NHS wrongly writes off car crash victim
They were told there was no chance of their son surviving after he suffered devastating injuries in a car crash.
But Steven Thorpe’s parents refused to give up hope – despite four specialists declaring that the 17-year-old was brain dead.
Convinced they saw a ‘flicker’ of life as Steven lay in a coma, John and Janet Thorpe rejected advice to switch off his life support machine.
They begged for another opinion – and it was a decision that saved him. A neurosurgeon found faint signs of brain activity and two weeks later, Steven woke from his coma. Within seven weeks, he had left hospital.
And four years on, the trainee accounts clerk says he owes everything to the persistence of his parents.
From his home in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, Steven, 21, said: ‘I feel so lucky that my parents wouldn’t take no for an answer.’
The schoolboy was travelling in a Rover with two friends in February 2008 when a stray horse ran into the path of the car in front of them.
His friend Matthew Jones, 18, was killed in the accident. Steven suffered serious injuries to his face, head and arm, and was declared brain dead two days later.
He said: ‘The doctors were telling my parents that they wanted to take me off the life support. The words they used to my parents were “You need to start thinking about organ donations”.
‘I think that’s what gave my dad energy. He thought “No way”. They still believed I was there. When they sat around the bed they had the feeling I was there and some words they said to me I reacted to. ‘I think if my dad had agreed with them then I would have been off the life support machine in seconds.’
Accountant Mr Thorpe, 51, contacted private GP Julia Piper, known for her work in traditional and alternative medicines. Moved by their story, she asked a neurosurgeon whom she knew to visit Steven at University Hospital in Coventry.
Incredibly, he concluded that Steven was not brain dead and that there was still a slim chance of recovery. Doctors agreed to try to bring Steven out of his chemically-induced coma to see if he could survive. Two weeks later, he woke up.
He said: ‘It’s very worrying to think that more than one specialist had written me off.
‘Hopefully it can help people see that you should never give up. If you have a gut feeling about something then follow it. My father believed I was alive and he was correct.’
Steven, who has three sisters, has lost the use of his left arm and has undergone extensive reconstructive surgery to his face, including having his nose rebuilt and an artificial eye socket made.
But despite his injuries, he says he considers survival as ‘a full recovery’.
He said the experience was still ‘too painful’ for his parents to talk about, and yesterday Mr Thorpe told the Daily Mail that he would rather ‘keep it in the past’.
Dr Piper, who has a practice in Leicester, said: ‘As a parent, I wanted to help even if there was only the smallest of chances. I spoke to the intensive care unit and told them not to switch Steven’s machine off because we were bringing in our own specialist.
‘I am astonished with the outcome but one worries that this may happen more often than we know.’
A spokesman for University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust said: ‘The injury to Steven’s brain was extremely critical and several CT scans of the head showed almost irreversible damage.
‘It is extremely rare that a patient with such extensive trauma to the brain should survive. We were delighted to see Steven recover.’
‘One in seven patients’ wait longer than six months for operations
One in seven patients wait longer than six months to be admitted to hospital for operations, as critics warned that the Coalition is losing control of NHS waiting times.
An extra 150,000 patients have been caught up in increased delays since the Coalition came to power, according to a patient survey.
Patients also complained in larger numbers about the quality of hospital food and the lack of help with eating for those who need it. They also told the Care Quality Commission that there were too few nurses on the wards.
It comes as anohther survey, by the union Unison, found that three out of four members working in the NHS did not believe they had an adequate amount of time to spend with patients to deliver “dignified, safe, compassionate” care.
Almost nine in ten said they supported legislation to set minimum nurse- to-patient ratios, as a means to improving patient care.
The NHS is attempting to find £20bn of efficiency savings over four years.
The Coalition has come under pressure over the NHS’s performance as a series of statistics have shown waiting times have crept up as targets have been relaxed.
David Cameron scrapped Labour’s target of 18 weeks between a GP referral and hospital admission, but the Prime Minister pledged to keep waiting times low.
Last week, official figures showed the number of people waiting longer than 18 weeks had increased by a quarter since the Coalition came to power, while the Patients Association warned of a rise in average waits for common operations such as knee replacement, hernia repair and removal of gallstones
The Department of Health pointed out official figures show that patients facing long waits were at a record low.
Now the Care Quality Commission inpatient survey has found the number of patients reporting that they had waited more than six months to be admitted increased from 12 per cent in 2010 to 14 per cent in 2011.
A quarter of those who responded to the survey felt they should have been admitted sooner.
The survey is conducted every year in hospitals in England with around 70,000 patients responding annually. Patients reported seeing doctors and nurses washing their hands more often, and fewer patients were made to stay in mixed sex accommodation.
But the survey found the number of patients who said there was not always enough nurses on duty had increased, up from 40 per cent to 42 per cent.
And there was an increase in patients who need help eating but do not receive it, from 36 per cent in 2010 to 38 per cent.
Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association said: “We are encouraged by the small improvements being made in cleanliness and mixed sex accommodation.
“But they do not excuse the fact that patients are reporting that they are waiting longer to be treated and are not being given the help and support they need from ward staff.
“How can the Department of Health continue to claim that waiting times are stable when thousands of patients are saying they are waiting for longer to be seen? It’s not enough just to attack every report or survey that disagrees with you as inaccurate.
“The Department needs to be open, transparent, and respond to critical reports with robust action to tackle the problems.”
Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of Picker Institute Europe, said: “Patients appreciate the care they get from NHS staff, but our survey shows that they are not always able to get the individual attention that they need.
“The reality is that the number of patients in NHS hospitals is increasing whilst the number of nurses available to care for them falling.
“Fewer nurses are being asked to take on more work, and the inpatient survey shows how this impacts on patients’ experiences.”
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: “This survey shows that patients are starting to pay the price for the Government’s mismanagement of the health service. Standards are clearly slipping backwards and the NHS is heading in the wrong direction.”
Department of Health official figures showed that 97 per cent of patients had waited less than 26 weeks for treatment from the point of referral in February this year.
Health Minister Simon Burns said: “It is disappointing that more patients felt that they had waited more than six months for admission. In fact latest figures show there are fewer patients than ever waiting a long time for treatment in the NHS.
“The NHS is keeping average waiting times low and stable at just 8.7 weeks for in-patients in February 2012. The number of people waiting over a year for treatment has reduced by two thirds since May 2010 and the average time patients have to wait for treatment is at the same level as two years ago.”
We only deport a third of illegal migrants we catch: New figures deliver another blow to UK Border Agency
Fewer than one in three of the illegal immigrants caught last year have been deported, according to figures disclosed yesterday. They showed that of 21,298 individuals discovered in Britain unlawfully, only 6,232 were returned to their countries in the same year.
The figures threatened to deepen the troubles at the UK Border Agency, the organisation responsible for policing immigration law.
The agency has already been heavily criticised this month after it was shown that more than one in five foreign criminals supposed to have been deported from the country after release from prison in 2010 were still here. It was found that 60 per cent of another group of 1,000 foreign criminals mistakenly freed from jail six years ago have not been removed from Britain.
Border officials have also been found to have abandoned checks on arrivals into the country without seeking the clearance of ministers.
The unapproved relaxation of passport controls meant 500,000 passengers who came on Eurostar trains entered the country without being checked against lists of suspected terrorists and criminals.
The failure to deport illegal immigrants detected last year was revealed in figures obtained under Freedom of Information rules.
The biggest group of illegal migrants who have successfully evaded deportation during the year in which they were found to be here are from Pakistan. Other countries featured in the figures include Iran, India, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
Earlier this year, the Mail revealed how authorities are aware of a number of such immigrants sleeping rough under the M4 in London.
Most of the so-called Bridge Men of Little Punjab, living near Heston, West London, are thought to be illegal immigrants, and the police, the UK Border Agency and local authorities are said to have long been aware of them.
The lack of success in rapid deportation of illegal immigrants comes as the stand-off between Home Secretary Theresa May and the European Court of Human Rights over terror suspect Abu Qatada continues.
The failure of Mrs May to deport Qatada to his home country Jordan has given the impression that the Government is unable to deport foreign criminals or terrorists in the face of opposition in the courts and the reluctance of many unwanted migrants to go home. A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said: ‘Of the 21,298 individuals identified as being an immigration offender, 6,232 were removed during the period January 2011 to December 2011.
‘It should be noted that removals are hindered by barriers such as outstanding appeals, documentation issues, and subjects absconding.’
Alp Mehmet, of the MigrationWatch pressure group, said: ‘If we are going to have confidence in our immigration control system we have got to make greater efforts to deport people who should not be here, and we have to do that quickly.’
This linguistic engineering invades our lives and loves
Officialdom’s frenetic replacement of words like son and wife with words like ‘carer’ and ‘partner’ diminishes our identities
I have always been fascinated by the language we use to express our view of everyday life. But it wasn’t until the death of my mother three years ago that I realised how words could be used to diminish our identity and pressure us to adopt new values.
As soon as I heard that my mother had a stroke, I went to see her at our local hospital in Kent, England. On arrival, I introduced myself to the nurse with the words, ‘I’m Frank Furedi, I’m Clara’s son’. The woman looked up at me and said, ‘You mean you’re her carer’. ‘No, her son’, I responded. But she was insistent: ‘No, you are her carer.’
Later, one hospital administrator explained to me that they used the word carer because it included all; apparently not every patient has a close relative to look after them.
In Australia, the Department of Health and Ageing defines everyone who provides help to an ill or frail person as a carer. On its website it notes that ‘many carers don’t consider themselves to be carers – they see themselves as just family members’.
Outwardly, this is a simple and uncontroversial statement of fact. But when you examine it closer, it offers a chilling reminder of who defines your identity. You may think you are family but, according to this administrative formula, you are ‘carers’.
The word carer may be inclusive, but if a special connection between mother and son is transformed into a bureaucratic typology, then something very important has been lost. The relationship between patients and their family, friends and paid help all involve care, but they convey fundamentally different meanings to the people concerned.
This linguistic engineering, this tendency to redefine human relations through a vocabulary that corrodes their special, unique and intimate qualities, is often promoted as a way of making all of us feel included. The first time I felt ambushed by linguistic policing was in the 1990s, when I read a report on how to deal with child abuse in a religious setting. The author, Helen Armstrong, argued that the church should respond by changing its traditional language. Why? Because ‘religious language often depends on a positive view of the value and trust placed in fathers, parents and family’ and it therefore may offend victims of abuse. The report warned against the use of a language that ‘represents God as father or as protector’ and said we should rethink ‘the range of “family” language used in religious thinking’.
The implication of Armstrong’s arguments was that the positive valuation of the family discriminated against victims of abuse, and therefore a new language should be made mandatory. If the celebration of the family is seen as troubling to those who have had negative experiences with their parents, then what intimate relationship can be unashamedly avowed these days? Certainly not that of husband and wife. As the Flinders University’s guide to using inclusive language explains: ‘Language that reinforces the assumption that all personal relationships are exclusively heterosexual denies the lived realities of same-sex couples.’ Accordingly, it advises using the term partner instead of wife or husband.
Like carer, the term partner has the advantage of homogenising every relationship, eroding their distinctions and instead making them all conform to an inoffensive generic formula. Insisting that I was my mum’s son was proof of my emotional illiteracy, apparently. But to refuse to be called partner and actually to embrace discriminatory appellation such as ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ – that is a marker of gross insensitivity, we are told. Better that you call your wife a spouse.
And it is now official. Those applying for a visa to migrate to Australia are told by http://www.australia-migration.com that ‘if you are married, then you apply for the spouse visa’. It helpfully informs applicants that spouse is ‘the Australian husband or wife’.
Thankfully, you can still acknowledge that you are married. What is at issue is who you are married to. Numerous advocates of same-sex marriage argue that the association of marriage between a husband and wife is an expression of discriminatory prejudice. So a few years ago a submission by the Melbourne-based Human Rights Resource Centre to the inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009 insisted that references to wife and husband should be removed from section 45(2) of the act. The submission also took exception to the ‘gendered’ term ‘man and woman’ used in marriage and opted for the term ‘union of two people’.
In Canada, where same-sex marriage was legalised in 2005, terms like husband and wife have already been removed from much official documentation. A similar approach is proposed for Britain in the Lib-Con government’s consultation on same-sex marriage, which implies, in Brendan O’Neill’s words, that ‘bureaucrats have the right to define our relationships, and by extension to govern them’.
Meanwhile in Sweden, campaigners are urging the authorities to introduce ‘gender-neutral’ language. They want to do away with any linguistic expression of difference between the sexes (such as the use of apparently discriminatory words like ‘he’ and ‘she’ or ‘boy’ and ‘girl’) in favour of having everyone speak in a fully PC, new and neutral fashion.
Whatever you think of a world in which sons are called carers, lovers are described as partners, husbands and wives are reinvented as spouses or just ‘two people’, and no one says ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, you should at least acknowledge that it is a very different place to one where people cultivate their own identities and traditions to determine who they really are.
It is important to understand that these new administratively sanctioned terms are not simply different words that express the same old identities or relationships. No, when a son is transformed into a carer, then the defining features of his relationship to his mother become obscured, maybe even lost. When religious organisations are told to use a language that treats the family as no big deal, then they cease to serve as institutions that can give spiritual meaning to their members. When marriage is reinterpreted as merely the union of two people, or a partnership of spouses, then the identity of a husband and wife is steadily eroded and loses its deep-rooted symbolic significance. Linguistic engineering impacts in a very real and very negative way on how we conceive of ourselves and how we think about our most intimate bonds.
The words we use really, really matter. They shape our view of ourselves and of our fellow citizens. In an open, tolerant society, people should possess the freedom to choose how they define themselves and others.
Unfortunately, today there are powerful cultural forces that believe they have the moral authority to decide what words the rest of us can use to describe ourselves, our loved ones and our relationships. Language is a far too important an area of human life to leave to the administrators and experts. We need the courage of our convictions to use the words that best express what we are about.
Another pathetic excuse from lazy British police
Police refused to chase quad bike gang who stole kayak … because thieves had no helmets
When Rebecca Jones directed police towards a gang of thieves making their getaway on quad bikes she naturally expected officers to tear off in hot pursuit. But she was left speechless when they called off the chase moments later – on the grounds of health and safety.
They told her that they did not want to risk causing an accident because the gang were not wearing crash helmets and were driving wildly.
Instead, the officers simply gave up and let the thieves disappear into the distance with the £700 kayak they had stolen from Miss Jones.
The legal executive said the gang struck as she and her boyfriend joined her parents on the water of a weir on the River Dearne at Harlington, in South Yorkshire.
As the group prepared to set off, the quad bikers raced up and snatched her kayak before driving off with it strapped to one of their machines.
Miss Jones, 28, and her boyfriend, Mark Skirrow, 27, gave chase and tracked the thieves across fields in the hope that the police would take over once they arrived. ‘The police were called immediately and they also followed the gang and caught up with them on the road,’ said Miss Jones, from Swinton, near Rotherham.
‘But they had to abandon the pursuit because of health and safety concerns as the quad bikers were driving erratically and not wearing helmets. ‘My boat was stolen and there is nothing much I can do about it.’
The police are not understood to have made any arrests.
Health and safety rules have been blamed for inaction by the emergency services in a number of incidents – many of them much more serious.
In March last year Simon Burgess, 41, drowned in a 3ft-deep lake in Hampshire when a policeman and a paramedic were ordered not to rescue him.
In 2009, Philip Surridge, 42, died after firemen refused to rescue him from a frozen lake. He screamed ‘Don’t let me die’ but the crew – sent to Brightwell Lake in Northamptonshire – did not go in because they were not trained in water rescue. In 2008, Karl Malton, 32, drowned in 18in of water in Lincolnshire when a senior fire officer stopped his men climbing down a 15ft bank after a ‘risk assessment’ was carried out.
His body remained face down in the water for three hours after a decision was made to send for a ‘water rescue team’ based more than 50 miles away.
The year before that, Jordan Lyon, ten, drowned in a pond in Wigan after police community support officers said they were unable to help him because they did not have ‘major incident training’.
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said of the kayak theft: ‘Officers were instructed not to begin a pursuit. An area search was conducted and all lines of enquiry were explored, unfortunately without gain. ‘South Yorkshire Police perform a risk assessment based on the circumstances of each incident.’
Minorities a problem for conservatives in Britain too
The Prime Minister will today launch a major campaign to target ‘aspirational’ ethnic minority voters in the suburbs after warnings that he can’t win at the next election without them.
Tory Chairman Baroness Warsi has revealed the party aims to woo female and older Asian voters who share the party’s views but who have traditionally voted Labour.
She has told Conservative Cabinet ministers and MPs that they need to do more to win over non-white voters in key marginal constituencies.
They will be ordered to discuss core Tory values – hard work, good schools, the perils of welfare dependency – rather than ‘pandering’ to received Left-wing wisdom that Asian voters are only concerned with state handouts and foreign policy issues such as Afghanistan.
The PR drive comes after Tory pollsters warned that the party could fail to win a majority in 2015 unless they do better with ethnic minority voters. The Tories won just 16 per cent of the non-white vote in 2010, and did just as badly among wealthy and poor ethnic minority communities.
Polls show that these groups predominantly share Tory values but 68 per cent of them vote for Labour.
Baroness Warsi said: ‘There are at least ten constituencies that we should have won at the last election, on the basis of the overall swing we achieved, but which we didn’t win purely because they were seats with a much larger than average black and minority ethnic population. ‘The battleground for the next election is predominantly urban.’
Lady Warsi admitted that many of her colleagues have been surprised to discover that they have far larger migrant populations in their constituencies than they previously realised.
She added: ‘Somewhere like Solihull now has more than 5,000 British Muslims. These are upwardly mobile people.’
David Cameron will unveil a Conservative Friends of India group to woo Asian voters. He will also launch a Conservative Friends of Pakistan and a third group for Bangladesh later in the year.
Tory supporters have recently written in the ethnic minority media stressing that welfare dependency runs in the face of their community’s values.
Baroness Warsi said: ‘My father came to Britain and he was hugely aspirational. He wanted to work hard and do the right thing.
‘People from his generation wonder how being on benefits has become a lifestyle choice. Labour go round saying to these voters that the Tories will cut your benefits. But that’s the worst sort of patronising approach.’
Following the trouncing of Labour in the Bradford West by-election, Baroness Warsi said the party would capitalise on the malaise among young Asians with the way Labour used their elders to dictate how they should vote.
‘You can see in Bradford that a generation of younger Asian women are standing up and demanding to be heard,’ she said.
Assertiveness classes for Oxford undergraduates
This should be a fad that has run its course but I don’t suppose it will ever go away. There has been a lot of research showing that assertiveness training doesn’t do much good, if any
Oxford University has introduced assertiveness classes for female students in a bid to get them to compete for jobs in the City and aspire to the boardroom.
They may be young and gifted but research at the elite institution has found that female undergraduates are shying away from applying to jobs in banking, finance, management consultancy, engineering and resource management.
Partly as a result, starting salaries for women when they graduate are on average £2,000 to £3,000 lower than their male counterparts.
“Women are earning less on leaving Oxford. On the face of it, this is ridiculous,” said Jonathan Black, the careers service director at the university. “We have high quality, high achieving students of both genders. “From the research it appears that women are selecting lower paid jobs. They perceive more prejudice in certain industries and are saying ‘I won’t strive for that really high paid job’.
“We are not trying to push loads of women in to the City but we are trying to say, you should feel able to apply for these sorts of jobs.”
The four day programme at Oxford which starts this week will help 45 female undergraduates improve their self-confidence and decision making, think positively and build on their strengths.
Assertiveness training will teach them how to deal with opposition and thrive in challenging situations.
“What we find is that women can be pretty assertive in some parts of their lives but not in others,” said Jenny Daisley, the chief executive of the Springboard Consultancy which will run the programme along with staff at the university.
“The undergraduate sitting quiet as a mouse in supervision, giving the impression that they have not got anything to say, may have lots to say but needs positive advice so that they are not invisible.”
Successful female employees from RBS and BP, which are sponsoring the course, will talk about their lives and careers. A small number of sought-after internships at the two companies will be made available to the Oxford course participants.
RBS’s involvement follows a commitment by the bank to target female recruits, increasing its national proportion of female graduate applications from 35 per cent to 50 per cent by 2014.
Sophie Kelley, 20, studying law at Corpus Christi College, is hoping the course will make her more confident in tutorials and interviews.
“I am applying to London law firms for vacation schemes and it is so competitive,” she said. “The rejection letters don’t give any real feedback so I’m hoping the Springboard programme might give me an insight and advice.”
Anna Broadley, 19, a first year history student at Brasenose College, who is also taking part said: “Boys seem to have a more self conviction and see the bigger picture generally, even when their self-belief is not necessarily based on any greater academic merit.
“While the girls are freaking out about whether they have done enough work for a tutorial, the boys are more likely to say ‘I’ll just blag it’.
“I’m really interested in the elements of the course on being assertive and taking the initiative – turning that uncertainty that women may have in to a positive thing.”
Poppy Waskett, 22, a first year experimental psychology student from Harris Manchester College, said she was tempted by management consultancy but hoped to gain inspiration from the career women giving presentations.
The Springboard programme was developed in the 1980s for the BBC and is now a social enterprise company. Its programmes, tailored to specific groups, have been delivered to hundreds of thousands of women worldwide.
Women currently make up just 15 per cent of FTSE 100 directors. A study last year revealed that of the 200 most senior bankers at a sample of 20 investment banks and investment banking divisions, just 17 were women.
David Cameron has said that business leaders have not made sufficient progress in ensuring women get top jobs.
In February, he attended a summit in Stockholm to learn from countries such as Norway and Iceland, which have so called “golden skirt quotas” to increase the number of women in boardrooms.
So far, the Government has called for firms to voluntarily increase the number of senior female executives to 25 per cent of the total by 2015.
Big Brother in your waterpipes?
Report from Britain
Millions of homes could have smart water meters, devices that tell water companies immediately if households are breaking the hosepipe ban, as part of plans to combat drought conditions.
A number of firms are looking at the technology including the country’s biggest water company, Thames Water, as part of plans to install meters in most homes by 2015.
The meters transfer readings every hour from water pipes outside the home via a mobile phone transmitter to the internet or a gadget in the kitchen so both the customer and the water company can keep an eye on water use.
The new technology is already widely used in the US to help customers spot leaks and cut wasteful water use.
It could also be used to identify households that are breaking any restrictions by immediately showing where a huge amount of water is being used to water a lawn or fill the paddling pool during a hosepipe ban.
At the moment seven water companies in the south and east have hosepipe bans in place due to the ongoing drought that is expected to last until Christmas, despite the recent rain.