Lack of screening kills young mother
When Wendy Campbell’s daughter Cathy was diagnosed with abnormal cervical cells, she told her not to worry. Mrs Campbell herself had also had abnormal cells at the age of 25 and was successfully treated.
But tests showed that Cathy’s cells had already developed into cervical cancer and were spreading around her body. Despite having chemotherapy, Cathy, a mother of two, was unable to fight the disease and died, aged just 25, in February last year.
Now Mrs Campbell is campaigning for the age of cervical smear tests to be lowered as she says if Cathy was tested earlier than 25 the disease may have been caught in time. Mrs Campbell, 46, who lives in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, said: ‘Now we are campaigning for a change in the law to lower the age for smear tests from 25. ‘Girls should be having them as soon as they are sexually active. How many more mums need to lose their daughters before the Government does something.
‘We don’t want her death to be in vain. Her children may grow up without their mum, but we don’t want this to happen to anyone else.’
Cathy had her first smear test in August 2010. She had suffered bleeding after she had given birth to her first daughter, now five, but hadn’t gone for a check up because she was below the age of 25 and wasn’t eligible for a smear test. The results of her smear test came back showing abnormal cells in her cervix.
Mrs Campbell said: ‘It really was like history repeating itself for me, as I’d had abnormal cells after my first smear test at the age of 25. ‘Cathy was worried, but I told her not to worry as I’d had laser treatment and then been given the all clear and I was sure that was what was going to happen to Cathy too.’ But then more investigative tests a few weeks later revealed that she did have cervical cancer.
Mrs Campbell said: ‘She rang me crying down the phone to tell me that she had cancer. I started crying too. It seemed so unfair. She had two little girls aged five and three. Were they going to lose their mum.’
Cathy underwent gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment and two months later the doctors told her the cancer was in remission. She and fiance Alex Bates, 26, made plans to get married and she celebrated Christmas Day with her family.
But just four days later she started with agonising pains in her stomach. The doctors initially thought it was scarring from the radiation treatment, but after several weeks she was struggling to eat anything. Scans showed the cancer had spread to her stomach.
Mrs Campbell said: ‘We were all devastated. She’d beaten the cancer once, only for it to come back in her stomach. ‘Doctors told her that it was a very rare cancer, linked to cervical cancer, and they said they didn’t know how long she had left.’
Cathy wanted to get married, but she was too ill to say the vows, so instead a vicar blessed the wedding rings and Mr Bates said both their vows.
Mrs Campbell said: ‘It was heartbreaking. Cathy had gone downhill so fast. She managed to slide the ring onto Alex’s finger, and just a few hours later she passed away. ‘I couldn’t believe that I had lost my daughter like this. Only a few weeks before we thought she had beaten the cancer. But now her life as a mum and a wife had been halted by this cruel disease.’
Mrs Campbell is now campaigning for a change in the law. Cervical cancer screening has been limited to women aged 25 and over since 2004 because so few under-25’s were found to have the disease. Local health trusts cannot lower the age limit until the Government changes national policy.
She said: ‘Cathy had a smear test as soon as she was eligible to do so, but her death has made us realise that there must be 17 and 18-old-girls out there who may have cancer and don’t know about it. ‘By the time they have waited for a smear test, it could be too late.’
Mrs Campbell is now backing a campaign to have the age of smear tests lowered to 20, which has already attracted a 20,000-name petition since being started by relatives of 23-year-old Claire Allan after she died from the disease in 2009.
British price controls on drugs killing patients
If you can get more by selling the drug overseas, why wouldn’t you?
The lives of NHS patients are being put at risk because vital prescription medicines are being sold abroad by drugs companies for bigger profits. In at least one instance a patient is reported to have died after not getting his drugs in time.
Drug suppliers and pharmacies can exploit EU rules and sell medicines intended for the UK abroad as long as they have the correct licence. Drugs made in this country are produced almost exclusively for the UK market and selling them abroad has created major shortages.
Manufacturers are able to exploit the fluctuating exchange rate to make big profits when selling medicines in Europe.
New research shows almost half of pharmacists say patients have suffered because of medicinal shortages and over 40 per cent say they have seen a patient hospitalised because of the problem. More than 85 per cent of 322 pharmacists surveyed by Chemist and Druggist magazine said they were ‘very concerned’ that patients were being adversely affected by shortages.
One patient in Staffordshire after he took a week to get the medication he needed for an immune system disorder. A pharmacist said: ‘The patient was very ill with an immune disorder disease, and it took about a week to get his medication. By the time we got the drug, he had died.’
Another patient from Surrey who had recently had a kidney transplant waited days for her vital anti-rejection medicine.
And a schizophrenic ended up self-harming because his drugs took days to arrive.
According to IMS Health, a health consultancy, 11 percent of the 12,600 pharmacies in the UK are now engaging in the practice of selling drugs for the UK market abroad. A Parliamentary inquiry uncovered evidence that pharmacists and suppliers are taking advantage currency fluctuations and selling drugs abroad for profit.
Manufacturers claim they are making ‘more than enough’ drugs to meet the demands of high street pharmacies. In one example a wholesaler was able to buy enough of one particular drug to supply the whole UK for five years.
Until a Government crackdown even NHS hospitals were wholesaling drugs for profit. The Royal Surrey Hospital at Guildford made £300,000 on sales of £4million in one year.
A recent independent study showed that a significant number of companies supplying drugs to the NHS are also involved in selling drugs meant for UK patients abroad.
Marian Wilkes, a breast cancer patient who has been on the drug Armidex since cancer treatment in 2007, said she had struggled previously to get a continuous supply of her drug which needs to takes regularly to prevent the recurrence of her disease. A teaching and education consultant from Thame, Oxfordshire, she has at times had to tour pharmacies in her area to scrape together the drugs she needs.
She said: ‘It puts a huge amount of stress on you and one of the worst things for anyone with cancer is stress. ‘I don’t want to get a recurrence of my cancer – but if you miss out on your drugs, that leaves an opening for it to come back.’
Graham Phillips, owner of the Manor Pharmacy in Wheathampstead, Herts, said that a schizophrenic patient harmed himself after being unable to get hold of his medication for four or five days. He said: ‘The drug was unobtainable and no other pharmacy had it. By the time we got it, the patient had self-harmed.’
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said access to prescribed medicines was ‘a basic right that all patients should be able to expect’.
The Department of Health insisted it couldn’t stop the trade. A spokesman said: ‘It is vital organisations in the supply chain stick to the best practice guidance that was agreed in February last year. ‘The Government monitors medicines supply closely and continues to work to ensure that NHS patients receive the medicines they need, when they need them.’
The All-Party Pharmacy Group announced in November that it was holding a full-scale inquiry into the scandal.
The picture that shames Britain: As a man’s body floats in three and a half feet of water, 25 emergency workers stand and watch because they aren’t ‘trained’ to go in water
The busy scene on the banks of the lake appears to show our emergency services at their dynamic best. An air ambulance stands by as two specialist officers in yellow ‘immersion suits’ deliver a man who has collapsed into the water to paramedics at the water’s edge.
They attempt to resuscitate him inside an inflatable tent. A queue of ambulances and fire engines stands by ready and waiting near a small crowd of shocked onlookers. Yet the story behind this picture is anything but impressive.
This was Walpole Park in Gosport, Hampshire, on an overcast lunchtime last March when no fewer than 25 members of the emergency services, including a press officer, descended on a 3½ft-deep model boating lake minutes after Simon Burgess, 41, fell into the water when he suffered a seizure. But as an inquest heard last week, he lay floating face-down for more than half an hour while firemen, police and paramedics watched and did nothing.
The reason? Even though they could all swim, the first fire crew to arrive hadn’t been ‘trained’ to enter water higher than ankle-deep. Instead they waited for ‘specialists’ to arrive to retrieve his body. They had decided Mr Burgess must surely be dead because he had been in the water for ten minutes. When a policeman decided to go in anyway, he was ordered not to. A paramedic was also told not to enter the water because he didn’t have the right ‘protective’ clothing and might be in breach of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.
The tragic incident made headlines around the world, held up as a shocking example of ludicrously risk-averse Britain. And it prompted a coroner to demand that fire, police and ambulance services improve training to prevent a repeat.
Following the inquest, a Mail on Sunday investigation has now discovered that:
* The ‘ankle-deep’ rule was meant for fast-flowing water and is taken from guidelines drawn up to deal with floods.
* Other rescue agencies believe people can survive submerged for much longer than ten minutes – some will still try resuscitation at 90 minutes.
* The incident happened despite a previous reassurance from the Health and Safety Executive that firefighters would not face prosecution if they performed acts of heroism that break rules.
* Mr Burgess could have been reached within two minutes of emergency crews arriving at the scene – as proved by our reporter who went into the lake and waded 25ft to the spot where his body had been floating.
Mr Burgess had been feeding swans from a plastic bag that blew into the lake. He went in to retrieve it and while he was in the water he had a fit and fell unconscious. Last week, Coroner David Horsley ruled his death was an accident on the balance of probabilities, but said there was a chance, ‘albeit a slim one’, he could have been saved had the emergency services intervened sooner.
Fire station watch manager Tony Nicholls arrived at the scene within five minutes but refused to try to rescue Mr Burgess because, he told the inquest, his crew’s ‘Level 1’ training only allowed them to go in the water up to their ankles.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue said all its firefighters were trained to Level 1, which includes ‘general water safety awareness and basic land-based rescue techniques’. To comply with the guidelines, they had to wait for a specialist water rescue team to arrive. Mr Nicholls said these officers were ‘Level 2-trained’, meaning they could ‘go in chest- high’. Only those who had completed the Level 3 course would be allowed to swim, however.
Although it wasn’t made clear at the inquest, the rule about not entering water more than ankle-high is based entirely on guidelines drawn up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for tackling flood emergencies.
A Hampshire Fire and Rescue spokesman admitted the service knew the guideline was originally intended as advice to be followed at flood incidents – but the service insists firefighters apply it in ALL water-related incidents.
A Defra spokeswoman explained: ‘Our guidance is only ever to be used by the emergency services in response to a flood. This is because floods by their very nature are highly unpredictable, unlike existing bodies of water. Our guidance should never be used in any other instance.’
However, the Government’s Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser, Sir Ken Knight, has included the Defra training recommendations in an ‘operational guidance’ document on water safety.
One of the police officers at the scene, PC Tony Jones, told the inquest that he volunteered to go in, but was ‘strongly advised’ not to by Mr Nicholls. The PC also told the inquest that Mr Nicholls refused to let him borrow his lifejacket.
Then PC Jones was told by his control room that ‘under no circumstances’ should he attempt a rescue. Asked to explain that decision, Hampshire Police said yesterday: ‘The fire service were already there and they were recovering a body.’ The decision to downgrade the incident from a rescue to a ‘body retrieval situation’ reflected the confusion over submersion victims.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution said the only instances in which its rescuers would not attempt resuscitation would be if a body was already decomposing, or had been submerged for more than 90 minutes. Rescuers in the US believe a person can be revived after being immersed in water for up to an hour.
Professor Mike Tipton, of Ports–mouth University, concluded in a report for the emergency services last year that if ‘water temperature is warmer than 6C [42F], survival is extremely unlikely if submerged longer than 30 minutes’.
Chances of survival are much higher if water temperature is lower than this, but not if the body is submerged for more than 90 minutes.
He produced examples of people who had been saved after submersion of between 20 and 60 minutes.
Despite the safety rules, those at the scene could have entered the water under Health and Safety Executive guidelines that exempt 999 workers from prosecution if they perform acts of heroism. This follows Lord Young’s report, Common Sense, Common Safety, which called for an end to ‘senseless’ rules and regulations.
Last night, Fire Minister Bob Neill said: ‘Health and safety rules should be there to save lives, not put them at risk.’ He added that the Government would review existing guidance and take into account lessons learnt from recent incidents.
The new tyranny of temperance
Some government officials will only be happy when Britain resembles a giant Alcoholics Anonymous meeting
Whether it’s ‘hidden alcoholics’, middle-class professionals ‘for whom one glass of wine after work is never enough’, or yobbish working-class drinkers causing a nuisance in public, the attempts by government and campaigners to root out and tackle those deemed to be drinking ‘excessively’ have never been more aggressive.
From the prime minister to the media, there’s one thing everyone seems to agree on: Britain’s boozing has reached ‘scandalous’ proportions. ‘This is a national problem, it needs the government really to focus on it’, UK prime minister David Cameron declared last week, referring to what he called the ‘rising tide’ of irresponsible drinking across the country.
But it’s not just loud yobbish drunks going out on the lash and injuring themselves and others and winding up in hospital casualty departments on Friday and Saturday nights that are the problem: it’s also the ‘hidden alcoholics’, the middle-class wine drinkers who sup several glasses of sauvignon blanc on the sofa at night. Tonight on the BBC’s Panorama, former New Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell will confess, once again, to having been a secret alcoholic himself, and will highlight the fact that ‘nearly 9,000 people’ die each year from alcohol-related diseases. He will also wheel out an assortment of medical experts who will diagnose a ‘health crisis’ in the country.
But, given we’re all going to die of something, surely we should have the freedom to shorten our lives a little by having pint or two too many if we like? Apparently not. As well as emphasising the ‘anti-social behaviour’ alcohol causes, the government and campaigners alike are quick to point to what the Observer yesterday called ‘the intolerable burden being placed on the health services’. Even by overindulging on the vino by ourselves at home, we are apparently being irresponsible and causing a public nuisance – by potentially contributing to what David Cameron claims could be between £17 billion and £22 billion per year spent on ‘alcohol-related costs’. Campaign group Alcohol Concern has claimed that each taxpayer stumps up £1,000 of tax per year to tackle this problem.
The precise way such figures are arrived at is questionable. It is certainly the case that the amount of revenue brought in through taxation on alcohol covers the NHS bill for alcohol-related issues, with a couple of billion pounds left to spare. And, strikingly, the increase in hype about a drinking ‘epidemic’ in Britain coincides with a significant decline in per capita alcohol consumption. According to the Office of National Statistics, since 2002 there has been a steady drop in the amount of alcohol drunk by people of all ages.
Exactly why and how an increase in excessive drinking coincides with a fall in alcohol consumption is currently a source of confusion. But, regardless, the political and media classes are convinced they know the solution: to drink even less. While welcoming the drop in alcohol consumption as ‘good news’, an Observer editorial declared ‘a strong strategy is still urgently required if we are all to learn when put a stop on the bottle’.
Many have already given up on the idea that we can ‘learn’ when enough booze is enough, however. Increasingly, drinking more than the government’s recommended units of alcohol each week – which, notoriously, was a figure plucked out of thin air – is being portrayed as the result of addictive behaviour. As Alcoholics Anonymous famously put it, we are ‘powerless over alcohol’. Our addiction has apparently impaired our rationality. Typifying this trend was Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, who last week spoke of his decision to go tee-total after discovering to his youthful horror that he would often drink alcohol on social occasions. This was diagnosed as alcohol addiction, best tackled by abstaining completely.
Later this year, the coalition government is set to unveil an alcohol strategy which will outline ways to curb people’s drinking habits. While David Cameron has argued that ‘this isn’t just about more rules and regulation’, it is evident a barrage of new rules and regulations are coming our way. He has expressed a personal desire to introduce minimum pricing of alcohol, to have police patrolling hospitals and to introduce US-style ‘drunk tanks’ where people deemed to be too drunk are incarcerated until they’ve sobered up. Some campaigners go even further, with one suggesting that drinking licences should be given to everyone on their eighteenth birthday. These would then be revoked should a certain number of points be obtained through irresponsible drinking.
While such a proposal seems not to be on the cards just yet, the fact that campaigners feel sufficiently emboldened to make such illiberal proposals shows the extent to which the new temperance movement is gaining force in Britain today. Alcohol is set to get more expensive; anyone getting drunk in public could be banged up; and those choosing to drink at home will be increasingly stigmatised as alcohol addicts. To many anti-alcohol campaigners, this is simply a small step in the desired direction: to get the whole country to adopt an Alcoholics Anonymous mindset.
It’s secondary education that needs to get real, Mr. Ebdon
If one phrase were needed to sum up all that is wrong with the choice of Les Ebdon as ‘Fair Access’ Czar of British universities, it must be this: “I don’t think universities can just say: ‘Oh well it is because they are doing the wrong GCSEs’… Universities have to deal with the world as it is rather than the world as we would want.”
What he means is that universities should not be allowed to maintain high standards and insist on schools meeting them. Instead, universities should supplicate themselves to whatever mania is sweeping the teacher training colleges at the time.
Ironically, Ebdon’s policies mark the latest in the public education sector’s long march away from anything resembling ‘the real world’.
As I wrote in June, this sort of thinking is the result of the ‘progressive’ education establishment’s attempt to combine its love for fashionable theories with the terrible results when those theories are field tested.
Instead of adopting more effective teaching methods, to which much of the teaching profession has developed a certain ideological antipathy, state educators realised that they had another option: move the goalposts that marked success.
This started with the concept of ‘value added’ results. In essence, where schools had to deal with ‘disadvantaged’ groups such as ethnic minorities, immigrants or the poor, educators demanded that grades and league table positions reflect how well they thought they had done, given the poor materials to hand. Instead of seeing these children as challenges, they sought excuses.
But all these illusory achievements count for little when universal standards are applied, as in university applications. Because no matter how hard state educators insist that one child’s Cs are equivalent to another’s As because the first child is black or poor, in the ‘real world’ so beloved of Professor Ebdon a C is still a C and an A is still an A. Grade inflation notwithstanding, of course.
Once again, instead of renouncing failing methods ‘progressive’ educators are instead trying to lower the bar. It is our world class universities that must adapt ‘to the real world’, not our many unsatisfactory secondary schools.
Yet even if you crowbar these children into universities, they still aren’t properly equipped for the experience. Some universities already have to dedicate time in first year to equipping students with the sort of basic skills they should have developed during their A Levels.
These students will be accruing tens of thousands of pounds of debt to acquire second- or third-rate qualifications, all the while denying a place to a more capable student and weakening the strength and international competitiveness of British higher education.
Yet how far can this fantasy be sustained? What happens when these students hit the employment market and find that the illusory value-added grades they’ve been given by lazy educators aren’t actually worth the same as qualifications acquired through impartial assessment and intellectual rigour?
Will the next generation of Ebdons insist on ‘value-added’ degrees, and that employers must deal with the world ‘as it really is, not as they would wish it to be’? Will employers be forbidden from ‘discriminating’ against such qualifications?
It sounds totally outlandish. But following the logic of Ebdon’s appointment, it no longer sounds impossible.
Disruptive children in British schools are to be moved to “sin bin” schools
Not quite the “Borstals” of yore but a step in the right directions
Disruptive children are to be educated in “sin bin” schools that will concentrate on basic skills with longer teaching days
A government review after last summer’s riots is to recommend wide-ranging powers for institutions teaching those expelled from mainstream schools.
Ministers will this week announce that the schools, to be known as pupil referral units, will be able to become academies with the power to set their own timetables, curriculum and staff wages. They are designed to tackle what ministers have branded the “educational underclass”.
Head teachers have already been given powers to make it easier to expel unruly children. It is hoped that the disruptive pupils can be moved more quickly to the special units.
The proposals form the central recommendations of a review of school discipline and truancy conducted by Charlie Taylor, a headmaster and the Government’s behaviour adviser.
The review is understood to back higher fines for the parents of truants. Ministers are believed to be in favour of docking benefits if the fines are not paid. However, the publication of the review may be delayed as the Liberal Democrats are understood to be opposed to more draconian sanctions.
Mr Taylor said: “We have a flawed system that fails to provide for some of the most vulnerable children in the country. “If we fail to give them a first-class education then, as the events of this summer showed, we will pay a heavy price. “Mainstream academies flourish and improve faster than the national average. Heads of the best pupil referral units tell me that they want the same freedoms.”
A senior government source said the new generation of schools would focus on teaching basic skills such as reading and writing. Teenagers may also be taught vocational skills. The source said: “They will be freed from the constraints of local authorities to teach their own curriculum and pay staff appropriately.”
Children who are excluded from schools already attract far higher levels of government funding. However, the results from pupil referral units are typically appalling. Figures published last year showed that in 2009-10, only 1.4 per cent of pupils in the institutions achieved five good GCSEs, compared with a national average of more than 53 per cent.
It is hoped that many pupils will be able to return to mainstream schools after short, but intensive periods. The system is the latest reform introduced by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, to improve school discipline.