during his speech in Westminster Hall. ‘I see it in the UK and I see it in Europe. Spirituality, suppressed. Divinity, downgraded.
‘Where, in the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, faith is looked down on as the hobby of oddities, foreigners and minorities. Where religion is dismissed as an eccentricity because it’s infused with tradition.’
One in 20 British 11-year-olds leaves primary school with maths ability of a seven-year-old
Huge numbers of pupils are leaving primary school with the maths ability expected of children four years their junior, shocking new figures have revealed.
Results of this year’s SATs tests show that tens of thousands of pupils – one in 20 – are starting secondary school with the numeracy skills of a seven-year-old.
Boys were found to be performing worse than girls with around 15,600 falling well behind.
And figures for GCSE level maths, released two weeks ago, are equally shocking with one in three pupils failing to get at least a C.
The government has been quick to blame the previous Labour administration for misspending billions of pounds on education. A government source said: ‘Employers and universities complain about the quality of our children’s maths. ‘We have to put right Labour’s failure.’
Last week we revealed how universities are now being forced to dumb down degree courses requiring the use of maths, including sciences, economics, psychology and social sciences, because both the pupils and lecturers cannot cope.
The reputation of the country’s universities and graduates is now under threat, according to a report published by the education lobby group RSA.
‘English universities are sidelining quantitative and mathematical content because students and staff lack the requisite confidence and ability,’ the report says, adding that English universities are ‘not keeping pace’ with international standards.
A survey released in January suggests that parents are partly to blame because they are often too busy to help with homework.
The study by online tutor mytutor found many young children were leaving primary school unable to spell, add up or do their times tables. It claimed more than a quarter of children were unable to add two small sums of money without using a calculator as they can’t do division and basic algebra.
Twenty-seven per cent of children surveyed could not add £2.36 and £1.49 to get £3.85. In addition, more than a third, 36 per cent, could not divide 415 by five and a quarter did not know the answer to seven multiplied by six.
The survey of 1,000 children aged between 10 and 12 found that one in four did not know their times tables and a quarter could not use decimal points.
Almost half of parents surveyed, 48 per cent, said they thought their child was worse at maths than they were at the same age. Almost four in 10 parents – 39 per cent – said they spent less time learning with their children than their parents did with them a generation ago. Only 30 per cent claimed to spend more time helping their child with their learning than their parents did.
And nearly six out of 10 parents – 59 per cent – spent less than an hour a week learning with their children – amounting to just eight-and-a-half minutes a day. One in five parents spent less than 30 minutes a week learning with their offspring.
Government education adviser Professor Steve Sparks argues that all students who continue with further education after 16 should also take a new maths qualification alongside their other subjects.
He claims that teaching post-16 students basic maths and statistics is vital for them to be able to compete in the modern world.
Last year a report by former Countdown presenter Carol Vorderman recommended that school pupils in England should study maths up to the age of 18. It found just 15 per cent of pupils study maths beyond GCSE level, below almost all other industrialised countries where nearly all study the subject to the age of 18.
Ms Vorderman said 24 per cent of economically active adults were ‘functionally innumerate’, with many universities and employers complaining that school-leavers did not have necessary skills.
Gorging on chocolate is not always bad for you: Teenager with liver disease life is saved by “junk” food
A teenager who was told she could die in six months if she failed to get a liver transplant has defied the odds after she was saved by gorging on chocolate. Elle Wilkinson was warned by doctors that she had between six and 12 months to live is she didn’t find a donor to cure her liver failure.
But the 16-year-old, from Bridlington, East Yorkshire, shocked doctors when her condition rapidly improved as a result of a high-carbohydrate diet – which includes copious amounts of chocolate.
After the continued diet, which also includes crisps and biscuits, as well as set medication her miraculous recovery now seem complete after doctors officially removed her from the liver transplant list.
Schoolgirl Elle said ‘My friends can’t believe it – eating chocolate and crisps and all sorts of junk food, and not having to worry about the consequences. ‘It is weird having to eat all these foods excessively when we are told to eat in them only in moderation or risk becoming fat – but I’m not complaining.’
Elle added: ‘The doctor said I could have had the liver problems for three to five years before we even realised. ‘But we didn’t know that because every symptom I had was what every teenager would go through, such as coughs and colds. ‘It was all pretty scary.’
Elle’s problems began in August last year when she began vomiting heavily and was rushed to hospital. Tests revealed she was seriously ill and her liver was failing, so doctors quickly added her to the national transplant list.
The radical diet – which included chocolate, biscuits, bread and cheese – has been credited with giving her body extra energy, calories and protein – often lacking in people diagnosed with liver failure.
And amazingly, if Elle doesn’t eat enough she could suffer muscle-wastage – forcing her to continue scoffing the delicious treats high in calories. The starchy carbohydrates break down into sugar acting as her body’s main source of energy.
Elle’s mother, Pam Wilkinson-Brown, 50, said ‘She is on a high-carbohydrate diet. ‘Her life is very different to the life of an average teenager. ‘Elle will never be able to drink alcohol because it could kill her. ‘She loses energy all the time, but carbohydrates give you energy. She should be eating pasta and rice, but she doesn’t like it. ‘She eats lots of cheese, bread, chocolate and shortbread. ‘For Elle, that’s a healthy diet.
‘She needs the carbohydrates to give her the energy. The diet is playing a big factor in controlling the illness. But she will never be fully out of the woods, even if she had a transplant.’
Elle was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis, a disease which occurs when the body’s immune system attacks cells of the liver, and her liver was failing. And while she is currently suspended from the transplant list doctors have warned Elle she may still need a new liver in the future.
Pam said doctors want to try to keep Elle as well as possible in case they have to consider a transplant. She said she could not thank hospital staff in Scarborough and Leeds, where Elle was treated, enough. Pam added: ‘It has been awful, but you get on with it because you have to remove yourself from it. We are very proud of her.
‘People automatically think it’s just caused through drink, but it’s not. ‘If we hadn’t taken her to hospital, she wouldn’t be here now.’
Britain’s Stasi and a sinister assault on a free Press
By Richard Littlejohn
Squads of up to 20 police officers raid suburban houses at six o’clock in the morning. In related operations, dozens more detectives rip out car doors, tear up floorboards and search through underwear drawers and beneath mattresses, terrifying innocent women and children.
Men are arrested just as they are about to take their families to the countryside on half-term holidays. Suspects are carted off to police stations where they are interrogated for hours. Bottles of water and bananas are confiscated before they are thrown in the cells. The officers involved say they are only obeying orders.
If you think this sounds like Nazi Germany or Communist East Berlin under the Stasi, you’d be dead right. But this is Britain 2012 and the Gestapo tactics are being used by police investigating alleged illegal practices by journalists working for News International.
Scotland Yard is conducting a heavy-handed campaign of intimidation, sanctioned by senior officers and cheered on by vindictive politicians.
There are 169 officers seconded to three separate inquiries into the Press. That’s reported to be more than were involved in investigating the Lockerbie bombing. Mr Plod has lost the plot, on an inter- galactic level.
No one is condoning criminality. Those guilty of hacking mobile phones on an industrial scale or bribing police officers should be punished. But as my old friend and colleague Trevor Kavanagh, one of the most respected political journalists of his generation, complained yesterday, staff at The Sun are being treated ‘like members of an organised crime gang’.
No one arrested over the past few weeks has been charged with any offence. Yet they are being treated worse than terrorist suspects, subjected to draconian bail conditions and have had their lives and distinguished careers put on hold.
Scotland Yard yesterday justified mounting a round-the-clock guard on released hate preacher Abu Qatada on the grounds that it had a ‘duty of care’ to protect him. The Yard clearly feels, however, that it has no equivalent duty of care towards middle-ranking journalists who are being dragged from their beds at weekends.
Why is it that senior executives at News International, such as former chief executive Rebekah Brooks, are allowed to attend police stations by appointment to be questioned, yet lowly foot soldiers are rounded up from their homes like violent armed robbers or drug dealers?
The new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, has so far refused to give any public explanation for the bully-boy behaviour of his officers. He was last seen posing theatrically for the cameras while riding a horse outside White Hart Lane football ground, just in case any of the half-dozen Wigan fans who made the long journey to Tottenham on a freezing Tuesday night decided to start a riot.
My colleagues on the crime beat say that since Hyphen-Howe was installed as Commissioner, ahead of the outstanding candidate Sir Hugh Orde, normal relations between the police and the Press have ground to a halt.
The suspicion is that the former Merseyside chief constable was given the nod by Home Secretary Theresa May because he was considered more likely to toe the political line than the outspoken Orde, who is a staunch defender of the flow of mutually beneficial information between journalists and police officers.
Two of the senior Scotland Yard officers who have been involved in running these investigations, Sue Akers and Cressida Dick, have been on the receiving end of Press attention in the past: Akers in relation to the death of Victoria Climbie under the noses of police and social services; and Dick over the fatal shooting of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes.
Theresa May has yet to explain if she believes this police operation is proportionate. Officers have been taken off other investigations to sift through mobile phone records. There are currently 24 unsolved murders on the books at the Yard.
Given the unprecedented scale of the operation and the money being spent, one might have expected questions in the House. But there hasn’t been a peep. The political class is involved in a deranged witch-hunt against the Press, partly to divert attention from the Prime Minister’s own close relations with News International and partly in revenge for the exposé of the parliamentary expenses scandal.
Alongside the police investigations, there are two other bodies inquiring into the Press — one under Lord Justice Leveson and the other a Commons select committee.
Yet there have never been any corresponding public inquiries into the wholesale theft of public money by MPs and peers, or the collapse of the banking system, which has crippled the economy. If illegal immigrants or suspected Islamist murderers were being dragged out of their beds at dawn, the ‘human rights’ industry would be bouncing up and down like Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout.
But the self-styled champions of civil liberties have stayed strangely silent over the treatment being meted out to Sun journalists.
One of the most disturbing aspects of this whole affair is the role being played by News International’s Management Standards Committee. It is, of course, entirely correct that NI should co-operate with the authorities. But the zeal with which loyal, long-serving employees are being offered up to the police has rightly given rise to outrage that journalists are being thrown to the wolves to protect the parent company’s wider interests.
Although the committee is overseen by an eminent QC, the donkey work is being done by two former newspapermen, Will Lewis and Simon Greenberg, who appear to be trawling through expenses sheets and correspondence to detect any whiff of possible impropriety that can then be fed to the police.
The ferociously ambitious Lewis, when he was editor of the Daily Telegraph, paid £150,000 for a stolen computer disc containing details of MPs’ expenses. He was absolutely right to do so, in the public interest.
But who is to say that some of the other journalists being investigated over alleged payments to public officials were not also acting in the public interest? They are not being afforded the opportunity to give any explanation before they are handed over to the police, arrested and hauled off to the nick.
One Sun reporter is said to have been questioned over a £50 bill for lunch with police contacts. If every hack who has ever bought a sandwich and a beer for a copper — or vice versa, for that matter — is guilty of bribery, they’ll have to build more prisons.
And where do you draw the line? MPs are notoriously fond of troughing at the expense of newspapers. Does that constitute bribery and corruption, too?
Greenberg famously gave up his job as a sports editor to become the official PR spiv for Chelsea’s billionaire Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, at a salary reported to be in the region of £275,000 a year. So the role of poacher-turned-gamekeeper comes naturally to him.
His modus operandi at Stamford Bridge was to threaten to cut out of the loop any reporter who wrote anything that presented his wealthy boss and Chelsea football club in a negative light.
In the interest of disclosure, I should reveal that I know Greenberg slightly. He sits near me at Spurs. But don’t expect me to defend him. I’d rather sell the Big Issue than take a job grassing up fellow journalists.
I wonder what a trawl through Greenberg and Lewis’s past expenses and emails might reveal.
Some people might accuse me of special pleading. After all, I used to write for The Sun and some of those arrested are friends of mine.
But I have maintained all along, ever since the phone hacking scandal broke last summer, that the guilty should be brought to justice. This is much more serious than the fate of one newspaper or a handful of journalists. The Establishment has declared war on the Press and by extension our very democracy. They want to stifle criticism and suppress stories about wrongdoing in public office. If the politicians can shackle popular newspapers they are far less likely to be called to account for their actions.
This also smacks of a monstrous abuse of power by the police, embarrassed at some of their own past dealings with News International.
Britain was once a beacon of Press freedom. We now lag way behind former Soviet bloc states such as Poland, Estonia and Slovakia. Trevor Kavanagh pointed out yesterday that we have slipped to 28th in the International Freedom of Speech league table.
It used to be said that Britain may not be the best country to live in, but it was the best country to go to sleep in. Not when you’re being dragged out of bed by the Scotland Yard Stasi, it isn’t.