Mother who lost son to meningitis wins SEVEN year battle to bring consultant who refused to prescribe antibiotics before GMC
Yet another “overseas-trained” doctor, apparently
A mother of a boy who died from meningitis has won a seven year battle to bring a consultant before the General Medical Council.
William Cressey died after being sent home by a consultant paediatrician responsible for his care. It is alleged the doctor failed to prescribe antibiotics to the 10 year-old from Croft, County Durham.
He was discharged after doctors initially diagnosed a migraine. William was taken back to the hospital the next day, but was again refused treatment for meninigits.
When he was eventually given antibiotics, it was too late. He died on March 1, 2005, after being transferred to Newcastle General Hospital.
At an inquest in 2009, Coroner David Mitford recorded a verdict of death by natural causes. However, he said the failure to prescribe medication may have contributed to William’s death.
Dr Malik Mahmood Alam, who made the decision not to prescribe antibiotics, will face a GMC hearing later this month.
Mrs Cressey said she was pleased the hearing would take place. She said: ‘This is all about William. Seven years ago today, he was dying and I was fighting for him to get treatment.’
A spokeswoman for the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘This relates to a tragic case in 2005, at which time Dr Alam was employed by the trust. ‘The trust has co-operated fully with all proceedings; however, it would not be appropriate to comment further before the hearing.’
£4,000 for slipping on a potato and £2,500 for walking into a door… how NHS staff cash in on accidents at work
NHS staff are claiming nearly £20million a year in taxpayer-funded compensation for injuries such as bruises, twisted ankles and blisters.
The number of employees seeking damages for accidents they insist were the fault of the Health Service has jumped by almost a third in just five years.
Last year more than 3,200 injury claims were filed by NHS staff, including one that resulted in a worker being paid £6,500 for a bruise. And the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust paid out £3,980 to a nurse who slipped on a piece of potato on a ward floor.
An employee at the same trust was paid £5,750 after he fell over when the bottom of his trousers got caught on a metal bracket on a wall. In the past five years, the NHS has paid out £91.8million in compensation to 9,042 employees.
The number of claims made by staff has jumped from 2,535 in 2005/6 to 3,287 last year, according to figures obtained after Freedom of Information requests to the NHS Litigation Authority and NHS trusts.
There are concerns that staff are being egged on by ‘no-win no-fee’ solicitors telling them to claim for injuries caused by their own clumsiness or bad luck.
A hospital worker at Sherwood Forest NHS Trust was paid £2,250 after suffering ‘tennis elbow’ – a common sports injury that he insisted was caused by ‘repetitive moving’.
The same hospital awarded £875 to a member of staff who cut their thumb, while a porter at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals got £3,400 for a ‘whiplash-type injury’ that allegedly happened while pushing a trolley.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals awarded £10,000 to an employee who twisted their ankle on a step and the same amount to another worker who suffered a cut finger.
And at West Hertfordshire Hospitals a worker was given £2,775 for injuring their shoulder by throwing litter into a bin, while a secretary at Countess of Chester Hospital got £350 for falling off a chair.
Tory MP Stephen Barclay said: ‘I would want to know why someone got £6,500 for a bruise. ‘It seems surprising that some payments are being made for what appear to be relatively minor injuries. ‘I would welcome some clarification from the officer responsible for the payments so that he can demonstrate that they were of value for money for the taxpayer. ‘This is money that would otherwise be spent on patients with medical needs.’
Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘This is an incredible amount of money for the NHS to be losing to compensation claims, and means less cash is available for frontline care.
‘There will be some cases where payouts in the workplace are unavoidable, but health bosses need to ensure these are kept to a minimum by properly managing their facilities and rejecting and fighting frivolous claims. ‘Taxpayers can’t afford endless huge payouts – they are a symptom of a growing compensation culture that needs to be stopped.’
The extraordinary amounts are being paid out while the NHS is under severe financial strain. Although its budget has been ring-fenced from Government cuts, it has been ordered to make £20billion of ‘efficiency savings’ over the next few years so money can be ploughed back into patient care. Many NHS trusts have resorted to cutting frontline staff and rationing treatments to try to meet these targets.
Only last month a report from MPs found the NHS was now paying out £15.7billion a year for medical accidents, with many claims driven by no-win no-fee lawyers.
Figures compiled by the public accounts committee showed the sum had jumped by 13 per cent in a year and accounted for a seventh of the Health Service’s annual budget.
Catholic leader Cardinal Keith O’Brien clashes with British PM on same-sex marriage plans
The Catholic Church is on a collision course with David Cameron as one of its most senior figures issues an outspoken attack on the Government over its plans to legalise gay marriage.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, says the proposals to allow same-sex unions are “madness” and a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”.
The cardinal’s intervention, in an article for The Sunday Telegraph, is the strongest criticism yet from any church figure of the plans, which are due to be unveiled this month by Lynne Featherstone, the equalities minister.
He accuses ministers of trying to “redefine reality” and change long-standing laws and traditions “at the behest of a small minority of activists”.
The cardinal has added his voice to those of leading figures in the Coalition for Marriage, a group of bishops, politicians and lawyers opposed to the changes. The group’s supporters include Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.
The group is in outright opposition to Mr Cameron, who hopes to make legislation changing the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, expected by 2015, one of the central achievements of his time in office.
Mrs Featherstone is to launch a consultation on how the changes will come about this month. Despite opposition from some sections of his party, the Prime Minister has personally associated himself with the proposals.
Mr Cameron told last year’s Tory conference in Manchester: “I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.” Last week his spokesman said he was “passionate” about the issue.
Cardinal O’Brien, the only British Catholic to be part of the College of Cardinals, the body which elects popes, accuses ministers of showing “intolerance” and coming up with plans that would “shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world”.
The new clash between the Coalition and the Catholic Church comes as the Church of England also appears increasingly split over the issue of gay rights.
A new proposal for a deal that would effectively prevent openly gay clergy from becoming bishops is on the brink of failure despite the personal endorsement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. The proposed agreement, known as the Anglican Covenant, has been rejected by 13 dioceses so far, with only eight backing it. Defeat would, it was said, be a “devastating” blow to Dr Williams. The Covenant needs the approval of a majority of dioceses for a vote at the General Synod.
The Government, meanwhile, faces a Commons rebellion of scores of Conservative MPs over its gay marriage proposals. Some Tory ministers are among those opposed. Any vote is many months away, however, and Labour would be almost certain to back the move.
The legislation would apply only in England and Wales. However, Scottish MPs would be able to vote on the plans – a fact which has helped provoke Cardinal O’Brien’s intervention today.
He writes: “Since all the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples, it is clear that this proposal is not about rights, but rather is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists.
“Same-sex marriage would eliminate entirely in law the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child. It would create a society which deliberately chooses to deprive a child of either a mother or a father.”
Ministers have assured church groups they will not be forced to accept same-sex marriages – a pledge which does not impress the cardinal. He writes: “Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that ‘No one will be forced to keep a slave.’
“Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right?”
Campaigners say the state has no right to change the definition of marriage according to most Christian thinking – a definition which is enshrined in laws dating back almost 800 years.
Mrs Featherstone, however, has argued that marriage is “owned by the people” and that governments have a duty to change laws to bolster the “underlying principles of family, society and personal freedoms”.
British education boss scraps homework rules
Schools have been given the go-ahead to reduce the amount of homework they set for pupils after complaints from parents that studies are cutting in to family time.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has scrapped national guidelines which set out how much time children should spend doing homework each night. Instead, head teachers will decide how much extra study, if any, their pupils require. Officials said that the aim was to cut bureaucracy, and insisted that homework would remain an important part of education.
However, the move was welcomed by parents who have called for less homework to be handed out. Kirstie Allsopp, the television presenter who has campaigned against homework in primary schools, last night welcomed Mr Gove’s move and said: “Getting rid of the guidelines might free up teachers to think a bit more creatively about it”.
Under the old guidelines, introduced by Labour in 1998, primary schools were told to set an hour of homework a week for children aged five to seven, rising to half an hour a night for seven-to-11-year-olds. Secondary schools were told to set 45 to 90 minutes a night for pupils aged 11 to 14, and one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours a night for those aged 14 to 16.
While the rules were not statutory, teachers came under pressure to follow them as they were said to give “a clear idea of what is reasonable to expect at different ages”. They also allowed parents to challenge teachers who set more, or less, than the recommended level. Many schools reproduced the guidelines in their own homework policies.
Supporters of homework warned scrapping the guidelines could lead to some schools abandoning it altogether, to spare teachers the trouble of extra marking.
Opposition has grown towards the guidelines, fuelled by an anti-homework movement in the United States and research questioning the efficacy of such assignments, particularly in primary schools.
Teachers complain about chasing up missing work and argue that it causes upset among the youngest pupils, while parents have claimed that too much study is making children anxious and reducing the time available for sports and play.
Some primaries have already abandoned traditional homework. Since September Frittenden Church of England Primary, in Kent, has replaced it with an optional weekly 45-minute homework club.
Elizabeth Bradshaw, the head teacher, said: “We had feedback from parents, or notes to the teachers, saying ‘my child is very worried that they haven’t completed it on time’, or the child would come in to the classroom in tears because they had left it in the car. We simply wanted to remove that stress and focus on the learning for that week in a homework club where it is done, marked, and informs the learning of the next week.”
Ryde School, a primary in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, regards activities such as a walk in the countryside, playing board games and cooking as “homework”.
Its policy states: “Children are not little adults and therefore cannot be expected to study at home as adults do. Children spend six hours a day at school and are usually tired or ‘filled’ with school learning by the end of the day. Homework must be kept to a minimum and be of a light, relaxed nature.”
The Department for Education said yesterday that the shake-up formed part of the Government’s plan to give more autonomy to schools.
Allsopp, who has two children and two stepchildren, said: “If you have three children, what happens to the other children while the parent is settled in the corner helping each one with their half an hour of homework? Eating a pizza alone. It ends up separating families at that key time.
“Learning at home should be about people doing things together as a family – reading a book, eating, watching an interesting documentary, attending an exhibition that ties in with what the child has been doing at school. These things are incredibly important. What I am ‘anti’ is the silly task set by a teacher to tick a box.
“Sometimes homework can set child against parent. I remember someone I’m very close to was in Sainsbury’s and the child was in tears saying ‘We’ve got to go, mummy – if I don’t do my homework I won’t be allowed in the playground tomorrow’. It is very important that parents back up what goes on in school, that is paramount. But some homework is almost adversarial.”
But Chris McGovern, a former head teacher and chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, warned that scrapping the guidelines could send the ‘wrong message’ to schools. He said: “The danger is that schools will use this as an excuse to dilute the amount of homework. Middle-class children will do their homework anyway. Guidance for children who are coming from more deprived backgrounds is probably more important.”
Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment at Buckingham University, said: “I’m all in favour of trusting schools but I hope that Ofsted will check that appropriate amounts of homework are being set. “There’s a risk in abandoning the guidelines that some schools and some teachers will see it as the green light to get rid of the unwelcome burden of marking lots of homework.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Homework is part and parcel of a good education, along with high quality teaching and strong discipline. “We trust head teachers to set the homework policy for their school. They know their pupils best and should be free to make these decisions without having to adhere to unnecessary bureaucratic guidance.”
The shake-up comes as a new study by London’s Institute of Education reveals that homework, even in small amounts, boosts the academic attainment and social skills of secondary school pupils.
The Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education project showed that homework was linked to improvements in 14-year-olds’ academic prowess and social skills as well as reductions in levels of aggression and impulsiveness.
Cheap acne antibiotic could alleviate symptoms of schizophrenia
This is certainly hopeful but will probably apply only to a subset of schizophrenics. Schizophrenia has a substantial inherited component
A cheap antibiotic usually used to treat acne could alleviate the symptoms of schizophrenia, international studies have found. The National Institute for Health Research will start 175 recruiting patients for a £1.9m UK trial of the drug, minocycline, next month.
The study comes after a chance observation in Japan caused researchers to test the drug in patients with schizophrenia first in Japan itself, and then all over the world. Trials have already been held in Israel, Pakistan and Brazil where schizophrenic patients treated with the drug showed significant improvement.
Scientists believe schizophrenia and other mental illnesses including depression and Alzheimer’s disease may result from inflammation in the brain. Minocycline has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects which could account for the positive findings.
The first account of the antibiotic’s positive effects appeared in 2007, when a 23-year-old Japanese man was admitted to hospital suffering from persecutory delusions and paranoid ideas. The subject had no psychiatric history and blood tests and brain scans showed nothing unusual. He was started on halperidol, a powerful anti-psychotic drug, but it had no effect. However when he developed severe pneumonia a week later and was prescribed the antibiotic, the infection was cleared and the psychosis resolved within two months.
However, minocycline does not work as a cure. When the patient stopped taking the drug, his psychiatric symptoms got worse again. But another treatment with minocyline made him better again.
The UK trial will recruit patients recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, Jeremy Laurance, a member of the Schizophrenia Commission, told The Independent. Half the patients will take minocycline with their standard anti-psychotic treatment, the other half will take a placebo.
Brain scans will be carried out at the beginnning and end of the year-long trial to compare loss of grey matter which is an effect of schizophrenia. Tests will also measure inflammatory markers in the blood.
Paul Jenkins, CEO of the charity Rethink Mental Illness told MailOnline: ‘We welcome the early promise shown by minocycline in treating psychosis in people with schizophrenia.
‘Nowhere near enough time or money currently goes into to researching treatments for schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses, which cause pain and suffering for many thousands of families across the UK.’
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.