Growing number of hospital patients are malnourished when they die
The number of people dying in hospital while malnourished has risen by half in 10 years, affecting more than 2,500 people in a decade, official figures have shown.
While not recorded as the cause of death, the “effects of hunger” were noted on the death certificates of 301 people in England in 2010, up from 195 in 2001.
The total of more than 2,500 over the decade covered deaths that occurred in NHS hospitals and is likely to be an underestimate because deaths in nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals or in the patients’ homes were not included.
There has been fierce criticism of nursing care of the elderly in hospital, with patients reported to have been drinking from flower vases because they were so thirsty, and meals regularly being left out of reach.
However, malnutrition can be a side–effect of underlying conditions such as cancer and dementia, and patients who are nearing the end of their lives are often found to be unable or unwilling to eat.
The figures were disclosed in a parliamentary answer to Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary.
Stephen Penneck, the director–general of the Office for National Statistics, provided the answers on behalf of the Cabinet Office. He said: “Malnutrition may be recorded as the underlying cause of death, but this is a rare occurrence.
“The ‘effects of hunger’ is never recorded as the underlying cause of death, because it is defined by the international classification of diseases as a ‘secondary cause’ only. Consequently, deaths with any mention of either of these causes on the death certificate have been provided.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Many patients who suffer or die from malnutrition and dehydration are admitted to hospital with these conditions. They also often have underlying health conditions, like cancer, that make them more susceptible to these problems.”
She added: “However, every NHS patient has the right to expect that they are looked after properly in hospital. It is unacceptable if patients go hungry or are malnourished.
“That’s why the Prime Minister recently highlighted the importance of nursing rounds dedicated to giving senior nurses more time to check that patients are comfortable, are helped to eat and drink, and are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
Britain’s maths shame: Bright school children end up losing interest at secondary level
Tens of thousands of bright pupils are under-achieving in maths as schools settle for ‘mediocrity’ that meets exam targets, school inspectors warn today.
Able children’s results – even in dumbed-down GCSEs – are a national concern, says an Ofsted report.
Almost 90,000 pupils who achieved ‘level five’ grades in their SATs at 11 failed to secure an A or A* at GCSE five years later, the report reveals. Schools are content with Bs and Cs for these pupils in line with national targets, it is claimed.
The report says: ‘A parent might legitimately ask, “How has my mathematically able child fallen back into mediocrity?”’
Secondary schools are judged by the Government on the proportion of youngsters gaining C grades or better in five GCSEs including maths and English.
They are also measured on the progress pupils make, with level five at 11 – one grade above the standard for the age group – expected to lead to grade B at GCSE.
Ofsted found that schools are increasingly putting pupils in for GCSE maths earlier than they need to in the hope of ‘banking’ a C grade so youngsters can concentrate on other subjects. This practice ‘hinders’ their ability to achieve top grades.
Concerned: Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said the extensive use of early GCSE entry puts too much emphasis on attaining a grade C
Concerned: Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said the extensive use of early GCSE entry puts too much emphasis on attaining a grade C
Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said: ‘The extensive use of early GCSE entry puts too much emphasis on attaining a grade C at the expense of adequate understanding and mastery of mathematics necessary to succeed at A-level and beyond.
‘Our failure to stretch some of our most able pupils threatens the future supply of well-qualified mathematicians, scientists and engineers.’
Ofsted’s report condemns ‘widespread use of early GCSE entry and repeated sitting of units’, which has encouraged ‘short-termism’ in teaching and ‘quick-fix’ booster classes to get pupils up to a C-grade level.
The watchdog declares it is a ‘grave concern that so many able pupils underachieve at GCSE’.
Following a survey of 160 primary and 160 secondary schools, it says that of 176,796 pupils who achieved level five in their maths SATs in 2006, about half – 89,125 – got no better than a B at GCSE in 2011. Some 37,600 achieved no better than a C.
‘This represents a waste of potential and should be a cause of national concern,’ the report says. ‘Too many schools were content with a grade B for their able pupils, speaking of them as “meeting their target” and “making expected progress.’
The report also concludes that GCSE maths is less demanding than it was just a few years ago, with pupils able to gain A grades despite having mastered barely any algebra.
Free childcare ‘failing to have lasting impact on British pupils’
“Head Start” all over again
Billions of pounds worth of public money invested in pre-school education is failing to improve children’s grasp of the basics, according to MPs
A huge rise in cash for under-fives has led to “very little improvement” in standards in the first two years of full-time schooling, it was claimed.
In a report, the cross-party Commons public accounts committee said that access to a high quality early years education was supposed to have a “lasting positive impact” on standards.
But MPs found “no clear evidence” of a knock-on effect on pupils at the age of seven, raising concerns that up to £1.9bn a year is being misspent.
Access to state-funded childcare was introduced under Labour in the late 90s and expanded by the Coalition. Currently, all three and four-year-olds receive 15 hours of free education each week.
But the report found that large numbers of parents were being forced to pay “top-up” fees – often equal to hundreds of pounds a month – because nurseries refused to accept the cap on state funding.
The disclosure comes just 24 hours after a study found that childcare in Britain was among the most expensive in the developed world, with typical families spending more than a quarter of household income on nursery fees.
Margaret Hodge, the committee’s Labour chairman, said: “High-quality early years education can have lasting benefits for children and results at age five have improved.
“But the Department for Education needs to get to grips with why there is little improvement at the age of seven and what happens between the ages of five and seven to lessen the effect.”
She added: “It is unacceptable for any parent to be charged for what should be a free entitlement. It is also completely unacceptable that some parents cannot access the free education unless they agree to pay ‘top-up’ fees for more hours. The Department must take action to prevent this.”
Labour first introduced free entitlement to nursery in the late 90s and the policy has been gradually expanded over the last 13 years.
In 2010, the Coalition announced that all three and four-year-olds would be able to claim 15 hours of childcare a week over a “flexible” 38-week period – at a cost of £1.9bn in 2011/12.
But the study said that there was “no clear evidence” that the “entitlement is having the long-term educational benefits for children” that was intended
Assessments carried out last summer showed some 15 per cent of seven-year-olds – 80,000 – were unable to read after two full years of primary school. Data also showed that one-in-five infants were failing to write to the expected standard and a further 10 per cent are struggling with basic numeracy.
In a further conclusion, the report said that poor families had the “lowest levels of take-up and deprived areas have the lowest levels of high quality services”.
It also emerged that some nurseries were refusing to give parents “the free entitlement without a payment of top-up fees”.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We’ve seen big year-on year improvements in children’s development at five as a result of free early education – but we know there are many factors that influence attainment at school.
“We are commissioning a major piece of longitudinal research to look at how early education impacts on later attainment and to understand more about how a high quality early education leads to better results at seven and beyond. “
Children addicted to television face a lifetime hooked to the box say doctors as they warn a generation risks brain damage (?)
And where is his evidence for all this? He has none
Today’s youngsters risk developing a lifelong dependency on TV and computer screens, Britain’s leading doctors will be told today.
The growing addiction could leave a generation suffering damage to the body as well as the brain, a leading psychologist will warn.
The latest statistics show that 12 to 15-year-olds spend an average of more than six hours a day slumped in front of screens.
Shockingly, the figure only applies to viewing at home and not to computer use at school or gadgets such as smartphones in free time.
Dr Aric Sigman wants TV banned for toddlers and severely rationed for other youngsters and will warn that parents who use technology as a ‘babysitter’ could be setting up their children for a lifetime of ill health.
His work and studies by other researchers link time spent in front of screens with health problems including obesity, high cholesterol and blood pressure, inattentiveness and declines in maths and reading, as well as sleep disorders and autism.
Some of the problems may be caused by simple over-eating and lack of exercise, others by changes to hormones or effects on attention and concentration.
Studies also show that the brain’s reaction to computer games is similar to that seen with drugs and alcohol.
He will tell the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s annual conference in Glasgow: ‘Whether children or adults are formally “addicted” to screen technology or not, many of them overuse technology and have developed an unhealthy dependency on it,’ he will say.
Dr Sigman wants television sets taken out of bedrooms and believes that the youngest children, whose brains are still developing, should not watch TV at all.
From the age of three to seven, they should be limited to an hour and a half a day. Older children should be able to get by with just two hours of TV programmes and computer games.
Dr Sigman will say: ‘“Passive parenting” in the face of the new media environment is a form of benign neglect.
‘A large number of studies are finding that parental rules and limits on child screen time effectively reduce screen time, as does not having screens in bedrooms.’
Workfare in Britain: Jobseekers to care for patients in hospitals as part of unpaid work experience
Dozens of unpaid jobseekers are to deliver patient care at three hospitals in the Midlands, an NHS Trust has revealed. It follows a successful pilot at Sandwell Hospital, West Bromwich, where six unemployed people worked for eight weeks to help care for patients on wards.
A spokesman for Sandwell and West Birmingham hospitals trust, which runs the scheme, said the placements gave jobseekers a real taste of healthcare.
‘The pilot is now complete and, after further consultation with trade unions and managers, we are aiming to run similar programmes across out three hospitals,’ they said in a statement.
However, union representatives for medical staff said they were concerned that the move showed a ‘worrying glimpse of the future.’
Ravi Subramanian, head of Unison in the West Midlands told The Guardian that the Birmingham and Sandwell hospital trust was being forced to find £125m worth of savings over the next five years.
He added: ‘Now the hospital is making moves to deliver healthcare on the cheap, by using people on work experience to help with patient care. Patients and staff will rightly be very worried about the standard of patient care as this scheme is rolled out.’
The NHS Trust defended the ‘ward service assistants’ scheme, saying the participants were all CRB checked and underwent two weeks of training at Sandwell College before carrying out basic tasks.
These included making hot and cold drinks for patients and helping to feed them if necessary, as well as collecting medication from the hospital pharmacy to give nurses more time on the wards.
Assistant Director of Nursing Linda Pascall added: ‘We have really appreciated the support the ward service assistants have given to the wards. ‘Their positive attitude has made this venture a success and we hope to be able to continue to work with our Jobcentre Plus partners to offer this scheme which has proven to have genuine benefits for our local community.’
Pauline Jones, Account Manager at Jobcentre Plus, said two of the six people had already gained employment thanks to their work experience.
Sue Horsburgh was one of the six participants and said she found it very rewarding. ‘When I started on my first day, there was a lady who was quite poorly. She couldn’t talk and all she could really do was put her thumb up but I went to see her in my last week and I had a conversation with her,’ she said. ‘I went home each day and felt I had done something worthwhile.’
Fellow ward service assistant, Jennifer Howell, said the role had given her the confidence to start a new job working with people with learning difficulties.
And Sarah Jones, another of the six to undertake the placement, said she now wants a career as a healthcare assistant. ‘I love it,’ she said. ‘There was nothing negative. I know that after doing this I never want to do anything else ever.’
Until Feburary this year, people on Government work experience schemes faced having their benefits cut if they left unpaid schemes.
However, ministers changed the rules following a meeting with scores of employers after protests by activists who complained that the unemployed were being forced to work for nothing.