Hospital forced to spend £60,000 on golf buggies to ferry disabled patients from its car park after building bungle
Special bays too far away
Health chiefs have splashed out £60,000 on a pair of golf buggies to ferry disabled patients to and from a hospital entrance – after putting blue-badge parking bays too far away from the main entrance.
Bosses at the new £400 million University Hospital of North Staffordshire felt obliged to purchase the electric vehicle after realising patients were being forced to walk ‘unacceptable’ distances.
Concerns were raised after patients with wheelchairs, walking sticks or crutches were seen struggling up to 140 metres to the doors of the new super-hospital, which opened in March.
To qualify for a disabled person’s blue badge, a person must prove they cannot walk more than 50 metres without being in pain.
The hospital confirmed it was spending £60,000 on a pair of the vehicles. A spokesman said: ‘We have been speaking to patients’ groups and residents’ associations and we have found there is an issue. ‘The bays are too far away from the main hospital entrance and it’s not acceptable to expect patients with blue badges for disabled parking to walk.
‘We’ve looked into the issue and found buggies are used in a similar way at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and have been very successful, and we have found some funds to buy two.
‘The idea is they will pick up disabled patients from the edge of the parking area and take them to the main entrance.
‘The hospital site is still in transition and there is further work on car parking to be carried out – but we believe these buggies will help to improve the situation for the time-being.’
Pam Bryan, vice-chairman of Stoke-on-Trent District Disability Network, said: ‘The buggies are better than nothing, but they are not a permanent answer to the problem.
‘There will be questions about what happens if the buggies breakdown, and what sort of times they will be available.
‘It is, however, good to see the hospital taking the situation seriously.’
The hospital is now recruiting for volunteers to help drive the buggies around the complex.
The lazy NHS diagnosis — “stress” — can cause a lot of suffering
Victoria Saxton had just handed in her first essay at Cambridge University when she suddenly developed a stabbing pain in the back of her head. ‘I felt like I had a dagger plunged in the left side of my head,’ she recalls.
‘The pain was radiating across into my eye socket — it felt like my eyeball was being pulled out. I honestly had no idea what was happening to me.’
Paracetamol and ibuprofen failed to touch the pain. Victoria, who was in her first term at university studying theology, had to lie down for three days, relying on friends to bring her food and water.
‘After a few days, I went to see a GP. He said it was muscle tension from the stress of studying — but this diagnosis totally went against personality type for me. I had never been headache-prone, and usually thrived on pressure. I was head girl at my school, and loved responsibility.’
The muscle relaxant the doctor prescribed had no effect, and Victoria’s headaches became progressively debilitating. Sometimes she would have no choice but to spend days at a time in bed.
She was referred to a neurologist, who diagnosed migraine triggered by stress. Over the next five years, she struggled to find a treatment that had any effect on the headaches, with every expert she saw coming to the same conclusion: stress was the cause of the problem.
At one stage, she was even prescribed the antidepressant Prozac to help her cope with it.
‘I found their attitude incredibly patronising, because I would get migraines when I had absolutely nothing to worry about, and had no pressure,’ she says. ‘I’d even get them when I was on holiday.’
Eventually she found a specialist centre and was prescribed drugs that made some difference.
But it wasn’t until last year — 12 years after her symptoms started — that she finally got to the bottom of things after mentioning to her physiotherapist that she’d been suffering numbness in her shoulder and left arm.
An X-ray and CT scan revealed Victoria had damage to vertebrae and discs in her neck and upper back, including a minor spinal fracture. The damage was from a car accident just before her A-levels, but had never been diagnosed.
‘My doctors now believe it was this physical injury that triggered the start of my migraines,’ says Victoria, who lives in Kew, South-West London.
While stress is undoubtedly a factor in exacerbating some illnesses, patients like Victoria feel increasingly frustrated that it is sometimes given as a catch-all diagnosis, when they actually have a very real underlying medical condition that requires proper treatment and medication.
As a result, they can suffer for months or years with the wrong treatment, says Dr Giles Elrington, a consultant neurologist at Barts and the Royal London Hospital, and director of the National Migraine Centre in London.
‘If I had a pound for every patient I see who is told their headache is down to stress, I’d be a rich man,’ he says. ‘Saying headaches are just down to stress won’t do.
‘While stress, or the let-down period after stress, can trigger migraine attacks, it occurs in only 10 per cent of cases.
‘The reality is that there are lots of other triggers, including dehydration, skipping meals, lack of sleep, disruptions to the body clock, poor posture and hormone changes — yet these are often overlooked.’
The problem is by no means limited to migraines. Heart rhythm problems such as atrial fibrillation, diabetes, overactive thyroid, fibromyalgia (a chronic pain condition) and even cancer are among other conditions that can be mistaken as stress, as Lisa Moss was to discover.
When she started suffering sudden tummy pain, diarrhoea and wind, her GP diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome. He advised her to avoid stress — a known trigger for the condition. But her symptoms continued and she lost a stone in a few months, despite eating well. Again, her doctor said the weight loss was likely linked to stress.
‘I was told to persevere with the IBS treatments,’ says Lisa, 49, who lives with her husband Nick and two sons in Southampton.
It was only after her symptoms worsened, a couple of months later, that Lisa was finally sent for an internal investigation — and was devastated to be told that she had bowel cancer.
The lower section of her bowel was removed and she had six months of chemotherapy.
‘It meant I had wasted six months fruitlessly treating IBS, when I really had bowel cancer,’ says Lisa, who still undergoes regular check-ups. Dr Martin Johnson, pain specialist for the Royal College of General Practitioners and a trustee of the Patients Association, says: ‘We’re seeing more patients suffering from stress in our surgeries, and in all the millions we see there are inevitably some who will slip through the net and get given the wrong label.
‘The problem is the interaction between stress and pain is massive. If you look at the area of the brain responsible for stress, anxiety and depression, it is very close to the area responsible for pain. One feeds off the other. For instance, when you’re stressed, your body naturally produces more adrenaline, and this causes physical symptoms such as palpitations and dry mouth.’
Dr David Jones, consultant in rheumatology at the London Bridge Hospital and a specialist in chronic musculo-skeletal pain conditions, including fibromyalgia, agrees that if a patient has complex symptoms that don’t point to an obvious diagnosis, then doctors can wrongly conclude they’re being caused by stress. ‘In my practice, I see patients who have come to a specialist late because they have been all round the houses with their doctor.
‘Their doctors have concentrated on the peripheral symptoms, such as stress and anxiety, without investigating what is making them feel this way.
‘These patients may appear stressed — but they can be stressed because they are coping with the pain of an underlying physical illness.
‘This is partly because there are certain conditions — such as fibromyalgia and migraines, for instance — which can’t be diagnosed with tests or scans, and rely on the patient describing their symptoms.
‘There is still a tendency among some doctors to attribute medically unexplained symptoms to stress, because blood tests and imaging results are normal.’
He says the key to distinguishing between stress and an underlying medical condition is a thorough consultation where the patient describes all their symptoms and gives a timeline of when they started.
When Ann Robinson developed Crohn’s disease — an inflammatory bowel disease — doctors told her it was stress brought on by her mother’s death.
‘I started having constant diarrhoea and my weight dropped from 10 st 5lb [145lb] to less than 9 st in eight months,’ says Ann, 61, who is divorced and from Easington, Yorkshire. ‘My GP said it was the effect of my bereavement and I believed him — and put up with it for years.’
Seven years after her symptoms started, she was rushed to hospital with excruciating stomach pains, and it was discovered that her bowel was diseased. She had to have three bouts of surgery to remove sections of intestine which were blocked, and is still prone to flare-ups.
‘I feel that if Crohn’s disease had been diagnosed earlier and not dismissed as stress, these blockages and the surgery needed afterwards might have been avoided,’ she says.
Sometimes, though, it’s patients who convince themselves their symptoms are stress-related — as 51-year-old Jade Smith discovered.
‘I did have the symptoms of stress, such as irritability, exhaustion, lack of concentration and depression. But, looking back, it was always more than that — I was literally in pain from my head to my toes. I wasn’t able to sit up, let alone stand, for more than half an hour a day. I couldn’t bear noise and my legs kept going into spasm.’
Jade, from Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, saw her GP and was offered antidepressants. She was forced to give up her job as a social worker because of her ill health.
Finally, after many years of pain and fatigue, her GP diagnosed her with fibromyalgia — a condition which causes pain in the muscles, tendons and ligaments, and affects an estimated 1.76 million people.
‘Until that point, I’d believed it was all caused by stress,’ says Jade, who is now in a wheelchair. ‘Stress can be a factor, but fibromyalgia is also a physical illness in its own right. I think too many women are just told they’re stressed and accept it, and it’s not properly investigated.’
Victoria Saxton finally has her migraines under control, with weekly physiotherapy and regular nerve block injections and a prescription for the epilepsy drug Topamax, which is commonly used to treat migraines, too.
‘Finding the right treatment has taken a long time, but now I finally know the underlying physical cause, it’s easier to manage,’ she says. ‘I suspect there are lots of people, like me, who just end up being labelled stressed-out and neurotic, when they actually have a real physical illness.’
The 200 foreign suspects arrested each day by London police: But as figures soar, number of deportations falls
Almost 200 foreign criminal suspects were arrested every day by the country’s largest police force last year.
Just over 72,500 – a third of the total arrested – were held by the Metropolitan Police and questioned about crimes including murder, rape, robbery and fraud.
The figure is up almost a quarter on two years ago when 58,870 non-British suspects were arrested in London.
The rise emerged as Scotland Yard revealed it has drafted in immigration officials to all its 72 custody suites in a drive to target foreigner suspects.
Senior officers are determined to deal more effectively with the huge numbers of foreign nationals clogging up the criminal justice system.
They want UK Border Agency staff to help send home those wanted abroad or who fail to comply with the ‘good behaviour’ conditions of their residence.
But some fear that EU nationals caught and convicted in Britain can simply return to this country after serving their sentences abroad.
The latest figures were revealed in a Freedom of Information request which showed 72,505 foreign suspects were arrested last year in the capital.
This included 79 on suspicion of murder, 708 for rape, 1,863 for robbery, 2,801 for fraud and 2,489 for burglary.
Another 2,742 were arrested because they were wanted by police, 7,524 for shoplifting and 2,516 for drink-driving after crashing their vehicle.
The rising trend is mirrored elsewhere, with the country’s second largest force, West Midlands Police, arresting 11,801 between April 2011 and March this year.
That is an increase of more than half on the previous 12 months when 7,716 foreign suspects were held.
Meanwhile, the number of foreign criminals who were convicted and deported countrywide fell from 5,342 in 2010 to 4,649 in 2011.
Senior police in London believe that at least one of five of the ‘highest harm’ offenders in the capital are non-European nationals who could be deported.
They include violent gangsters, organised criminals involved in fraud and racketeering, and predatory sex offenders.
In some cases, deported criminals have been barred from returning to Britain for up to a decade but there are fears they are able to evade border controls.
Earlier this year, a report warned that dangerous foreign criminals may be slipping through the net even when arrested as police do not carry out basic checks.
The study said officers were failing to ask about previous convictions and demanded a review of checks to ensure the public is not put at risk.
In January, a judge demanded to know why child-rapist Victor Akulic was let into Britain from Lithuania.
After arriving here, he beat and raped a woman.
He had served nine years in his home country for raping a seven-year-old he lured into his house with lemonade.
Labour immigration spokesman Chris Bryant attacked the Government’s record.
He said: ‘It’s successful prosecutions and swift deportations that count.
‘Depressingly, the Tories are removing fewer foreign offenders than before, and more are absconding.
Yet again they’re letting down the police and the public.’
A Met spokesman said the latest drive ‘is not about targeting specific communities but about us targeting criminality’.
A UKBA spokesman said: ‘Those who come to the UK must abide by our laws.
‘We will always seek to deport any foreign criminals as quickly as possible.’
British graduate starting salaries down 13pc over year
Huge competition for graduate jobs has pushed starting salaries down 13pc on average over the past year, bringing further misery to this year’s degree cohort, new research reveals.
Graduates who started new jobs this summer received an average salary of £22,800 – a “marked” 13.2pc less than last year, an analysis of graduate salaries at more than 60 recruiters found.
Ann Swain, chief executive of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCO), which commissioned the study, said: “The slowdown in the professional-recruitment market, combined with the huge number of graduates competing for jobs means that starting salaries have edged downwards markedly this year.”
The survey also shows that permanent job hires fell by 15pc over the past year, as employers increasingly opted to recruit temporary staff as a flexible means of securing labour.
Placements of temporary staff in the UK white-collar jobs market rose by 15pc in the year to September, the survey showed,
APSCO said many UK businesses are turning to temporary workers to kick-start projects that were put on hold during the summer, as many companies scaled back activity due to staff taking time off for holidays and the Olympics.
The banking sector continues to “stutter”, putting permanent hires on hold as management teams scrutinise headcount, the staffing body said.
Elsewhere, a survey by KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation painted a more rosy picture. Permanent placements were beginning to “stabilise” across industries, while temporary hires rose for the second month running, the data showed.
But pay growth remains muted as the number of candidates looking for roles increases, with the economy remaining “fragile”, KPMG said.
Bernard Brown, partner at KPMG, said: “The jobs market cannot be viewed in isolation as any sustainable improvement in employment remains dependent on the growth of the economy as a whole.
“While some parts of the country may be showing signs of recovery, others are lagging behind and until an upward trajectory is seen across the whole of the UK, the jobs market will remain fragile with warnings to ‘handle with care’.”
Meanwhile, a survey of over 1,000 engineers in the UK reveals over half have lost confidence in government policy towards the industry, with a similar number sceptical that companies will continue to invest locally.
The findings, from recruiter Matchtech, reveal three-quarters think not enough is being done to encourage innovation in the UK and two thirds do not feel confident the UK will be a world-leader in engineering in future.
BBC faces its rottenness at last
George Entwistle, the BBC Director-General, has confirmed the corporation will hold an internal inquiry into the Jimmy Savile abuse allegations and a toxic culture of impunity among presenters during the 1970s and 1980s.
In an interview with the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Entwistle said he would “Take it further and ensure that any outstanding questions are answered properly.”
There was, he said, an “enormous obligation” on staff members who had evidence of Savile’s abuse of children to come forward.
He apologised on behalf of the BBC for the allegations initially made in an ITV documentary last week, which have since seen tens of women come forward with accounts of molestation and assault at the hands of the deceased Top of the Pops and Radio 1 presenter.
Entwistle said: “These are awful allegations that have been made, and they are criminal allegations. The women involved here have gone through something awful, and something I deeply regret they have had to go through.
“I would should like to apologise on behalf of each and every one of them.”
He added that the police investigation currently underway would have to be completed before the BBC began an internal inquiry into how Savile was allegedly able to molest children on its premises.
“We need a comprehensive examination of what went on here. At the heart of what went on are a series of criminal allegations about the behaviour of Sir Jimmy Savile,” he said.
“The way to deal with those is to make sure the police, who are the only properly constituted authority for dealing with criminal investigations are allowed to make the enquiries they need to make.”
It was, he emphasised, “Critically important that we put the BBC at the disposal of the police.”
George Entwistle has been Director-General of the BBC for less than a month, and was formerly head of BBC Vision.
His handling of the Savile allegations and complaints by female presenters will be seen as the first real test as head of the corporation.
Entwistle conceded that his scope was limited during the criminal investigation, and said: “The BBC does not have the capacity to compel people who no longer work for it to give interviews… or to secure evidence forensically.”
“It is vital we do nothing that would compromise a criminal examination of events.”
Maternity leave is ‘burden’ on women
Sheila Lawlor, director of think tank Politeia, says maternity pay is a ‘great burden’ on women and businesses in the UK and should be scrapped – or few women will ever reach the boardrooom.
Conservative support from women voters has been slipping, despite the raft of family-friendly measures with which the Coalition has continued where Labour led.
“Family-friendly” has become a cliché for a direction of political travel, which politicians have accustomed the voters to expect. So it would be a brave politician who questioned the most well-established plank of family-friendly policy – maternity leave.
Under present UK law, women who give birth can take up to a year’s maternity leave, for six weeks of which they are paid 90pc of their usual salary, though after that the rules vary and it’s around £135 a week or less.
However, maternity leave is creating a great burden on many women and businesses. The legislation puts employers off employing women. Companies are reluctant to give jobs to women of childbearing age.
We have to abandon what is wrongly called ‘family -friendly’ legislation, including the sole option maternity leave.
Most ordinary women in most ordinary jobs do badly when they take advantage of family-friendly legislation. It takes longer for them to catch up on earnings when they return and they don’t accrue pension rights while they are away.
Yet the PR still paints a pretty picture. A happy new mother “visiting” work with an adorable baby during leave, then returning full- time, supported by the family-friendly state to live in Scandanavian-type serenity. But the reality is often very different.
The mother abandons her job for a fixed term. Her income probably falls sharply after the first six weeks. She returns to work, bolstered, she thinks, by the option of seeking parental leave or “flexi time”, and in-work tax credits if on low pay.
But these statutory provisions and benefits create a perverse incentive in the short term to return to work against what may be longer term interests.
The decision to return to work or not is difficult and individual: personal inclination, family income, circumstances, job, costs at home and of childcare. No blanket bureaucratic rule of work-life balance can cater for individual circumstance.
The care of a young child is particularly worrying for the mother and she should be left to reach such a decision without being bribed or influenced by a highly politicised culture. If she decides to go along with that culture she may be poorer in the short and longer term.
She has lost out on experience and on pension, and when back at work catching up she must add the worries of caring for her vulnerable baby. Pay and promotion prospects may well not match those of colleagues who have not been away. She may even have to change from full time to part time work.
The evidence is that the hourly pay of mothers with dependent children is less than that of working fathers, compared with what they had before their children. After each birth women returning to work have low wage growth, and the pay difference does not start to shrink for 15 years.
Family-friendly law is really family and female-unfriendly. Current arrangements at maternity too often lead to a downward spiral of earnings and career, a life of near-dependency on the state for top-ups of one sort or another and probably an impoverished old age.
Why not offer those new mothers who don’t want to return to work right away or a year’s maternity package, the chance of a career break instead to coincide with their children’s early years, with retraining for work once the youngest goes to school –a pattern used for many female GPs?
The Government must steel itself against the short-term solution and the escalating demands from the leftist lobby, including the latest EU plan for female boardroom quotas.
These lead to short-term fixes which can be bad for women, short and long term.
The Conservatives are a party of the long term: working lives will be longer; tax and benefit systems must take account of different career patterns; above all women must be treated as individuals with long term interests – with lives, families and yes, jobs, which should enrich rather than impoverish them over the longer term.
Must not mock Muslim prayer — British sports commenter discovers
Gary Lineker has been forced to apologise after accidentally ridiculing two Muslim footballers during a match commentary on TV.
When the players celebrated a goal by dropping to their knees and bowing their heads in the Islamic prayer position, Lineker said they ‘ate grass’.
The gesture is often used by Muslim players to celebrate.
He was commentating on Al Jazeera TV, which is mainly aimed at audiences in the Middle East and has a huge Islamic audience.
Lineker, who is one of the BBC’s biggest faces in sport, has a clause in his contract that allows him to freelance for the other channel.
The gaffe was made during Wednesday night’s Champions League game between Schalke and Montpellier when discussing the French side’s opening goal. He said: ‘A terrific effort from Karim Ait-Fana, who scored from just outside the area and then ate grass …. as you do.’
One viewer wrote on Twitter: ‘Lineker’s comment about Muslims [is a] very stupid remark and [one of] sheer ignorance.’
There seems to be no such thing as an Islamic sense of humor