Transplant patients given cancerous kidneys in NHS bungle
Two transplant patients who received cancerous kidneys in a botched operation are to receive compensation packages after the NHS admitted negligence.
The pair were forced to undergo six cycles of chemotherapy because of the near-fatal error by a nurse who failed to check the donated kidneys.
The organs given to Robert Law and Gillian Smart at the Royal Liverpool University hospital in November 2010 contained a rare and aggressive form of cancer. The kidneys had belonged to a woman who died at another hospital – but somehow they were used as donor organs.
The NHS body that oversees transplants said `human error’ by a specialist nurse who had not completed her training was partly to blame for the mistake.
Lynda Hamlyn, from NHS Blood and Transplant, yesterday offered `sincere and unreserved apologies’ to the pair who were told of the error days after their operations.
Mrs Smart, 47, said that she was `devastated’ when she was told about the transplant. The mother of two said: `The result has been psychologically and physically draining. `Before the chemo and everything I was dress size 12, now I am a 22. My hair has grown back brunette – I was blonde before.’
Mr Law, 60, who launched a legal action in March 2011, said he wanted a report to be published to ensure the error never happens again. He said: `Over the last 15 months I have suffered in many ways, physically and mentally, including weight gain, muscle wastage and depression.’
The father of four added: `Revealing how this was allowed to happen would ensure that medical professionals throughout the UK can learn from the mistakes made and ensure better care in the future.’ `I also feel strongly that the NHS trusts involved should publish a comprehensive report stating what measures have been taken to minimise the risk of a recurrence.’
To compound their agony, both had been preparing to undergo live kidney transplants from their respective sisters – who were perfectly healthy – but decided to accept the donor organs to spare their relatives the trauma of surgery.
Mr Law, from Birkenhead, said: `When I woke up from the operation I felt very emotional because I thought “I’ve arrived, I’m going to get back to normal life and get back to work again”.
`Six days later I was told I had cancer. Given that I had a live donor who had been tested, why was I given a cancer-infected kidney from someone else?’
Mrs Smart, from St Helens, added: `It was like I was in a scene from TV or a film. You think “Come on”. It has got to be the biggest joke going.’
The NHS said that the transplant team was not informed that the kidneys contained B-cell lymphona.
Mr Law and Mrs Smart have been told there was no sign of cancer after their chemotherapy – but they will undergo further scans for confirmation.
Boy, 10, chokes to death on a sweet after ambulance workers can’t find his street on sat nav
Too lazy to look at the house numbers
A boy of ten who choked on a gobstopper died because an ambulance crew couldn’t pinpoint his house on their satellite navigation system.
Kane Wade was playing in his garden when the sweet became lodged in his windpipe. His parents dialled 999 and, with Kane’s 13-year-old sister watching on, desperately tried to clear the youngster’s throat while they waited for help to arrive.
Despite arriving in the road within eight minutes, paramedics couldn’t find the family home on the in-built satnav and lost several vital minutes. Eventually, the ambulance crew found the address but by then Kane had turned blue and stopped breathing.
Paramedics spent 20 minutes trying to revive him but, although they managed to restart his heart, he was pronounced dead in hospital several hours later.
Last night it emerged that although the road where Kane lived, in Norris Green, Liverpool, was built in 2007, his house had been completed only three months before last June’s tragedy. This meant it was not on the North West Ambulance Service’s satnav system, which is updated annually each September.
Kane’s mother, Lindsey Wade, 38, and father, Barry Ismail, 52, a nightclub entertainer, are now taking legal action against NWAS for failing their son, who was autistic and was unable to speak.
Miss Wade, who has three other children with Mr Ismail – Nadine, 20, Olivia, 13, and one-year-old Romy – said yesterday: `We were relying on that ambulance. The woman on the phone kept saying “It should be with you”, but there was no sign.
`We’ve had no other problems. We get post, takeaways, everything – but not an ambulance to save my little boy’s life.’
Sources at NWAS said a fast-response paramedic and ambulance crew were dispatched at 6.39pm on June 26 last year and arrived at Pennycress Drive, where the family lived, at 6.47pm and 6.48pm respectively. Despite there being just 44 houses in the street, paramedics could not find the home, which is at the far end of a cul-de-sac, until 6.52pm. The delay meant the ambulance missed the target response time of eight minutes by five minutes.
Miss Wade said: `So many new estates are being built all the time – is the ambulance service saying this risk is there for all those houses across the country?’
She said children playing in the street later reported the ambulance crew parked on a nearby road for several minutes beforehand. `They could have asked the children where our street was, but instead they just sat there and let Kane die,’ Miss Wade said.
The family’s MP, Stephen Twigg, said he would be contacting Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to highlight the problem.
`Everybody loved Kane, he was such an amazing boy,’ said Miss Wade. `He was autistic and could not speak, but he had such personality. `My daughters are distraught. It was terrible for Olivia, who he was so close to. She is 13 and watched her brother die in front of her. I’m afraid it’s a trauma that she will never get over.’
An inquest in June last year gave a verdict of accidental death.
A spokesman for NWAS said: `We offer our sincere condolences to the family for their tragic loss. We have investigated this incident fully and shared the findings with representatives of the family.’
The great social engineering flop: Billions spent, but poor miss out on British university boom
The billions of pounds spent on expanding universities over the past 20 years has failed to help the poorest children, a study shows. The failure of the comprehensive system was blamed for the stubbornly low proportion of undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to researchers.
The boom in places has mainly benefited the middle classes, leaving behind an ‘underclass’, and indirectly precipitating social problems such as the disorder on our streets last summer.
Peter Elias, a Warwick University employment expert who helped lead the research, called on the Government to take urgent steps to improve social mobility.
But he said attempts to engineer university admissions to favour poorer pupils were unworkable. The study, which covered 34,000 Britons, found that teenagers with white-collar parents have taken up university places twice as fast as peers with blue-collar parents.
This is despite a widely publicised drive to boost the proportion of working-class youngsters in further education.
Professor Elias said the dramatic expansion of higher education from the early 1990s had widened the gaps between social groups. ‘There was an opportunity to do something, and it’s clearly been missed. ‘Over the next three, four, five years we are going to need to make significant progress. If we don’t, the whole concept of the underclass is going to reappear.
‘We only need to look at what happened last summer to see what problems lie in wait if we have an unequal distribution across society.’
Professor Elias said reforms aimed at giving parents a wider choice of secondary schools including specialist schools, academies and free schools should help to boost social mobility.
‘Some comprehensives are extremely good – and parents who pay for private education are wasting their money – but clearly some were failing,’ he said.
He said the lowering of university entry requirements for disadvantaged students was a ‘nightmare scenario’. Just as some parents have been caught faking addresses to beat school catchment areas, there would be fake backgrounds in university admissions, he said. ‘If you try to translate these things into quota systems, straightaway people will try to get around the quota,’ he said. ‘You can have fake backgrounds – “my dad was a brickie and my mum a cleaner”. It’s unworkable administratively and politically undesirable.’
The rise in tuition fees and abolition of grants for poor college students could prove a ‘huge obstacle’ to boosting social mobility, he added.
The study by the Institute of Social and Economic Research based at Essex University analysed two groups of adults – one aged 22 to 34 and the other 37 to 49. The older group would have been able to attend university prior to the expansion that began in 1992.
Of these 25.7 per cent had a degree – a figure that rose to 34.3 per cent among the younger group. When the researchers examined the backgrounds of the graduates, they found stark differences.
The rise among teenagers with managerial and professional parents was ten percentage points. Among intermediate occupations, including clerical jobs, nursing and directors of small businesses, it was 11 points. But among families with routine or manual jobs the rise was only five points.
Resurgence of marriage in Britain: After an official report showed married couples are happiest, wedding are on the increase
Marriage is coming back into fashion. After 40 years of decline, the number of weddings has risen by 3.7 per cent in a year.
Analysts believe the recession has caused a return to family values and a desire for the stability marriage offers.
Data released by the Office of National Statistics showed there were 241,100 weddings in England and Wales in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available.
This is 8,657 more than in the previous year, and provides welcome ammunition for campaigners who are trying to push David Cameron into keeping his promise to give a tax break to married couples.
The new data follows fresh evidence of the benefits of marriage from the first results of the Prime Minister’s attempt to measure the nation’s happiness.
Figures published this week showed that married people are the happiest, their sense of well-being higher than that of cohabitees and far higher than that of the single, divorced or separated.
Church of England weddings went up by 4 per cent in 2010 thanks to rules which allow couples a wider choice of churches than was available under the old system, which tied a bride and groom to the parish where they live.
However other Christian denominations saw a fall of 1.1 per cent in their wedding numbers. There were even bigger drops in religious weddings staged by other faiths.
Together, the number of Sikh, Muslim and Jewish weddings went down by 3.4 per cent. Two out of three of all civil weddings are now celebrated in stately homes, hotels, golf clubs or football-ground hospitality suites which have been allowed to stage ceremonies since 1995.
The popularity of a wedding in a venue technically known as ‘approved premises’ means 124,570 were held in them in 2010, a 12 per cent increase in a single year. This is more than three times the number in register offices.
In general the popularity of marriage has been on the wane since 1972 – just after liberal divorce reforms came into operation which made it possible to end a marriage in six months.
At the time there were more than 400,000 weddings a year in England and Wales.
The ONS said economic pressures could be behind the increase in 2010. ‘During tough economic times, people seek stability and family may be valued more highly than material goods. As parents could be out of work, they may have more time to spend on child rearing.’
If this thinking is right, it means many people still instinctively put marriage at the heart of family life – a view not shared by politicians such as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
He said in December that marriage was outmoded and that ‘we need to get away from the idea that there is something on a piece of paper that says if you are married, that’s good, if you’re not married, that’s not’.
The ONS report also said that couples whose lives had been disrupted in the first years of the recession, or who had to put off marriage because of money pressures, could have been catching up in 2010.
Other reasons put forward to explain the rise included a drop in the number of couples marrying abroad – another result of the recession – and an increase in numbers of older cohabiting couples deciding it was time to put their relationships on a firmer legal footing.
The rise might also be attributable to immigration. Around 600,000 migrants come to live in Britain each year and have a high regard for marriage.
All available academic research has long shown that married couples are better off and healthier than others, and that their children too are healthier and do better at school.
The new count showed that for every 1,000 single people over 16, 8.7 were married in 2010, up from 8.5 in 2009. Couples were most likely to marry between the ages of 25 and 29, but the biggest percentage increases in marriage numbers came among men in their late 40s and women in their early 30s. Two out of three weddings were first marriages for both bride and groom.
The increase was the third rise in marriage numbers in the past decade. Between 2002 and 2003 there was a 5.7 per cent rise, and there was a further very small increase between 2007 and 2008.
The ONS believes a decline in 2004 was caused by new laws clamping down on sham marriages to get around immigration laws.
The ONS report said: ‘It is not possible to determine at this stage whether the rise in the provisional number of marriages in 2010 signifies an end to the long-term decline of marriages or whether such increases will continue.’
Britain’s bid to rein in the Euro judges: National courts must have priority, say ministers
Britain has drawn up long-overdue plans to curtail the meddling of the controversial European Court of Human Rights.
Under the leaked proposals, judges in Strasbourg – who recently blocked the deportation of hate preacher Abu Qatada – would not normally be allowed to interfere in cases which have already gone through the UK courts. The plans were welcomed by Tory MPs sick of the court overturning UK judgments.
But ministers face a huge battle to get the proposals past the 46 other nations who are members of the Council of Europe, which oversees the court – and the Liberal Democrats.
Changing the rules requires unanimous approval of the Council – which is notoriously difficult to achieve.
Ministers have thrown in a concession to supporters of the court in a bid to make the proposals seem more attractive. It would, for the first time, allow the Council of Europe to levy fines on member states which ignore Strasbourg’s judgments. This could mean, for example, that Britain could be clobbered with a fine if Parliament refuses the Strasbourg court’s current demand for prisoners to be granted the vote.
The proposals – named the ‘Draft Brighton Convention’ – are to be debated at a meeting in England on April 19 and 20.
Britain currently has presidency of the Council and the Tories are determined to use the opportunity to rein in some of the worst excesses of the court, which is criticised for being unaccountable.
Under the plans, Strasbourg would not normally be able to examine cases that are ‘identical in substance to a claim that has been considered by a national court’.
The court would only be able to take on a case when national courts have made a glaring error, or in major issues of interpretation of human rights.
The changes would also reduce the time period in which claims must be lodged with Strasbourg following a ruling by a domestic court, from the current six months to two or four months.
In the case of Qatada, who is wanted for trial in Jordan on charges of plotting terrorist atrocities, the UK’s Law Lords (now the Supreme Court) ruled he could safely be deported.
But the European judges overturned the decision, saying there was a risk that some of the evidence used against Qatada – an Al Qaeda hate preacher – may have been obtained by torture.
Qatada has since been released on bail and Home Secretary Theresa May is now seeking reassurances from Jordan that she hopes will allow the fanatic to be kicked out.
Tory MP Dominic Raab, who has led the calls for urgent reform of the Strasbourg court, welcomed the draft proposals. He said: ‘These are sensible and moderate proposals to reduce the Strasbourg Court’s scope to interfere with decisions of the UK Supreme Court and law-making by our elected representatives. ‘Strasbourg should re-focus on the worst violations of the most fundamental rights.’
But he added: ‘Any suggestion that we give the Council of Europe the power to issue fines is out of the question at a time when the court is handing down arbitrary rulings on Abu Qatada and prisoner voting.’
Shami Chakrabarti, of campaign group Liberty, said Britain should be setting an example on human rights to younger democracies, such as Russia.
Mr Raab responded: ‘There’s no point in kidding ourselves that Putin is going to care two hoots about whether we deport Abu Qatada, or prisoner voting.’
Labour’s Sadiq Khan said: ‘We risk opening a Pandora’s Box across Europe as other countries ignore the Convention. Our moral authority could simply evaporate for the sake of satisfying Cameron’s awkward backbenchers.’