Father in agony for eight months after bungling surgery staff leave 19in swab inside his body
There are hospital routines as old as the hills to stop this happening. It’s inexcusable. Note that there is not a single detail about the surgeon given. Another “overseas trained” butcher?
A father was left in agony for nearly eight months, after surgeons left an 18inch swab inside his body. Ian Smith is taking legal action over the blunder, which happened when he had surgery for bowel cancer at Sandwell Hospital, in the West Midlands.
‘This has ruined my life,’ the 60-year-old said. ‘It’s a miracle I didn’t die from blood poisoning.’
Ian lost three stone and was in agony following surgery, yet he said medics still failed to spot the swab – even though he was admitted back into hospital a month after the operation.
It was not until a district nurse saw a piece of plastic sticking out of the wound that it was finally discovered – more than seven months after Mr Smith’s original operation.
Sandwell Hospital has apologised but the couple are now waiting for a payout over the so-called ‘never event’ – a government term to describe errors that should never happen.
Ian, who had to give up work as a coach driver, said: ‘I can’t work or leave the house for very long. I find walking a struggle and I suffer from depression as a result. I can’t do anything.’
The father-of-one from West Bromwich said he first knew something was wrong when his wound began leaking more than two weeks after the surgery. ‘At first I felt very sore and rough but thought that was normal,’ he said. ‘Soon afterwards the wound opened up and liquid came pumping out. I was rushed to hospital and they kept me in for a week, giving me antibiotics through a drip.
‘They did X-rays but found nothing. I was unable to eat and felt sick but I was eventually discharged again.’
‘The wound continued to leak and they even sent a district nurse daily to change the dressing,’ he added. ‘Then one day the nurse saw some plastic poking out. I was taken to hospital and I remember the doctor calling the consultant who had done the surgery. ‘He pulled out this very long swab, quickly put it into a plastic bag and disposed of it. ‘I was in so much pain that I didn’t really register what had happened at first.’
It wasn’t until his bus driver wife Christine, 62, complained to the Patient Advice and Liason Service that they eventually received an apology.
‘I feel very angry about what’s happened,’ said Mr Smith. ‘It’s affected my life and I had to have a blood transfusion because the swab had affected my white blood cell count. ‘Christine has had to give up work to look after me and our income has been drastically reduced.’
A spokeswoman from Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust said: ‘We are aware of Mr Smith’s claim and thoroughly investigated his complaint. ‘On completion of our investigations into the complaint, we apologised for the error. The NHS Litigation Authority is talking to his solicitors regarding his claim.’
‘Listen to your patients’: Widower sends poignant message to doctors at his wife’s funeral, claiming she was misdiagnosed
A widower who claims medics misdiagnosed his wife’s cancer used her funeral to send a poignant message urging medical staff to listen to their patients.
Devastated John Wonfor, 66, says his wife Carol repeatedly told her doctors that stomach pains they wrote off as irritable bowel syndrome and thyroid problems were actually cancer.
Mrs Wonfor, 62, of Selby, North Yorkshire, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in September 2010 and operated on in October, but doctors couldn’t stop the disease from spreading and she sadly died earlier this month.
Her husband, a retired glazier, has now sent a message to medical professionals at his wife’s service, using the flowers in her hearse to spell out the word ‘Listen’.
The father-of-two and grandfather-of-five, who cared for his wife for 18 months before her death, said: ‘I believe Carol was misdiagnosed severely. ‘I don’t want to point the finger at one doctor or one nurse. I just want medical professionals to listen to their patients.’ Mr Wonfor thinks that if doctors had listened to his wife, she could still be alive today. ‘They could have just humoured her. It might have helped,’ he said. ‘The bottom line is people should listen. It doesn’t cost a bean to listen.’
He explained that his wife first complained of stomach pains three years ago when they lived in Middlesex, where she visited doctors complaining of stomach pains, but was told she had a thyroid problem.
But when they moved to Yorkshire two-and-a-half years ago, she visited The Beech Tree surgery to ask for investigations. Mr Wonfor explained: ‘My wife went to the surgery when we moved up here and told them that she was sure there was something more going on, and asked for a scan. ‘But they told her that she didn’t qualify for one. [Scans cost money!]
‘My wife was a medical receptionist for 12 years. She felt like she had seen people in this situation for years and now she was the one fighting to be heard. ‘She told me that she thought she might have cancer. Beech Tree said it was IBS but we know now it was cancer.’
Mrs Wonfor was referred to an oncologist who realised the problem was something more sinister and sent her for a a scan. She was told she had bowel cancer and was started on a course of chemotherapy.
Mr Wonfor said: ‘Once Carol started receiving treatment, we had no complaints. Everyone who treated her or looked after her couldn’t have done more.’
But after 18 months of chemotherapy, doctors told the couple there was nothing more they could do, as the cancer had spread to her liver and lungs. She eventually died of liver failure.
Grieving friends and relatives remembered her at Brayton St Wilfred’s Church in Selby, where the hearse carrying her coffin and flowers spelling the word ‘Listen’ were driven to the Beech Tree surgery.
Beech Tree practice manager Richard Gregory said: ‘We have no comment to make.’
Bungling British immigration control
A THREE HOUR wait to get into Britain: Olympic official’s fury after he was delayed at passport control — and no sign of an apology from the Border Agency
An Olympic official has complained after he queued for three hours to pass through immigration checks at Heathrow.
The revelation is bound to cause fresh embarrassment for Home Secretary Theresa May after it was recently revealed passengers could be ‘left on runways’ as airports struggle to cope during the Olympic Games.
Senior MPs warned earlier this month that planes could be forced to circle the airport and tourists made to queue at passport control for several hours.
In a leaked letter to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the MPs claim cuts to UK Border Agency staff and poor contingency plans could be a recipe for disaster during the London 2012 Games.
Heathrow’s owner BAA has confirmed that a senior Olympic official made a complaint and said that some passengers had queued for 2.5 hours. The Home Office and BAA both declined to name the official concerned.
A source at the UK Border Agency told The Sunday Times a report explaining the delays at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 on Tuesday night was drafted because ‘a senior Olympic bigwig was caught in [the queue] who was not impressed and had made a complaint’.
Shashank Nigam, chief executive of Simpliflying, an airline marketing company, said he had also queued for 2 hours and 50 minutes on the same day. He told the Sunday Times: ‘To my horror, the queues were spilling into the overflow area and there weren’t enough staff to manage everyone.’ Other people reported seeing passengers sleeping because of such long delays.
As many as 600,000 people are expected to arrive at Heathrow around the time of the Games, which run from July 27 to August 13, causing further chaos and longer queues.
This latest incident has caused airport and airline bosses to accuse the border agency of not being able to cope.
BAA, which owns Heathrow, said immigration does not have enough staff to carry out the checks following the reintroduction of tougher checks after unauthorised relaxation of procedures by Brodie Clark, former head of the UK Border Force.
The Government plans to cut the number of border officer staff from 8,874 in March 2010 to 7,322 by March 2015. But unions have been told extra staff will be drafted in to ease pressure during the Olympics and will include people from the Home Office and HM Revenue & Customs, some of which have retired.
A BAA spokesman said they are experiencing high levels of arrivals in the airport for which the border force is failing to provide resources.
A Border Agency spokesman said they refuse to compromise security but will aim to keep disruption to a minimum. It said it was inevitable that thorough checks would cause some queuing during peak times.
British internet censorship proposals hit a rock
Ministers are ready to reject tough proposals to protect children from online pornography, claiming strict curbs would breach web users’ civil liberties.
Campaigning MPs and child protection charities want a default block on access to pornographic websites for everyone, with adults having to apply specifically to view them.
They demanded the ‘opt-in’ measure last week after it emerged that children were becoming addicted to sexual content on the web even before reaching their teens.
But, despite previous pledges to get tough on the issue, ministers are instead leaning towards a less stringent option under which internet providers would merely give users the opportunity to filter out pornography more easily.
Under these proposals, subscribers would be asked a ‘yes or no’ question about whether they wish to continue being able to access adult material, enabling parents to block access for their children. The question will be asked on only one occasion.
But MPs and charities say this will not adequately safeguard children because it will rely on their parents being responsible and proactive enough to ask for access to be blocked.
In addition, it could be children who see the question first and answer it, not the parents – defeating the object.
They say that only by ensuring children have as little chance as possible of seeing online porn – by blocking access as standard – can they be adequately protected.
Campaigners had hoped for tougher action in the light of previous statements by David Cameron and his ministers. The Prime Minister has spoken of his desire to protect children from online porn, and last autumn, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to change the law if internet providers did not take action.
Tory MP Claire Perry, who last week led calls for the Government to take stronger action, said she was holding meetings this week to lobby ministers about including an ‘opt-in’ proposal in a forthcoming green paper consultation.
She said it would be ‘really disappointing’ if the idea was excluded from the paper, adding: ‘If there’s no age check there then we’re not solving the problem. I understand the ideological objections but I don’t think that’s a fact-based argument to make. I just think our kids deserve more than empty phrases like “civil liberties”.’
Ministers want this to be extended retrospectively, with existing users asked too – and insist they will consider legislating if ISPs fail to take action.
A DCMS source said that it would not be right on civil liberties grounds to block all access and force everyone to opt in if they wish to access adult material.
‘You should have to make that choice yourself,’ the source said. ‘At the moment, ISPs have said that they will offer the filter to newcomers, but we want to see it extended to everyone.’
But Miss Perry said: ‘We are calling for a formal analysis of the opt-in proposal. We looked at all the facts – does it cost more, does it slow down internet speeds, and we could find no evidence that it would.
‘We will be lobbying hard over the next few weeks to see if we can’t get an official consultation on an opt-out. This is a government that really takes child protection very seriously. It is about how much further we should go.’
She said of the proposals for a ‘yes or no’ question: ‘We know that children are often the internet-savvy ones in a household.
‘What we would like is for people to have to prove they are over 18 to lift the age content bar – like they do with mobile phone providers.’
Fiona Mactaggart, a Labour member of the group which wrote the report, said: ‘The Government is failing to lead on this. It says it wants to protect children but it needs to put those actions into words.
‘The problem with opt-out systems is that they tend to be very complex and take ages to do, meaning parents might not bother and think, “I don’t need to do it now”. And maybe they don’t need to, because their children are too young – but what happens when they grow up and start finding these sites?
‘The answer is to introduce an opt-in system, and I am fairly confident that the profits that ISPs make from porn sites will mean they will make opting in much easier than they are currently making opting out.’
John Brown, of children’s charity the NSPCC, said: ‘We would take the view that child safety should take precedence over civil liberties arguments.
‘We are in a Wild West period with the internet, and we believe that an opt-in system would not constrain civil liberties because over-18s would still be able to access this content.’
But Nick Pickles, from civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘It’s good that ministers recognise that parents are responsible for bringing up children, not the Government.
‘Claire Perry’s proposals would have meant unprecedented interference in what people do in their own homes and how they bring up their children.’
Last night, a spokesman for the Department for Culture Media and Sport said: ‘It is vital we do all we can to protect children from inappropriate material online. We are very clear that more must be done to protect children from harmful content.’
A temporary retreat for Britain’s safety police
The economy remains in tatters and a cataclysmic crisis looms in the eurozone. But, in recent days and weeks, we have started to see a fight-back against the regimented forces of joylessness which have dominated our big occasions for too long.
The number of street parties planned to mark the Diamond Jubilee — 6,500 and rising — is already more than 1,000 up on last year’s Royal Wedding, and there are several weeks to go.
According to the Local Government Association, Coventry is the top street party city outside London (with 58 parties), while the leading counties are Hertfordshire and Nottinghamshire (well over 100 each).
It is not just down to deep affection for the Queen and a resurgent interest in royalty after last year’s Royal Wedding. There is also a sense that its time to reclaim our enjoyment from the killjoys.
We are fed up with being bossed around, with being told what we cannot do. Officialdom has not relinquished its control but there has been a softening of the grip.
North Yorkshire County Council, for example, has waived the cost of road closures for Jubilee street parties. In the London Borough of Hackney, any party for fewer than 200 people needs no licence at all.
There are still plenty of footling directives, of course. Jobsworths in Hampshire, Essex and elsewhere are still insisting that street bunting requires planning permission.
Nonetheless, the box-tickers are in retreat.
There was another small but significant example of that this month involving the pageant on the Thames. The skippers of many boats were dismayed that strict limits had been imposed on their passenger numbers in the name of health and safety.
In the case of some of the Dunkirk Little Ships, the figures were comical. Boats which had carried hundreds at a time to safety under repeated attack from German artillery and the Luftwaffe in 1940, were being restricted to half a dozen souls on board in 2012.
Apparently, they might capsize and there just wouldn’t be enough rescue boats to cope.
Just two years ago, most of these boats had cheerfully sailed back over the Channel — the busiest sea-lane in the world — for a 70th anniversary reunion at Dunkirk with a full complement. Now, for a short inland voyage, at a stately speed of 4mph, they were to be reduced to a skeleton crew by the authorities.
But the members of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, as one might expect, put up a fight on behalf of the skippers, arguing that if anyone did get into any trouble, there would be no shortage of vessels to provide immediate assistance. They’ve done it before, after all.
Then an amazing thing happened: an outbreak of common sense. The Thames authorities, the pageant organisers and the skippers sat round a table, talked it through. To their credit, the river authorities were prepared to listen to people who knew what they were doing. The skippers, in turn, acknowledged that packing the Thames with 1,000 boats is not without exceptional risks.
The result: an easing of the restrictions. The skippers sailed away in high spirits.
There was a similar result last month for the team who want to salute the Queen in a waka, a Maori war canoe. Initially, the fluorescent bib brigade sucked on their pencils and shook their heads. This mighty dugout with its strapping Kiwi crew might be fine in a Pacific swell but it would be too risky to chance an afternoon on the Thames.
Once again, though, the pageant organisers sat down with the authorities and the ban was reversed. Good sense had prevailed.
What it boils down to — Hallelujah! — is an acknowledgement of the human dimension in great events. Just because a few people behave like idiots, we don’t all have to be treated as such. Amazingly enough, a crowd has a great capacity to police itself.
‘I made a mistake’: Gaia theory scientist James Lovelock admits he was ‘alarmist’ about the impact of climate change
Environmental scientist James Lovelock, renowned for his terrifying predictions of climate change’s deadly impact on the planet, has gone back on his previous claims, admitting they were ‘alarmist’.
The 92-year-old Briton, who also developed the Gaia theory of the Earth as a single organism, has said climate change is still happening – just not as quickly as he once warned. He added that other environmental commentators, such as former vice president Al Gore, are also guilty of exaggerating their arguments.
The admission comes as a devastating blow to proponents of climate change who regard Lovelock as a powerful figurehead.
Five years ago, he had claimed: ‘Before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.’
But in an interview with msnbc.com, he admitted: ‘I made a mistake.’ He said: ‘The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing,’ he told ‘We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear cut, but it hasn’t happened.
‘The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world. ‘[The temperature] has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising – carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that.’
After two books – Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back and How We Can Still Save Humanity, and The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning: Enjoy It While You Can – he is writing a third.
It will not go back on climate change, he said, but will admit he had been ‘extrapolating too far’. It will suggest how people can change their habits to co-ordinate with the Earth’s natural systems.
Lovelock said he is not the only one who got it wrong, suggesting other environmental commentators, such as Al Gore and Tim Flannery, also thought the impact would have been seen sooner.
Now he admits: ‘We will have global warming, but it’s been deferred a bit.’
A long-time advocate of nuclear power, he suggested we should cut back on burning fossil fuels.
The independent scientist, who is based in south west England and has conducted research at Yale and Harvard universities, has been a respected member of the academic community for decades.
He discovered the presence of harmful chemicals – CFCs – in the atmosphere in the 1960s.
In 2007, Time magazine named him as one 13 leaders and visionaries in an article on Heroes of the Environment.
In 1990, he became a CBE, presented to him by Queen Elizabeth II, and in 2003, she awarded him a Companion of Honour for his achievements in science.
Green Rage Against Shale Gas Is Irrational (Unsurprisingly)
It is a noble ambition that we should light and heat our homes and businesses using the bountiful energy produced by the sun, the wind, the waves and the heat contained inside our planet. I share it. I am even confident that by 2050 we may have seen breakthroughs — in solar power, batteries and heat from the Earth’s core, in particular — that could make a serious dent in our use of fossil fuels.
I am equally convinced that these renewable energy technologies of the future will be far better than the ones we have today, if the development of mobile phones and personal computers, which didn’t exist 40 years ago, is anything to go by.
It may well be technically feasible to have 80% of our energy needs taken care of by renewable energy by 2050, as the European greens like to believe. The question is how we get there at a price the public is prepared to pay.
The problem is that existing renewable technologies haven’t been produced on budget or on time. Wind now produces 0.5% of global energy supply and has barely made a dent in fossil fuel emissions. Its biggest problem — that it is intermittent — has yet to be solved. Tidal energy remains at the demonstration stage. Geothermal likewise in Britain. Solar power stations work in the desert — the problem is storage and cost. Biomass — that’s woodchips and fuel crops to you and me — does as well as wind in the UK, but it takes up land that people will need for growing food.
Despite real advances in solar panels and offshore wind, renewables haven’t yet lived up to the confidence the greens have placed in them over the 20 years that the world has been trying to stop climate change. Over that time, the carbon in the atmosphere has increased by about two parts per million each year. That is because renewables are too inefficient and expensive to prevent China and India from burning cheap coal to make things for us that we used to make ourselves.
The rise in the burning of coal is the reason for this 20-year trend in global emissions. But, as Professor Dieter Helm of Oxford University is fond of pointing out, there is a way of cutting carbon emissions immediately in most big economies with no significant extra cost. That is by converting from coal to gas, which produces half as much carbon dioxide as coal.
Until recently we thought that conventional gas was going to run out and the most plentiful supplies of the stuff were in Russia or the Gulf. Now that we realise the rocks under our feet may hold supplies that would last for generations, the world has changed and the greens haven’t caught up.
The shale gas revolution has halved gas prices in America, where there has been a 7% fall in carbon emissions over the past four years. As a report published by our Department of Energy and Climate Change said last week, the risk that fracking (hydraulic fracturing, the method used to extract such gas) will cause serious earthquakes is very small — less than from coal mining, geothermal drilling and the water pressure generated by dams. The threat of water pollution is also overstated.
So what accounts for the irrational rage against shale gas we heard again from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and WWF last week? The most shockingly naive was WWF, which headlined its press release: “Shale gas incompatible with addressing climate change”. That is not true if you are talking about China, India, America or, much closer to home, Poland or Germany, which depend on coal. China will frack and it will be a good thing.
In Britain, where the coal industry has been in decline since the 1980s, we may arguably generate too much gas in the 2030s to meet our carbon reduction targets if we let shale gas rip. However, the danger that we will have too much gas-burning capacity is manageable and a mere sideshow compared with two much larger problems. The first is simply keeping the lights on after 2016 (at least six of our coal plants are to close by the end of 2015 and all but one of our nuclear power stations will cease production by 2023). The second is keeping energy prices at an affordable level so consumers will swallow the cost of subsidising renewables and nuclear for the future.
True, there is a concern that shale gas extraction could leak methane into the atmosphere, thereby releasing the same amount of carbon as coal. But most experts think that methane leakage from fracking will turn out to be far less than from coal mines. So why isn’t the green lobby at least considering saying: “Let’s beat climate change, let’s frack”? When it comes to the global picture, the greens’ dependence on the mantra of renewables now looks part of the problem.
I detect something else behind the “shale rage” of the European greens. They got too close to the present renewables industries and let governments hand out subsidies without enough competition over price. They thought gas would get so expensive that renewables would look cheap by comparison.
They were wrong. Instead of getting angry with the frackers, they should adapt their thinking to a world in which gas prices could fall, and persuade governments to spend some of the money we will save on a generation of renewables that might actually solve our problems.
British PM praises children who rise when adults enter the room
Children should stand up when their parents or teachers walk into the room, David Cameron has suggested. The Prime Minister made the remarks in a speech praising the return of “real discipline” to British schools.
He said reforms to the education system would lead to “fantastic outcomes” like children who observe the old-fashioned practice of rising in the presence of an adult.
Mr Cameron also applauded schools where children are allowed to be competitive and learn about failure.
“Give headteachers and their staff the freedom to teach and run their schools; give parents greater choice and transparency about schools and their results and you can see fantastic outcomes,” he said.
“Children who stand up when their parents or teacher walks in the room. Real discipline, rigorous standards, hard subjects. Sports where children can learn about success and, yes, sometimes failure too.”
The Prime Minister was speaking in Dumfries as part of the Conservatives’ local election campaign. He told Scottish party members they must be the “insurgent force” campaigning for greater freedom in public services and the right for citizens to run their own local areas.
The Prime Minister also gave his support to towns and villages across Britain fighting the spread of wind farms. “We shouldn’t be plonking wind farms all over communities that don’t want them,” he said.
The Tories are only the fourth most powerful party of local government in Scotland, as the Scottish National Party, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all have more councillors.
In a light-hearted introduction, Mr Cameron joked about his relationship with Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister, saying they are “like any couple”.
Amid signs of strain in the Coalition over recent weeks, the Prime Minister admitted there had been ups and downs to their relationship.
“I love coming to Dumfries,” he said. “I pass, as you do, Gretna Green on the way, and I’m reminded of my own shotgun wedding.
“It feels like years ago. Like any marriage there’s good times, there’s bad times. We – that’s Nick and I – we have to work at it like any couple.
“I didn’t expect to end up with a Liberal Democrat, but there we are. You have to make it work – and we do make it work for the good of our country.”