Grandfather, 88, lost so much weight while in NHS care that the staff didn’t recognise him from family photograph
A grandfather lost so much weight whilst being treated by the NHS, that staff failed to recognise him from a photograph his wife left on his bedside table.
Retired engineer John Thorpe, 88, shed five stone in just five weeks after being admitted to a care home and hospital following a fall in his back garden.
By the time he died following treatment at Royal Bolton Hospital in Bolton, Greater Manchester, the grandfather-of-four had developed pressure sores due to being bedbound and was said to look like a ‘shadow of his former self.’
Now after nearly a year of wrangling NHS bosses have apologised to Mr Thorpe’s family after admitting some of its work practises while he was being treated were ‘inadequate and lacking.’
Mr Thorpe had been enjoying an active life regularly walking the dog and would love taking trips abroad with his wife Nora – hill-climbing in Austria, and enjoying the cultures of Germany, Spain and Portugal.
But in February last year he accidentally stumbled and fell as he was pottering in the garden of the home he shared with his wife in Great Lever, Bolton.
After treatment at Royal Bolton Hospital, Mr Thorpe was advised to undergo a six-week physiotherapy course at Darley Court, an intermediate care home run by the trust, because his damaged knee saw him struggling to get out of his armchair.
But within weeks he developed painful pressure sores and became bed-bound while he was treated by Trust staff. He was sent back to Royal Bolton Hospital to a complex care ward because he was unwell.
Nora, 86, said: ‘I had brought in a photograph of us to sit by John’s bed to cheer him up. A member of staff was chatting to him and asked who was in the photo. John said “it’s me” and the man didn’t believe him. ‘He looked so different because he’d lost so much weight. He wasn’t a person who liked having to rely on people, so it was frustrating to see him so helpless.
‘He would just have to lie there and look about him. He was deteriorating and I could see in his eyes it was as though he didn’t have anything to live for.’
The couple’s son Gordon, 58, said the family were not kept informed about deterioration in his father’s condition and said notes and documents relating to his care were not completed properly.
He said: ‘When my father went in for treatment, he was mobile but he came out on a stretcher and was taken back to hospital with two pressure sores that went through to the bone. After that he never got out of bed again.
‘I wish he hadn’t gone in for physiotherapy in the first place – maybe he would still be here today. He was still getting about, he was struggling a bit because of his knee but he was still getting around the house.
‘They were obviously giving him the wrong diet because he had never suffered that in his life. When I saw him being lifted into the ambulance he looked just awful – they said it could be touch and go whether he’d make it through the night.
‘We were never kept in the know about the problems he was having – the lack of paperwork and lack of communication between staff and relatives was disgraceful.
‘The complex care ward was a shambles and a joke. There was not enough staff to cover all the patients. ‘Staff put him on a liquid diet because he was unable to swallow because of dementia. But he hated the food – it was all mushed up and disgusting so he didn’t eat it.
‘They didn’t help him in any way, he would eat the bananas and yoghurts we would take in for him. He lost around five stones, he was so weak. But yet it was the mushed food or nothing.’
Eventually a doctor told his family that no more could be done for Mr Thorpe’s sores because the septicaemia had gone so deep, it was down to the bone – and the pensioner was discharged to go home. He died the following October.
Gordon said: ‘I asked the doctor why on earth he developed the sores in the first place and he turned to me and said, “if you don’t like the care then why don’t you pay to put him in a home.”
‘He also said the NHS was in a shambles because “some people in this room may not be paying their taxes”. We were shocked – he spoke to us like utter dirt.
‘The fact is my father wasn’t being monitored or anything because staff weren’t updating his notes properly. It was heart-breaking to see my dad suffer like that. We had our trust in the professionals, only for them to fail.
‘The NHS keep promising they will get things right, but they’re not. When mistakes are made in hospital, people’s lives are at risk.’
The cash strapped hospital is at the centre of an investigation after it emerged it had ‘lost’ £3.8m in accounting bungles. This week the hospital’s director of finance resigned.
Dee Sissons, Director of Patient Experience and Safety/Chief Nurse at Royal Bolton Hospital said: ‘I fully accept that there was inadequate communication with Mr Thorpe and his family during his father’s time in our care last year and unacceptable delays in sending him reports into his subsequent complaints.
‘Some patients have complex health conditions which mean they are particularly at risk of developing pressure sores.
‘We use risk assessments, provide special pressure relieving mattresses and cushions and where needed turn patients frequently to minimise these risks.
‘However, in some patients it can be very difficult to minimise all these risks and prevent pressure sores occurring.
‘In the case of Mr Thorpe’s father we believe that overall appropriate care was given however the documentation to give evidence of what had been done was sometimes lacking.’
GPs? Rude, dishonest and hard to understand: Patients’ verdict as complaints rise by 24%
Complaints against doctors have hit a record high with patients increasingly saying they are being ignored, shown no respect or lied to.
Figures from the General Medical Council reveal that GPs are the cause of nearly half of all grievances, even though they comprise only a quarter of all doctors.
It said doctors who had gained their medical qualifications abroad – as well as older medics who trained in Britain – were more prone to being accused of poor communication.
Last year 8,781 complaints were made against all types of doctors, up by 24 per cent in just 12 months.
The GMC insists there is no evidence the standard of medical care is falling, however, and instead put the increase down to patients becoming less tolerant.
But it points to a particularly steep rise in complaints about ‘communication’ which includes doctors not listening to patients or not properly explaining their illness or treatment.
In the past 12 months the number of such complaints rose by 69 per cent to 789 – the biggest increase across all categories.
According to the watchdog, doctors from foreign countries with different healthcare systems may never have been properly taught to talk and listen to patients.
Likewise, doctors who qualified in Britain 30 or 40 years ago may not have been told to ensure their patients understood what they were saying.
There was also a steep rise in complaints about respect – including rudeness, dishonesty and a lack of dignity – up by 45 per cent to 642 last year.
Niall Dickson, of the GMC, said: ‘More complaints does not necessarily mean worse care. Indeed the evidence is actually about rising levels of satisfaction with medical care across the country.
‘We have been trying to understand why this number is going up, and we have a whole series of reasons why it may be. Patient expectations are changing and they are more willing to complain.’
But Mike Farrar, of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘We must keep a careful eye on these complaints.
‘A rise may partly be a result of patients, rightly, being more assertive in voicing dissatisfaction about their care, or it may be something more substantial. Employers and individual doctors need to analyse this data and look carefully at the cases where doctors have not met the standards patients expect, and what action they need to take when they fall short.’
Nearly two thirds of the complaints were made by patients with the remainder lodged by other doctors, medical staff and even the police.
The GMC investigates each case and the most serious are referred to its fitness to practise panels, which can lead to a doctor being struck off.
Dan Poulter, Coalition health minister, said: ‘The GMC is rightly taking steps to better understand and deal with an increase in complaints, but it is important to reassure people that this does not mean that medical standards are falling.’
Disagree with British Liberal leader? You’re a bigot!
Nick Clegg’s dismissal of gay-marriage opponents as ‘bigots’ reveals much about how the political class operates
It was quickly retracted, but nowhere near quick enough. UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg’s press release marking the end of the consultation on gay marriage made it very clear what he thought of opponents of gay marriage: they are bigots.
Following an uproar on Twitter and in the media, a spokesperson for Clegg rapidly recalled the press release, claiming it was an uncorrected draft. That might be what Clegg thinks of critics of gay marriage, the spokesperson seemed to imply, but he is shrewd enough to know that is not something he should say in public. A new, sanitised version of the press release was promptly sent out with ‘bigots’ replaced by ‘some people’. (Given the right intonation, of course, ‘some people’ could easily convey the same meaning to those who, like Clegg, think gay-marriage opponents are just prejudiced idiots.)
It seems that behind closed doors, ‘bigot’ is a commonly used term among the political class. Clegg’s slip immediately brought to mind former prime minister Gordon Brown’s ‘Bigotgate’ moment in the run-up to the 2010 General Election. Furious at having had to talk to 65-year-old Rochdale resident Gillian Duffy about immigration levels while on the campaign trail, Brown was overheard by Sky News calling her a ‘bigoted woman’ to an aide afterwards.
Unlike Brown, however, Clegg was using the term defensively. He was trying to fend off criticism from those who think that there are more important things for the government to be focusing on than trying to push through gay marriage. ‘Continued trouble in the economy gives the bigots a stick to beat us with’, he was quoted as saying. ‘[These bigots] demand we “postpone” the equalities agenda in order to deal with “the things people really care about”.’
This image of poor embattled liberal politicians under attack from stick-wielding bigots is bizarrely divorced from reality. The opposite is the case. In the UK and further afield, gay marriage has become a cause célèbre for the political and media classes, a means for politicians and commentators to demonstrate their right-on credentials. And if you’re not on the gay-marriage bandwagon, you’re a bigot, one of those people who typifies everything that is wrong with Britain today. There’s no middle ground in this Culture War. It seems you can’t even suggest that the government should have other priorities during a double-dip recession. You’re either with Us, or you’re one of Them.
While Clegg himself may have sought to distance himself from the B-word, there were many willing to pick it up and use it on his behalf. Some even chastised him for lacking the bottle to use it more openly. ‘OED defines bigot as “obstinate and intolerant adherent of a creed or view”. [Clegg was] perfectly right’, tweeted an editor at the Financial Times. A writer for the Guardian and New Statesman tweeted, ‘Nick Clegg’s response to this should be: “Yes, I did – because they are.”’ At the Independent, Simon Kelner used his column to implore Clegg to ‘tell it like it is… there are bigots everywhere’. According to Kelner, ‘There are bigots who stalk the land: some of them are in the church, some of them are in politics, and some are, yes, in the media.’
On immigration, on gay marriage, indeed, on any issue where the public may not share the views of the political class, the solution, it seems, is not to engage in a debate – rather, it is to try to shut debate down by branding one side as ‘bigoted’ and thus beyond reason. Labelling those who disagree with you as ‘bigots’ is about marking ‘some people’ out as unworthy of debate and argument. Such people can’t be enlightened; they need to be publicly named and shamed into adopting the right position or browbeaten into shutting up.
As we have highlighted on spiked previously, there are actually some sensible reasons to criticise the government’s plans to implement gay marriage: it is a top-down initiative bereft of anything like a groundswell of public support; it will allow the state ever-more powers to meddle in our private lives; and the centuries-old institution of marriage, which has great meaning for many millions of people, is being hollowed out to suit the whims of the elite. Even the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ face being casually airbrushed out of some official documents.
Even those who may favour gay marriage should be concerned by Clegg’s ‘bigot’ comment. For it exposes the censuring tactics of the gay-marriage lobby. That is, in the name of equality and tolerance, proponents of gay marriage are branding those who disagree with them as people whose views must not be tolerated. That this tactic of labelling and silencing comes at the end of the government’s so-called consultation on gay marriage reveals the whole exercise to be a fait accompli. This was never a consultation; it was a crusade. As the political elites continue to try to find purpose through their battle against the bigoted hordes who disagree with them, we should ask ourselves: who are the real bigots here?
Christian B&B owner ‘had a human right to turn away gay couple’ who wanted to share a double room
A Christian bed-and-breakfast owner who turned away a gay couple acted within her human rights, her lawyer said yesterday.
Michael Black, 64, and John Morgan, 59, are seeking damages of £1,800 each for sexual orientation discrimination after Susanne Wilkinson refused to give them a double room.
The couple, who have been together for eight years, said they were ‘shocked’ when they were not allowed to stay the night at the Swiss B&B in Cookham, Berkshire, in March 2010.
A court heard that the men booked a room online but when they arrived Mrs Wilkinson told them it was against her religious beliefs for them to share a bed, adding: ‘This is my private home.’
Mr Black and Mr Morgan said they were refunded their £30 deposit and asked to leave. Their case echoes that of Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, who won £3,600 damages from the owners of a Cornish guesthouse after the owners refused to give them a double room in 2008.
James Dingemans QC, defending, said it was against Mrs Wilkinson’s religious beliefs for two unmarried people to share a bed under her roof, adding: ‘This is protected by the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998.’
He said a person offering bed and breakfast in their home was entitled to refuse to permit guests who were not married or in a civil partnership, regardless of their sex, to share a double bed.
Denying there was a case for direct or indirect discrimination, he claimed she would have been happy to provide the couple – who are not in a civil partnership – with single beds, but none were available.
He explained: ‘It was not the sexual orientation that she objected to but the sexual behaviour.’
Giving evidence, Mrs Wilkinson, 56, told Reading County Court: ‘At my daughter’s wedding I had my own niece and her boyfriend visit from Switzerland, and they very much wanted to spend the night together in a room but I did not let them.’
Mr Morgan, an IT consultant, said: ‘She said that for two men to share a bed was against her convictions. She was polite but firm that we couldn’t stay.’ Mr Black, a writer, added: ‘She wasn’t rude, I’m not claiming that. We were just very concerned that we weren’t allowed to stay.’
Mrs Wilkinson, who lives in the seven-bedroom property with her husband Francis, 58, and their children, said: ‘All we ever wanted was to be able to live and work in keeping with our faith.
‘Christianity isn’t just something we do in church on a Sunday – it affects every area of our life, including our home and our business. Surely there is room for that in modern British life.’
The mother of four told the one-day hearing that she asked for police protection after the story was first covered by the media, due to a string of death threats. ‘We had thousands of pieces of hate mail and very abusive phone calls. I had a hand-delivered letter put through the door saying that my house would be burned down,’ she recalled.
‘I had to call the police. They were very concerned and patrolled the lane we live on for five months and checked on us regularly.’
A verdict is expected within two weeks.
The day the British government put rigour back into school exams: Out go GCSEs, in comes the tough new six-subject Baccalaureate
The biggest shake-up in school exams for a generation will see discredited GCSEs scrapped and replaced with English Baccalaureate Certificates.
A return to end-of-course exams in traditional academic subjects and the slashing of coursework and resits will ‘restore rigour’ to the education system, Michael Gove said yesterday.
The Education Secretary also announced tough core EBC courses which will be taught from 2015, with the first exams sat two years later.
Students will be awarded a full English Baccalaureate if they succeed in six core subjects: English, maths, two sciences – from physics, biology and chemistry – a language and geography or history.
The GCSE brand could be scrapped altogether in 2016 to make a clean break with a system first introduced in 1988.
A single exam board will preside over each subject, bringing an end to competition which Mr Gove said had encouraged a ‘corrupt effort to massage up pass rates’.
Announcing the reforms in the Commons, he said: ‘It is time for the race to the bottom to end. It is time to tackle grade inflation and dumbing down. It is time to raise aspirations.’
‘After years of drift, decline and dumbing down, at last we are reforming our examination system to compete with the world’s best.’
The aim of Mr Gove’s reforms is to restore O-level-style rigour in a bid to halt the nation’s slide down the international schools league tables. However his ambition to fully replicate the O-level system, in which only the brightest sat the toughest exam, has been shelved following opposition from Nick Clegg.
The Deputy Prime Minister’s intervention also delayed the reforms by a year, raising fears Labour could try to save GCSEs if the party wins the next election. But education sources last night said the reforms were ‘unstoppable’.
Mr Gove also revealed less able pupils would be offered the chance to take the new EBC exams at 17 or 18 instead of 16.
He and Mr Clegg put on a show of unity yesterday with a joint article in which they launched a pre-emptive attack on teaching unions and the Labour Left.
They said: ‘Together we can overcome those forces that have held our children back – the entrenched establishment voices who have become the enemies of promise.’
The proposals will see hundreds of thousands of 11-year-olds, who started secondary school this term, becoming the new ‘guinea pigs’ of the education system. Exam boards have previously been accused of ‘dumbing down’ GCSEs to attract the multi-million pound business from secondary schools.
But under the reforms, just one will be selected by Ofqual to offer qualifications in each subject in a bid to prevent the ‘race to the bottom’.
GCSEs in other subjects are also being toughened up and are unlikely to keep the ‘GCSE’ title.
Currently, many GCSEs have two tiers so pupils can either be entered for the foundation level – the simpler of the two and the maximum grade achievable is a C – or the higher level, where students can get up to an A*.
Under the shake-up, the foundation and higher level will be scrapped in the EBC subjects, meaning there will be no cap on how well pupils can achieve.
A consultation document by the Department for Education suggests exam boards come up with ‘new and different grading structures’. They will be expected to ‘differentiate’ between top achievers and provide a ‘statement of achievement’ for those who are not entered for EBCs.
The Government’s ‘preferred approach’ is to remove controlled assessment – or coursework done under exam conditions – from all six English Baccalaureate subjects. Other reforms including scrapping bite-sized modules and resits.
The overhaul is expected to result in fewer top achievers. This summer, pupils passed 22.4 per cent of GCSEs at A or A*.
Stephen Twigg MP, Labour’s education spokesman, claimed the changes were ‘totally out of date’ and could be a ‘Trojan horse’ for the introduction of a two-tier system in the future. Teaching unions also condemned the change. Martin Johnson, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: ‘O-levels were abolished 25 years ago for a very good reason: they just tested memory and essay writing, which are not crucial skills for the majority of jobs or life today.’
But business welcomed the move. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: ‘Business leaders want a stronger curriculum and more rigorous exams. These measures are welcome progress towards delivering that.’
Britain is as bad as Egypt for penalizing “offensive” speech
Google took the unprecedented step of banning one single YouTube video in three countries (Egypt, Libya and India) in order to protect the sensibilities of the peoples who populate those lands.
Steve Henn, writing for National Public Radio, points out that in the present context, Google’s censorship is “an example of the challenges of balancing U.S. free speech concerns and of something known as the ‘heckler’s veto'” — the problem faced when one person or a group of people resort to extreme means (e.g. threats of violence) in order to silence public discourse.
But before we congratulate ourselves for our tolerance and humanity, we should take a hard look in the mirror. Last week, in Leeds, on 14 September (3 days after the attacks which destroyed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi), Azhar Ahmed, a 19-year-old from West Yorkshire, was convicted of making “derogatory, disrespectful and inflammatory” remarks under the Malicious Communications Act. His crime? Writing a Facebook post which stated, shortly after the funeral of a number of British soldiers from the area, that “all soldiers should go to hell”.
In the United Kingdom, such a communication falls foul of a provision of the Act which states that “a person who sends to another person a(n)… electronic communication… of any description which conveys a message which is indecent or grossly offensive… is guilty of an offence if his purpose [or one of them] in sending it is that it should… cause distress or anxiety to the recipient”. He made the post; distress was intended and caused; judicial sanction followed.
And this is far from the only case of its kind – there are dozens of reported cases showing that all manner of political speech, religious speech, and even the casual F-word can, under the right circumstances, fall foul of the legislation. The man on the Clapham omnibus has as much of a heckler’s veto as the Salafist on a Cairo street; furthermore, the man on the Clapham omnibus is state-backed.
David Cameron described the attacks on the Libyan embassy as “senseless”. I totally agree. In a free society the expression of a controversial opinion by an individual should not, under any circumstances, justify the threat or application of violence by other men in order to silence that opinion.
But Azhar Ahmed has been so silenced. Until we end the criminalisation of those opinions which offend us, we cannot justifiably claim that we are any different from the mob.