Lazy NHS doctors kill another kid
Schoolgirl, five, dies from meningitis after two GPs say she has a bug and send her home
A girl of five died from meningitis only 24 hours after she was twice diagnosed with a bug and sent home by doctors. Kelsey Smart was initially taken to an out-of-hours emergency GP after she developed a red rash across her stomach.
The next morning, the schoolgirl’s own doctor told her worried mother that she was merely suffering from a bug and sent her home without any medication.
However, just hours later Kelsey began to have fits. Despite emergency surgery, she died from meningitis in hospital early the next day.
Last night her devastated parents Jamie and Hannah said they believed their daughter could have survived if doctors had acted more quickly.
‘If she had gone to the hospital after she saw the GP then she could still be alive,’ Mr Smart said. ‘I have spoken to the charity Meningitis UK and they told me if a child that age exhibits those symptoms they should be given penicillin and sent to hospital straight away.’
Kelsey first started being sick on February 25 and continued to be ill the next day. Although still alert, she was tired, and could not eat or keep any drink down. That evening Mrs Smart took her to the emergency GP service Frendoc, where Kelsey was examined.
Mrs Smart, 24, from Kingswood, Bristol, said: ‘Kelsey had a pinprick rash on her belly. I wondered if it was chickenpox as that has been going through my son’s playgroup. I didn’t think for a second it might be meningitis.
‘The out-of-hours doctor told me to go to my own GP in the morning. I phoned up at 8am and was told I was in queue position 13. I eventually saw a GP, who again said it was a bug and so we went home.’
Later that day, as Kelsey began to grow increasingly restless, her mother decided to take her to the children’s hospital, where 34-year-old Mr Smart was working as a painter and decorator.
On the way, Kelsey started to have fits so her mother stopped the car and called 999. At the hospital, Kelsey was given morphine and anti-inflammatory drugs after doctors feared she may have had a stroke.
A neurosurgeon also operated on her to try to remove fluid from the brain, but the disease had taken hold. She was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial strain of the disease.
Shortly before her death, Kelsey was christened. She died surrounded by her parents and her Hello Kitty toys, and listening to her favourite singer Justin Bieber.
Mr Smart said: ‘We have had lots of support from family and friends, from local MPs and from around the country, and if this raises awareness to help another child that would be good. ‘We want to do what we can to make other parents aware of the signs of meningitis.’
Kelsey’s parents, who also have a two-year-old son Jayden, donated their daughter’s organs. They have been told her heart has already been given to a child and that five others will also be helped.
Her mother said: ‘We couldn’t let her go to waste. She was beautiful.’
Mark Dee, headmaster of Park Primary School, where Kelsey was a year-one pupil, said: ‘This is a tragic and devastating time and our thoughts go out to Kelsey’s family. ‘She was such a lovely little girl who found joy in all that she did. It’s really so sad.’
A post-mortem examination was carried out and an inquest will be held into her death.
When “all men are equal” unjustly hurts women
British women face £362 rise in car insurance: EU ruling means they lose benefit for having fewer accidents
Millions of women drivers could have to pay an extra £362 a year for their car insurance after a ruling by European judges, it emerged yesterday. The increase follows a decision that men cannot be charged more for their policies even though they are more likely to have a serious crash.
The ruling, described by critics as ‘madness’, means that from December 21 women drivers – although generally safer – will no longer be able to access cheaper car insurance rates because of their gender.
Labour transport spokesman John Woodcock said female drivers face an ‘insurance timebomb’ and called on ministers to curb the impact of the ruling.
Analysis by Labour found that women could end up paying an extra £362 a year, around £30 a month. A Treasury analysis revealed that women of all ages would see their premiums increase by up to 24 per cent on average. Young men would see theirs fall on average by 9 per cent.
Insurance experts warned that younger women will be hit particularly badly as they will end up having to pay the same premiums as ‘boy racers’. A woman under the age of 22 pays around £1,682 in car insurance while a young man is charged an average of £2,750. [Which is about 3 times as much as the same person would pay in Australia. Australia has much less insurance fraud]
This is because men under 22 are ten times more likely to have a serious crash, 25 times more likely to commit a driving offence and twice as likely to make an insurance claim.
Policies with more than one named driver will be adversely affected if the main policy holder is a woman.
When a man is the main driver and a woman the ‘named’ driver, premiums are likely to come down. The changes will be forced through without Parliament having the chance to fight the ruling by the European Court of Justice.
Experts say the overall cost to UK customers of the judgment – based on a case brought by a consumer group in Belgium – will be almost £1billion.
Motoring groups warn the ruling could lead to more deaths on the roads if young men benefiting from lower premiums buy faster cars.
Mr Woodcock urged ministers to put pressure on insurance companies not to round up rates to the average paid by men.
Labour wants to see every insurance company being forced to offer drivers at least one black box product. The boxes allow motorists to prove how safe they are by recording how they drive. Those who drive carefully or don’t drive at night could benefit from cheaper premiums.
Mr Woodcock told the Daily Mail: ‘At a time when motorists are already being squeezed by record fuel prices, women will be dismayed that out-of-touch ministers are not lifting a finger to defuse the insurance timebomb heading their way from Europe. ‘Premiums for women are currently less because they tend to have fewer accidents.
The Government must not sit back and let the insurance industry round up to the highest level they think they can get away with – that could mean hikes of up to £362 for women.
‘The ban on insurance by gender means women will need to find different ways to prove they are safe, but currently not enough insurers offer new black box technology that helps safer drivers get lower premiums.’
Tory MP Douglas Carswell said: ‘Three weeks ago the Prime Minister held a meeting for the insurance industry at Downing Street. But because we are not prepared to do anything about Europe, we can do absolutely nothing about this madness.’
Until now, discrimination in setting insurance rates has been permitted under EU equal treatment rules allowing the market to base the price of a financial product on the statistical likelihood of a person having an accident, falling ill or dying.
All insurance products will be affected by the new ruling. For life insurance, men could see a 10 per cent fall in costs, while women’s rates could rise by as much as 20 per cent as they live longer.
Malcolm Tarling, from the Association of British Insurers, said: ‘This gender ban is disappointing news for UK consumers and something the UK insurance industry has fought against for the last decade.’
Let’s call it quits on Britain’s equality law
The Equality Act is less about ending oppression and more about enforcing state-approved behaviour
On Monday, the Clearing the Ground inquiry, staffed by a cross-party group of Christian MPs, published its report into ‘the freedom of Christians in the UK’. The report called for the Equality Act 2010 to be used to enforce ‘reasonable accommodation’ for Christians, with legal recourse in the form of compensation for those deemed by the courts to have been treated unfairly on the grounds of their Christian beliefs.
The report comes at time when many in politics and in the media consider it is vital to offer their diagnoses of the state of spiritual life in the UK. On the one hand, we have Conservative Party co-chair Baroness Warsi, who earlier this month argued that the UK was suffering from a ‘militant secularisation’ and called for British people to be more ‘confident’ in their Christianity. On the other hand, we have evolutionary scientist and atheist poster boy Richard Dawkins claiming that actually none of us are as religious as we thought. Today, everyone who is anyone needs a view on religion and its place in British society.
Accordingly, Clearing the Ground was charged with answering the question: ‘Are Christians marginalised in the UK?’ It may not be surprising that their answer to that one was ‘yes’. But following in the tradition of public inquiries, it helpfully answered a lot of questions that no one had actually asked: ‘Is the United Kingdom displaying symptoms of “religious illiteracy”?’ Yes. ‘Do organisations need more guidance as to how to accommodate Christian people?’ Yes. While its initial remit was narrow, it soon becomes clear that this inquiry set itself the task of fixing the ‘endemic secularisation’ identified by Warsi.
Yet there was a contradiction at the heart of the report’s findings. While calling for an extension of the law into more aspects of religious life, it took as its starting point the idea that the interests of the law and religion are often fundamentally opposed. It noted, rightly, that this conflict is most profoundly felt in the UK when it comes to freedom of expression. The report was pained to list case after case in which the rights of religious people to express themselves freely had been disregarded in the name of laws purporting to promote equality.
Take the shocking case of Dale McAlpine, who was charged under the Public Order Act 1986 on the basis that his preaching, which included proclaiming that homosexuality was a sin, amounted to a hate crime. For expressing an unconscionable opinion, McAlpine was prosecuted and taken to court, only for the charges then to be dropped with an apology from the police. Or take Adrian Smith, who was demoted within Trafford Housing Trust for posting a Facebook status update opposing gay marriage and for arguing that ‘the state should not impose its rules on places of faith and conscience’. The report is full of examples of the law fostering a climate in which the rights of religious people to express themselves freely are routinely subjugated.
Yet, despite acknowledging that the law has frequently been used against religious people expressing their beliefs, the report bizarrely argues for yet more legal intervention. The problem, in the eyes of the inquiry, is that the law does not make things quite equal enough. This desperate, pleading, ‘what about me?’ logic is used by many religious pressure groups, who in the past have similarly argued that the law does not go far enough to enforce the rights of religious people. However, this argument does not chime with the demands of many out there in the real world, such as Adrian Smith, who do not want the state interfering in religious matters at all.
But this is not only about the rights of religious people. Litigation under the Equality Act has had a corrosive effect on one of the most fundamental rights of everyone throughout society: the right to discriminate. When Peter and Hazelmary Bull were hauled up in front of the courts in 2011 for refusing entry to two homosexual men to their bed-and-breakfast establishment, which was also their home, it was not the rights of the homosexuals to stay at any hotel they liked that was at stake. After all, if you spend a weekend in my old hometown of Brighton, where gay-only hotels abound, you will realise that the right to stay in any hotel you like regardless of your sexuality does not exist. Neither should it. Nor was it about religion: refusing someone entry to your home is hardly an act of worship.
Rather it was about the rights of two admittedly homophobic people to refuse to mix with people that they did not want to. At the conclusion of these proceedings, the Bulls were effectively told that their own judgement about who they did and did not want to mix with was wrong, and that they should have to pay damages of £3,600 for trying to uphold it. Ironically, the very legislation that Clearing the Ground now seeks to extend has already eroded a right crucial to religious people: the right to organise their institutions in a manner of their own choosing.
The right of individuals to discriminate allows us to organise our lives without having to justify ourselves to anyone. That is why it is a mistake to see the Equality Act as an heir to other legislative reforms that historically brought oppressed people to be more equal and free before the law. The act does little more than cajole private individuals and institutions into behaving the way the state wants them to.
This can’t make people more moral, nor society more fair, but it does try to make both more obedient. It’s not only religious people like Adrian Smith who should resist the ‘expansion’ of the Equality Act but anyone who values their own judgement in ‘matters of conscience’, religious or otherwise.
Prisoners, terrorists and gipsies should be handed MORE human rights, declares British equality qango
Prisoners, gipsies, terrorists and union activists routinely have their human rights abused, a highly controversial report will claim today.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has spent at least £150,000 of taxpayers’ money publishing a review into how public bodies safeguard people’s rights.
The left-wing quango, led by former Labour politician Trevor Phillips, has concluded that ‘more could be done to improve human rights protections of some,’ which also included vulnerable people in care homes and victims of crime.
But it contentiously calls for more rights for groups that include criminals, travellers and gipsies on illegal camps, and suspected extremists.
Some of the EHRC’s conclusions will spark anger because they are in defiance of the rulings of law made in Britain’s courts and decisions made in Parliament.
In one of its most controversial findings, the report, due to be published this morning, states that prisoners should be given the right to vote. In February last year, MPs voted to continue to deny inmates a chance to vote in elections despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
But the report, called How Fair Is Britain?, states: ‘Human rights… apply to everyone, even unpopular minorities.
‘Offenders may be punished with a prison sentence, which means a denial of their right to liberty. Treating the right to vote as a privilege to be removed for bad behaviour is a disproportionate interference with a fundamental right.’
The report also states that travellers and gipsies had no choice but to occupy sites illegally because local authorities had undermined their rights by failing to provide land for caravans. Evicting them therefore contravened Article 8 of the Human Rights Act – the right to a private and family life.
‘Gipsy and traveller communities face a shortage of caravan sites,’ the report claims. ‘This means it is difficult for them to practise their traditional way of life.’
It echoed a claim by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe last week that October’s eviction of 80 families illegally camped at Dale Farm, near Basildon, Essex, was an outrage against human rights.
Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘I don’t really think the commission needed to spend tens of thousands of pounds telling us we need more human rights – that’s the reason for its existence. It seems a complete waste of money.
‘In many cases the people who the commission says are not getting human rights have forfeited them.
‘Do prisoners think of the human rights of the victims of their crime? Do travellers think of the human rights of those whose land they illegally camp on? Not for a second.
‘These are the only people who seem to have rights, not the decent law-abiding people whose rights seem to be ignored time after time.’
The document, which took more than two years to compile, also criticises Britain’s terror laws.
Currently, those suspected of terrorism-related offences can be held without charge for up to 14 days. ‘The EHRC has argued that the maximum period of pre-charge detention should be four days,’ states the report.
And only those who have committed terror-related crimes should be subject to Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) – Government orders which place strict restrictions on terror suspects. The report said that TPIMs ‘violate long-held principles of civil liberties, including the prohibition on punishment for what people might do rather than what they have done’.
Professor Geraldine Van Bueren, an EHRC commissioner, said: ‘Human rights should not only get our attention when people we might not like try to use them. Nor should the value of human rights be limited to when we see what happens to people in other countries when these rights do not exist.’
The EHRC report also criticised the ‘detailed rules for holding a ballot’ among members of a union threatening industrial action which meant it was ‘too easy’ for bosses to challenge strikes as unlawful.
The report also highlights its own study which found the treatment of vulnerable elderly people in some care homes was so appalling that pensioners were left ‘wanting to die’.
Britain’s Faith schools ‘using covert selection to reject the poor’
Children from poor families are more often poorly behaved and that could quite rightly lead to their rejection by schools trying to inculcate high behavioral standards
Faith schools were accused of covert selection today as it emerged they are more likely to be dominated by children from middle-class families than ordinary state schools.
Figures show that schools backed by the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church take a smaller share of poor pupils than other primaries and secondaries nearby.
Data from the Department for Education reveals that three-quarters of Catholic schools had a lower proportion of children from the most deprived backgrounds – those eligible for free meals – than the average for their local authority last year.
At the same time, some three-quarters of Anglican primaries and two-thirds of secondaries also took a smaller share of poor pupils.
Church leaders defended the figures saying that schools often had wider catchment areas than other schools.
But the disclosure prompted claims from secular groups that middle-class families were allowed to cheat often complex selection criteria to make sure their children secured places.
Richy Thompson, from the British Humanist Association, said: “Repeated academic studies have shown that, in state schools that select on religious grounds, there end up being fewer pupils from poorer backgrounds and that any selection favours more affluent parents who know how to play the system.”
Currently, faith schools make up around a third of state-funded schools in England.
In the latest study, the Guardian analysed data from recent school-by-school league tables to assess the extent to which they reflect their local communities.
According to figures, some 73 per cent of Catholic primaries and 72 per cent of Catholic secondaries have a lower proportion of pupils eligible for free meals – those with parents earning less than £16,000 – than the average for the local authority.
It was also revealed that 74 per cent of Anglican primaries and 65.5 per cent of secondaries failed to properly represent the local area.
By contrast, just 51 per cent of non-religious primaries and 45 per cent of secondaries had a smaller proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals.
The Catholic Education Service insisted that schools often failed to reflect their communities because catchment areas were much wider than those for other schools, with religious children often travelling from miles around to attend.
It pointed to separate DfE data that showed 18.6 per cent of children at Catholic primary schools lived in the most deprived 10 per cent of areas of England, compared with only 14.3 per cent of primary pupils nationally.
A spokesman for the CofE rejected claims of backdoor selection, saying local authorities controlled the admissions of more than half its schools.
£120 billion gamble on wind turbines in Britain: Green energy ‘ten times dearer than power stations’
A rush to green energy by spending billions covering much of the countryside with wind turbines would be an expensive blunder, a damning study has found.
Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University said the massive programme will cost consumers £120billion by 2020 through higher bills.
This is almost ten times more than the £13billion it would cost to generate the same amount of electricity from efficient gas-fired power stations, according to the leading energy and environment economist.
Supporters of wind power insist the key benefit is that it allows a huge reduction in CO2 emissions, in line with EU obligations.
This is challenged in the study, which suggests the switch to wind will actually deliver only a tiny reduction.
The report is published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think-tank devoted to challenging conventional wisdom about climate change. GWPF’s chairman is the former Tory Chancellor Lord Lawson and its findings are backed by Lib Dem peer Emma Nicholson.
Professor Hughes said families are being forced to subsidise wind farms through their bills. Meanwhile business energy costs are also being driven up, so harming their profits and ability to invest and grow.
By contrast around a dozen landowners who allow wind farms to be erected on their property are to share an £850million subsidy windfall. A wind turbine generating £150,000 of electricity a year is eligible for ‘monstrous subsidies’ of £250,000 a year.
Professor Hughes warned: ‘Unless the Government scales back its commitments to wind power very substantially, its policy will be worse than a mistake, it will be a blunder.’
Wind farm support stems from a pledge in the 2008 Climate Change Act for a 34 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions. However, Professor Hughes insists figures show opting for wind power rather than building efficient gas-fired power stations will – at best – reduce emissions by 2.8 per cent.
He said the figure is so low because any investment in wind farms will have to be backed up with the building of gas turbine power stations to ensure the lights stay on when there is no wind.
Professor Hughes said: ‘There is nothing inherently good or bad about investing in renewable energy and green technology. The key problems with current policies for wind power are simple. They require a huge commitment of investment to a technology that is not very green but which is very expensive and inflexible.’
Baroness Nicholson joined the attack, saying: ‘A dozen of the biggest landowners will between them receive almost £850million in subsidies, a huge amount paid by ordinary families through hidden taxes on their electricity bills. ‘I am immensely unhappy wind power has attracted such monstrous subsidies. I am particularly unhappy because the facts have been hidden from the consumer who will have to pay the bill for this folly.’
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said developing wind power will mean the UK is less reliant on imported gas. She said: ‘We need investment in new energy capacity. Wind will be a crucial part of that, alongside gas, new nuclear and carbon capture and storage.
‘Home grown renewables will help insulate our economy and consumers from depending excessively on gas imports.’
The £1.40 heart pill lifesaver: 10,000 patients a year could be saved by newly-licensed drug
The disgrace here is that it took so long for the drug to be made available. How many people have died needlessly in the last 5 years?
A pill costing only £1.40 a day could save the lives of thousands of heart failure patients every year. The drug ivabradine, which slows the heart rate and improves its pumping ability, cut deaths by up to 39 per cent in trials.
Professor Martin Cowie, consultant cardiologist and specialist in heart failure at the Royal Brompton Hospital, said that at a conservative estimate it could save between 5,000 and 10,000 lives a year. It could also slash National Health Service costs by cutting hospital admissions by more than a quarter.
Ivabradine, also known as Procoralan, is licensed in the UK for treating angina and has been available on the NHS for around five years with a good safety record. But today it is being licensed by European safety regulators for treating heart failure.
The NHS drug-rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, has yet to decide whether it is affordable for treating heart failure, but around 20,000 patients currently take it for angina.
Prof Cowie, who was involved in a trial of 6,500 patients, insisted it would save the NHS money. He said: ‘I hope this gets approved because it’s very good value for money in reducing the number of hospitalisations alone.’
Made by Servier, the drug is relatively cheap, costing the NHS about £500 a year per patient. Around one in five of 900,000 Britons with heart failure – almost 200,000 patients – could benefit from the treatment.
Trial findings showed a 39 per cent reduction in death from heart failure, a 17 per cent drop in the risk of dying from any cause and a 26 per cent cut in the need for hospital stays among patients using the drug.
Prof Cowie said today’s European licensing decision was ‘great news for both doctors and patients, and is a significant step forward in the management of heart failure’. He added ivabradine would make a dramatic difference to many who could not take beta blockers, the standard drugs used to reduce heart rate. He said even some on the maximum beta blocker dose still had a heart rate that was too fast – more than 75 beats a minute.
Ivabradine lowers the rate to around 60 beats a minute without reducing blood pressure, which means the damaged heart pumps more efficiently at a slower rate.
Prof Cowie said: ‘Heart failure is a very common problem. We have trial results showing ivabradine not only improves symptoms and prevents disease progression, but also helps patients return to normal daily activities and increases their enjoyment of life.
‘One in five patients could benefit – the key to whether current treatment is working is whether their heart beat is still too high. This is easy to check – a doctor just has to take their pulse, or the patient can do it.’
Around 100,000 people a year are thought to die from heart failure, which occurs when damage to the organ leaves it too weak to pump blood efficiently around the body. About 68,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Symptoms include fatigue, breathlessness, increased heart rate and swollen ankles.
Treating heart failure soaks up one to two per cent of the total NHS budget, with direct medical costs alone amounting to £625million a year.
British families face having their internet cut off after laws to curb ‘piracy’ are upheld in court
This seems to be much more narrowly drafted than the obnoxious SOPA and PIPA laws that nearly made it through Congress and arguably shows how copyright holders can be protected without handing the government too much power
Families who illegally download movies, music or books will appear on a blacklist and might – in future – have their internet services cut off. The tough new regime, which is included in the Digital Economy Act, was upheld by the Court of Appeal today after judges threw out a legal challenge.
Major movie, music or publishing company will be able to require an internet service provider to blacklist customers who illegally download or upload copyright material.
Initially, this means they will be sent letters highlighting that they have been identified as pirates and requiring them to provide details of all the material involved. The measure is designed to act as a warning shot and encourage those involved to stop illegal downloads.
However, the Act includes a provision that could, in future, see the guilty punished by having their internet service cut off.
People who feel they have been unfairly identified as computer pirates will have to pay £20 to mount an appeal.
There are concerns that innocent families could branded as pirates if their wi-fi system is hijacked for illegal downloads by a stranger. Mr O’Connor said: ‘As it implements the Act, Ofcom must require a high standard of evidence from copyright owners to prevent innocent consumers being placed on a copyright infringement list.
The Digital Economy Act includes provisions that could, in future, be used to punish families through either a temporary suspension of their internet connection, or by slowing it down. This penalty regime cannot be introduced until at least one year after the new warning letters and blacklist scheme has been in operation.
There would have to be a review by Ofcom, including public consultation, followed by secondary legislation that would have to be passed by Parliament.