Brain doctor unfairly sacked stages hunger strike in protest at treatment of whistleblowers in the NHS
Having high standards is a mistake in the NHS
A pioneering brain doctor who was unfairly sacked for following his conscience is staging a hunger strike in protest at the ‘unfair’ treatment of whistleblowers by the NHS.
Dr Narinder Kapur, 62, a world authority on brain behaviour, lost his job at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, in 2010.
The former president of the British Neuropsychological Society claimed he was kicked out for blowing the whistle over underqualified and unsupervised staff treating patients at the hospital – a practice he claimed was endangering patients.
An employment tribunal went on to rule he had been unfairly dismissed, but he was not reinstated.
The doctor today staged the second day of a five day hunger strike outside the Department of Health head office, to protest his and other colleague’s treatment for raising concerns about the health service.
Dr Kapur believes the NHS is rife with ‘failures’ and feels staff are not treated or managed correctly, which has lead to the mistreatment of patients.
He is calling on the government to impose a complete change to the health service and get rid of a ‘dictatorial and secretive’ management structure.
Dr Kapur will camp outside the building in Westminster, London, for the whole week and if he gets moved on he will decamp to the statue of Gandhi, who has inspired him, in Tavistock square.
Dr Kapur said: ‘I undertake this five-day hunger-strike with reluctance but with resolve. ‘It pains my heart to see how failures in the NHS have contributed directly or indirectly to harming patient care, to a waste of public funds and to distress for NHS staff and their families.
‘Over the past two years, I have repeatedly raised my concerns in a wide range of settings – NHS, legal and political – but with no tangible outcome to fix these failures in the NHS.
‘I am fortunate that God has given me the strength, knowledge, experience, determination, resources and good health to be able to make a protest in this way.
‘I regard it as a moral and ethical responsibility to do what I can to bring about changes in the NHS that will benefit a large number of people. ‘I take my inspiration from the actions and words of Mahatma Gandhi, whose birthday is this week on October 2, and who also engaged in peaceful protests that included fasting.’
During Dr Kapur’s tribunal in July the panel ruled the hospital attempted to fast-track his dismissal by rehearsing witnesses after an investigation was launched into his conduct.
The judgement read: ‘The principal reason for Dr Kapur’s dismissal was the fact there had been an irredeemable breakdown in trust, confidence and communication between himself on the one hand and a variety of management individuals within the trust organisation.’
However, the tribunal found Dr Kapur, who had clashed with staff over how neuropsychology clinics should be run, was 75 per cent responsible for his own downfall.
As a result, the panel said he would only receive 25 per cent of any compensation and would not return to work at the hospital.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘We have taken action to support NHS whistleblowers, including strengthening the NHS constitution and setting up a new helpline to advise staff and help them understand their rights.
‘Staff on the frontline know when patient care needs to improve – better support for whistleblowers will help create a culture where staff will be able to raise genuine concerns in good faith, without fear of reprisal.’
Widower, 80, who raised £100,000 in charity for hospital is left for hours in waiting room frightened that he was having a stroke
An 80-year-old widower who raised thousands of pounds for a hospital has spoken of his anger at being left in a waiting room for most of the night after suffering from a suspected stroke.
Charity worker Ron Hands, who has raised over £100,000 for his local hospital, phoned the emergency services after he woke in the middle of the night with a swollen face and his mouth drooping.
Fearing he had suffered a stroke he called an ambulance and was taken to Bournemouth General Hospital, Dorset.
It was here that Mr Hands was made to sit in a wheelchair in the waiting room for the majority of the night, as staff attended to a number of drunk patients before assisting him.
Mr Hands, who worked tirelessly for 33 years to raise money for the hospital which had treated his wife before she died of pancreatic cancer, was left stunned with the way he was treated after arriving at the hospital.
The retired hotel doorman, who resides in Southbourne, Bournemouth, said he was so distressed by the way he was treated he has written to the CEO of the hospital demanding pensioners be dealt with in a more considerate way.
Mr Hands said he does not want any other pensioners to be treated the way he was and spent a sleepless night watching drunk people being seen to by staff at Bournemouth General Hospital, Dorset.
He said: ‘I was really scared. I’d recently had tests for deep vein thrombosis and my first thought was that I might have had a stroke.’
Mr Hands was given a brief examination at the A&E department of the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, but was then left sitting in a wheelchair in the waiting room for four hours from 2.30am to 6.30am, when he was finally seen by a doctor.
‘It was horrible just sitting there on my own frightened about what was wrong with me,’ said Mr Hands. ‘The receptionist did come and offer me a cup of tea at about 5.00am, but other than that the only other people there were some girls who’d been on a hen night.
‘One of their mates had something wrong with her eye and they were all a bit drunk. It wasn’t very nice.’
Hours later, Mr Hands was eventually told that he probably had a dental abscess and was discharged with antibiotics and the promise of a letter to his GP.
Former doorman at the town’s four star Royal Bath Hotel, Mr Hands started the Mary Hands Trust in 1989 after Mary, his wife of 33 years, died of pancreatic cancer. For the next 20 years he raised more than £100,000 for hospital equipment in the name of the trust. It is believed that at least £75,000 of that money helped pay for equipment, including a scanner at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital.
Mr Hands finally called a halt to his charity work in 2009 saying he was leaving it to the younger generation to continue the fundraising work.
Sitting in his modest flat a week after his ordeal and looking through letters of thanks that he had received from the hospital over the years, Mr Hands said: ‘I certainly don’t think I should have received any special treatment but it’s awful that anyone is put through this kind of thing.
‘I’m not someone who makes a fuss and I’m certainly not a hypochondriac. I really was worried about what was wrong with me. ‘Being left sitting there for hours in the middle of the night I was thinking “If my wife could see me now.” It was hurtful.’
Now Ron has written to Tony Spotswood, the Chief Executive of the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, outlining his ordeal and asking him to investigate.
In a direct plea he has asked ‘Please Mr Spotswood to save this happening again to other elderly patients I think that just a little more consideration for the not so able should be looked into.’
There has currently been no reply from Mr Spotswood, whose organisation’s motto is ‘Putting patients first’.
Rise in British tuition fees puts 30,000 off university: Shortfall could cost colleges hundreds of millions
The number of students starting university has slumped by around 30,000 following the imposition of £9,000-a-year tuition fees.
The disclosure will fuel claims that the Coalition Government’s steep rise in maximum fees from £3,375 a year is deterring many youngsters from taking degree courses.
The shortfall of 28,634 students on last year is also set to cost universities hundreds of millions of pounds in lost fees and force the closure of struggling courses.
If overseas students from outside the European Union were stripped out of the data, the decline would be even sharper.
Demand for UK university places from home undergraduates and students from the EU – many of whom faced a near-tripling in tuition fees – has plummeted by 50,000.
Universities offset this to some extent by boosting their intake of students from outside the EU, whose fee levels are largely unchanged on last year.
The Universities UK group said more institutions had attempted to attract students through the post A-level results ‘clearing’ service than ever before.
‘Although there was much anticipation and trepidation in the run up to clearing this year, it has proved a real success,’ it said.
‘More institutions have entered clearing than in any other year.’
Figures from the UCAS university admissions service, cited by UUK, show that the number of students accepted through clearing rose by around 2,500.
Many elite universities used the system for the first time in years, partly due to an unexpected drop in the number of top grades at A-level this summer.
Reports also emerged of lower-ranking universities enrolling teenagers onto courses with as little as two E grades at A-level, prompting claims that ill-prepared youngsters were being ‘set up to fail’.
The UCAS figures also show that more than 187,000 candidates who made initial university applications ended up without places.
Admissions tutors say that many of these students – who were officially eligible for clearing – simply never materialised.
It is thought many fired off applications and only then began to fully understand the costs involved and failed to take the process forward.
Of the 187,000, 16,000 formally withdrew their applications, giving an increase in withdrawals of nearly 1,800 on last year.
The data will prompt universities to carefully consider their fee levels for future years.
Controversial Coalition reforms allowed them to raise maximum annual charges this year from £3,375 to £9,000, although no money has to be paid upfront.
While headline fees for 2013/14 have already been decided, universities may be tempted to offer more generous bursaries or fee discounts.
In its analysis, UUK, which represents the executive heads of the country’s universities, said the reasons for the decline in acceptances this year – which amounts to about 6 per cent of last year’s 486,917 crop of students – were ‘complex’.
Researchers said the trend was partly driven by youngsters who applied for degree courses last year cancelling plans for gap years to avoid being liable for higher fees due to kick in this autumn.
There had also been a fall in the population of 18-year-olds following a dip in the birth rate.
But higher fees are still estimated to have put off an estimated 15,000 18-year-olds, and unknown numbers of older students.
‘UUK will continue to monitor closely how the picture evolves and the impact on institutions,’ it said.
In the final few hours of UCAS vacancy listings yesterday, more than 20,000 courses across UK universities and colleges still had available places.
These included several top universities such as York, Lancaster and Leicester. Some universities, mainly former polytechnics, still had vacancies on 200 or more courses.
While the course vacancy search has now closed, would-be freshers still have until October 22 to contact universities directly if they wish to inquire about available places.
The decline in acceptances prompted a leading headmaster to warn that British universities were seeing a worsening ‘brain drain’ to U.S. institutions.
‘A number of factors – financial, educational, cultural – have come together to persuade some of the great talents of this generation to seek their fortune in the U.S.’
‘We are seeing the end of the inexorable rise in numbers going to universities in the UK.
‘A number of factors – financial, educational, cultural – have come together to persuade some of the great talents of this generation to seek their fortune in the U.S.
‘As numbers fall here all but the most selective UK universities will lower their offers as they seek to fill places. The consequences are predictable.’
Spotless homes don’t make for unhealthy kids
I have been saying this for years — JR
Mothers and fathers have one less reason to drop the mop and hide the Hoover from today – because scientists have debunked a popular modern theory that living in clean homes harms children’s health.
In recent years the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ has become an acceptable excuse to leave the house in a condition that could be described as ’lived-in’.
The theory holds that lack of exposure to common microbes, caused by living in spotless homes, means children’s immune systems do not develop as they should. This could explain large rises in asthma and other allergic conditions, it contends.
First proposed in a British Medical Journal article in 1989, it has almost reached the status of received wisdom.
But now microbiologists say the theory is wrong. A new scientific report, examining more than 20 years of research, concludes the hygiene hypothesis is not supported by the evidence.
Sally Bloomfield, honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said: “The underlying theory that microbial exposure is crucial to regulating the immune system is right.
“But the idea that children who have fewer infections, because of more hygienic homes, are then more likely to develop asthma and other allergies does not hold up.”
She is presenting the report with colleagues today at the national conference of the Infection Prevention Society in Liverpool.
Dr Rosalind Stanwell-Smith, also from the LSHTM, said: “Allergies and chronic inflammatory diseases are serious health issues and it’s time we recognised that simplistically talking about home and personal cleanliness as the cause of the problem is ill-advised.
“It’s diverting attention from finding workable solutions and the true, probably much more complex, causes.”
However, Graham Rook, emeritus professor of medical microbiology at University College London, has proposed an alternative version of the theory.
His ‘Old Friends’ thesis contends that lack of exposure to microbes that have been familiar to humans since the Stone Age is really responsible.
He said modern homes had a less diverse mix of microbes than rural homes of the past. But he said the amount of cleaning we do of the places we now live makes little difference.