Bullying, cowardly doctors left my baby to die like an abandoned animal, says grieving mother
Above is the little girl that the things who call themselves NHS doctors couldn’t be bothered with
A mother has described how her baby was left to die ‘like an abandoned animal’ after hospital doctors repeatedly ignored her desperate pleas for help. Paula Stevenson begged doctors to act as her one-year-old daughter Hayley struggled to breathe in the days after a major heart operation.
She was so desperate she even tried ‘bribing’ a nurse with a £100 shopping voucher to give Hayley the attention she needed. Instead, hospital staff ‘humiliated and belittled’ her – treating her like a ‘nuisance’ for speaking up, she said.
Tragically, Mrs Stevenson’s maternal instinct was proven right when Hayley died of heart failure after both her lungs collapsed under the hospital’s watch.
Yesterday, as an inquest into her death concluded, a coroner said there had been ‘serious failings’ in Hayley’s care. Birmingham Children’s Hospital admitted full liability for her ‘avoidable’ death.
Speaking after the hearing, a defiant Miss Stevenson fought back tears while clutching a pink framed photograph of her daughter to her chest. Calling the doctors who treated her daughter ‘bullies, cowards and hypocrites’, she said: ‘Hayley died like an abandoned animal.’
Hayley was born with a blockage preventing blood from travelling from her heart to her lungs. She was operated on after her birth on October 6, 2008, for a hole in the heart but required another operation when she was a year old.
Miss Stevenson and her partner Bob Fullerton decided to have the second operation performed at the Children’s Hospital in October the following year on the basis it was a respected centre of paediatric cardiac care.
Miss Stevenson said: ‘Our entire family has been completely devastated by what happened and to this day we continue to grieve for Hayley.
‘I still cannot understand how trained medics could ignore the fact that she was slowly deteriorating before their eyes. We predicted Hayley was going to die but everyone – all these experts – ignored us. ‘It is common sense. Who knows a child better than anyone else? The parent.’
Recording a narrative verdict, Birmingham coroner Aidan Cotter said doctors should have seen the warning signs when Hayley was still dependant on oxygen almost a month after her operation.
Doctors failed to update her medical charts, were slow to look at X-rays and failed to refer Hayley to intensive care when her condition worsened.
Mr Cotter said these failures were ‘of the greatest concern’ but stopped short of declaring that doctors’ neglect had caused Hayley’s death. ‘Nobody will ever know whether Hayley would have made a successful recovery,’ the coroner added.
‘However it is indisputable that Hayley would have had a better chance of survival if she had been referred to the paediatric intensive care unit on November 9.’
Miss Stevenson, 40, who now lives in Australia with Mr Fullerton and 19-month-old daughter Casey, said she was unhappy with the verdict, adding that her daughter had been failed ‘abominably’.
She met Mr Fullerton, an Australian, in Germany in 1992 and they later settled on Australia’s Gold Coast.
When Miss Stevenson found out she was pregnant she flew to Northern Ireland to visit her family. During this visit doctors diagnosed her unborn baby with a heart condition and she decided to remain for the birth in Belfast.
Miss Stevenson is now calling for the NHS to set up rapid response teams to give patients’ families a right to an urgent second opinion. She has designed a campaign website in Hayley’s memory – Hayley’s Early Awareness Lifeline at http://www.heal-trust.org
She reasons that, if a child falls ill outside a hospital and you dial 999, no one queries the need for urgent help – so the same should apply in hospital.
In an internal review of Hayley’s death, the NHS found a ‘hierarchy’ among medics deterred junior staff from referring Hayley back to a paediatric intensive care unit in the days before she died.
A spokesman for Birmingham Children’s Hospital said: ‘When Hayley died we recognised some of her care fell below our usual high standards… We’ve gone beyond the recommendations of our investigation and improved the way we do things to ensure that no children or families experience anything like this again.’
Law firm Irwin Mitchell, which is representing the family, said Hayley’s death had been ‘tragic and avoidable’ and that the family were planning to sue the trust.
A little man misuses the little power given to him — with a tragic outcome
It’s all so British. Britain is such a frustrating place with its myriad of formal and informal rules and regulations that anyone given any power or responsibility — whether in private business or in government — will tend to boost his feelings of personal power by using even small powers given to him by his job to hurt or inconvenience others.
Getting the attention of a British shop assistant is a classic case. When you walk in they treat you as invisible for as long as possible. I had my own very unBritish way of dealing with that when I was in Britain. I used to say in a loud voice: “I hate being invisible”. That was such a shock — no Briton would do it — that I immediately got very good if resentful attention.
So the train guard below was actually normal. He just misjudged the effect of his little act of bastardry. I have experienced much the same from British train guards myself. If you are slow to get on they just signal a departure anyway. Fortunately I was not drunk so the only adverse effect was that I missed my train — no doubt to the quiet glee of the guard concerned
A railway guard found guilty of manslaughter following the death of a teenage girl who fell under a train was jailed for five years today.
Christopher McGee, 45, took a ‘terrible risk’ by giving the signal for the driver to depart as Georgia Varley, 16, was leaning against the carriage, a judge said.
The sixth-form college student, who was drunk on a night out in Liverpool with friends, fell between the train and the platform at the city’s James Street station in October last year as a result of McGee’s ‘appalling disregard for her safety’, a court heard.
Georgia, who was leaning against the train when the railway guard gave the signal for it to leave, was seen to stagger and fall into the gap as it moved away from the platform.
McGee was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence following a two week trial at Liverpool Crown Court.
Jailing McGee for five years today, Mr Justice Holroyde said: ‘You did not intend to kill or even injure her, but you displayed an appalling disregard for her safety and she paid for your criminal negligence with her life.’
Passing sentence, the judge said: ‘In my judgement, the CCTV footage is unequivocal, Georgia Varley was not moving away and she was not showing any sign of moving away. ‘She only moved when the movement of the train deprived her of support and caused her to lose balance and fall to her death.
‘I am satisfied that you merely hoped and assumed she would get out of the way when the train began to move, and on that wholly inadequate basis you took a terrible risk,’ he added. ‘You must have known that a passenger who falls between the train and the platform is likely to be killed,’ he told the defendant.
‘As the guard of the train, you were in complete control of the movement of the train. That control carries with it the direct and personal responsibility for the safety of passengers.’
Georgia, from Moreton, Wirral, had gone into Liverpool for a night out with her friends when the incident happened on October 22 last year. A blood analysis following her death showed she had 236mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in her system – the legal driving limit is 80mg. She also had 0.083mg of the drug mephedrone, or Mcat, in her system at the time of her death.
The jury was shown shocking CCTV footage of the teenager’s death.
Georgia was seen mistakenly getting off the train just before 11.30pm, and then turning around and leaning against the side as she realised her friends were still on board.
The Birkenhead Sixth Form College student was then seen to stagger and fall down the gap as the train moved off, before stopping after travelling around 30ft.
Mr Justice Holroyde told the defendant today: ‘Much has been made on your behalf during this trial of how intoxicated Georgia was, but that did not relieve you of the duty of care which you owed to her.
‘You alone determined whether the train remained stationary or began to move. Your decision and your action determined whether Georgia Varley was safe from risk.’
The judge, who pointed out that McGee had been ‘repeatedly trained and instructed’ in safety matters during his career with Merseyrail, described the suffering of Miss Varley’s family in the wake of the tragedy. ‘When a crime of homicide is committed, one life is ended but many more lives are damaged or destroyed,’ he said.
Peer’s revenge over Twitter slurs: McAlpine will sue internet gossips
Whether on Twitter or anywhere else, those who make defamatory allegations need to be able to show the truth of them
Lord McAlpine is taking landmark legal action against internet gossips who falsely branded him a paedophile.
Lawyers for the Tory peer warned Twitter users ‘we know who you are’ and urged them to come forward voluntarily or face being pursued through the courts.
His action is intended to stop so-called ‘trial by Twitter’ and, if successful, could radically change the way the internet is policed and make those using social networks more directly accountable for defamatory comments.
Lord McAlpine, the former Tory party treasurer wrongly accused of being a child abuser following a botched Newsnight report, yesterday agreed a £185,000 compensation settlement with the BBC – funded by licence-payers.
ITV’s This Morning and Sally Bercow, wife of the House of Commons Speaker and a prolific Twitter user, were next in the firing line.
Lord McAlpine’s lawyer Andrew Reid said those suspected of defaming the peer would receive a letter before action was taken telling them they had 48 hours to respond. He said there was a ‘very long list’ of people to whom letters would be sent.
Lord McAlpine, 70, said no amount of compensation could repair the damage to his reputation from being branded a paedophile. He told the BBC: ‘There is nothing as bad as this that you can do to people.’
Describing his revulsion at the false accusations, the former Thatcher aide said: ‘It gets into your bones, it makes you angry. And it gets into your soul. You just think there’s something wrong with the world.’
The fiasco began on Twitter when Iain Overton, managing editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which jointly produced the Newsnight report, sent a Twitter message saying: ‘If all goes well we’ve got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile.’
The message prompted a maelstrom of internet speculation about the man’s identity, despite Newsnight’s decision not to broadcast a name that night, November 2.
On November 4, Mrs Bercow tweeted, ‘Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*’, a reference to the fact the peer’s name was being repeatedly mentioned on Twitter.
Mr Reid told Radio 4’s World At One programme: ‘Very sadly, we are going to have to take action against a lot of people. The next person on our list is in fact the This Morning programme, run by ITV, where Phillip Schofield managed to embarrass the Prime Minister… and then destroy my client’s reputation.’
Schofield confronted David Cameron with a supposed list of paedophiles live on air last week.
The Newsnight investigation into child sex allegations at the Bryn Estyn children’s home in North Wales in the 1970s was a joint project with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which is also being sued by Lord McAlpine.
Neither organisation contacted the peer to allow him to respond to allegations he was involved in the abuse.
BBC director general George Entwistle resigned over the fiasco and Mr Overton quit his job over his disastrous Twitter message.
Lord McAlpine’s lawyers said anyone who had made allegations on social media should contact them or face a legal battle. Mr Reid said: ‘Let it be a lesson to everybody that trial by Twitter or trial by the internet is a very nasty way of hurting people unnecessarily and it will cost people a lot of money.’
British regulator to ‘root out’ failing councils in new standards drive
(Most State schools in Britain are still run by local authorities)
Education inspectors are to launch a fresh crackdown on failing councils and chains of academy schools amid growing fears over a postcode lottery in standards.
Ofsted is drafting in a new wave of regional directors in January as part of a major drive to “iron out” chronic underperformance in some towns and cities. Under the plans, inspectors will identify local authorities with a persistently poor record of running schools.
The watchdog will also focus on chains of independent academies – run by third party sponsors with complete freedom from council control – amid fears their performance may be going unchecked.
Institutions with the lowest standards will be shopped to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, who has the power to intervene if problems persist.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, said the English education system would continue to lag behind rivals in other countries until “the big regional variations are ironed out”. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he said: “There are regional differences that need to be addressed if we are going to move towards a world-class system. “With this regional structure, we will hold local authorities, academy chains and diocesan authorities and governance in general to account.”
The comments came as new figures exposed the vast gulf in standards between England’s 152 local authorities.
Data published following a Parliamentary question shows that in some areas fewer than one-in-five children currently leave school with decent GCSEs in the core “English Baccalaureate” subjects – English, maths, science, languages and history or geography.
Last year, just 3.2 per cent of pupils gained A*-C grades in Knowsley, Merseyside, while as few as 4.9 per cent hit the target in nearby Halton. Standards were as low as 4.7 per cent in Sandwell in the West Midlands and 4.9 per cent in the London borough of Barking and Dagenham.
In a further 28 council areas, fewer than one-in-10 pupils gained good grades in the core subjects, it emerged.
Nationally, 15.4 per cent of teenagers hit the target, rising to around a third in the best-performing areas such as Buckinghamshire and the London boroughs of Barnet, Kingston-upon-Thames and Sutton.
Chris Skidmore, the Conservative MP for Kingswood, and a member of the Commons education select committee, who obtained the data, said: “These figures demonstrate that there are local authorities failing some of the most disadvantaged pupils in achieving what is becoming the minimum standard for a school education. “Every pupil, regardless of where they grow up, should be given the opportunity to succeed, and it is clear that this is not happening.”
From January, Ofsted will draft in eight regional directors covering the North East, North West, East Midlands, West Midlands, East of England, South East, London and the South West.
Each one – reporting directly to Sir Michael – will lead a team of inspectors tasked with rooting out councils, large-scale chains of academies or faith groups suspected of failing to properly support schools.
Although Ofsted does not routinely inspect these institutions, Sir Michael insisted that area-wide problems would be reported to the Education Secretary who can then order the watchdog to carry out a full probe.
Sir Michael will raise further concerns over regional variations in education standards in his first Ofsted annual report, to be published later this month.
Speaking to the Telegraph, he said: “We need to look behind what’s happening in individual institutions to see whether there is an issue with governance… Is the governance at the local authority good enough? Is the governance by academy chains good enough?
“If we identify particular issues in a local area, I think it is important that we talk to the Secretary of State about it.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Sir Michael is right – standards in some local authorities are simply not good enough. We are working with them to turn round poor performance in their schools.
“We are identifying consistently weak schools and allowing experienced academy sponsors to take them over. The best way to turn round these schools is the strong external challenge and support from an academy sponsor.
“Academies have already turned around hundreds of struggling secondary schools across the country and are improving their results at twice the national average.
“As with maintained schools, if academies do not make the progress we expect, we take further action. This may result in a change to the sponsorship arrangements.”
Test case could dictate admissions policy in British faith schools
New faith schools could be forced to admit pupils from non-religious backgrounds if a judicial review currently being heard in the High Court is successful.
Campaigners have brought a legal challenge against Richmond Council, claiming that in approving two new Catholic schools it had broken the law and discriminated against non-Catholic children.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) and a group of local activists, including parents, argue that all new state schools in the London borough should have religiously inclusive admissions policies.
They say they want to halt the “back-door” spread of new religious state schools in England.
If successful, it could mean that traditional faith schools that cater only for believers, could no longer be opened by a local authority without first seeking proposals from those wishing to establish an academy.
A faith academy would be required to reserve at least 50 per cent of places for non-religious pupils if oversubscribed.
The BHA is fighting to overturn the council’s decision to offer a new £8.4 million site to the Catholic Diocese of Westminster to be used for one primary school and one secondary, which are due to open next September.
It says that the council breached a new law introduced earlier this year which states that if a local authority believes a new school is needed, it must seek proposals from groups wanting to set up free schools or academies.
If there are no suitable proposals, local authorities can the open up the competition to include other types of schools.
However, the Department of Education insists that it is possible to open new faith schools outside of such competitive arrangements. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has personally intervened in the case to back the council.
The council said that 67 per cent of parents and residents who responded to a consultation on its plans were in favour of them. There is no Catholic secondary school in the area and the Church insists it is responding to local demand.
Cllr Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, has accused the BHA and Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) of using local children as “play thing in their ideological campaign to stop church schools”.
But Andrew Copson, chief executive of the BHA, said the case reflected “a disturbing national pattern”, in which religious groups were being given preferential treatment by local councils through “back-door proposals”.
He said outside the High Court: “Victory here would hopefully set a precedent and level the playing field on which proposals to establish schools are treated equally, with the same level of scrutiny, whether religious or not.
Voluntary aided faith schools can select pupils solely on the basis of their faith. In Richmond, the new primary school plans to allocate two thirds of its places to Catholics while at the secondary, all places will be selected based on religion.
The two-day judicial review, which represents the first time the new law has been tested, is due to end on Friday.
Drinking even small amounts of alcohol while pregnant ‘can affect child’s IQ’
Boring. Just the old class effect again — with (smarter) middle class mothers more likely to abstain completely
Even small amounts of alcohol consumed during pregnancy can adversely impact the IQ of a child, new research shows.
Drinking by pregnant women has been a controversial topic, with no scientific unanimity. While some experts propagate total abstinence from alcohol, others have favoured moderate consumption
The new study, which used a genetic approach to study the impact of alcohol, has concluded that children whose mothers consumed alcohol during pregnancy had lower IQ when they were eight, compared to kids who were not exposed to any alcohol in the womb.
Researchers from the universities of Bristol and Oxford used data from over 4,000 mothers and their children to arrive at the conclusion. The study will be published in scientific journal PLOS ONE on Thursday.
In order to separate the impact of alcohol from other lifestyle factors such as smoking and diet, the researchers used genetic data.
They found that four genetic variants in alcohol-metabolising genes among 4,167 children studied were strongly related to lower IQ at age eight.
There was no effect seen in children whose mothers abstained during pregnancy, Dr Ron Gray from University of Oxford who led the research said.
When a person drinks alcohol, ethanol is converted to acetaldehyde by enzymes.
Variations in the genes that ‘encode’ these enzymes lead to differences in the ability to metabolise ethanol. In ‘slow metabolisers’, peak alcohol levels may be higher and persist for longer than in fast metabolisers’, scientists explained.
It is believed that the fast’ metabolism protects against abnormal brain development in infants because less alcohol is delivered to the fetus
New vaccine against most deadly strain of meningitis could soon be offered to all babies
The first vaccine to offer broad protection against meningitis B is to be licensed for use in the UK, drastically reducing the number of children killed by the disease.
There are 1,870 cases of meningitis B in the UK on average each year, resulting in up to 200 deaths – half of which occur in the under-fives.
As many as 400 children a year are also left with serious lifelong complications such as limb amputations, blindness, deafness and brain damage.
Although vaccination programmes have been successfully introduced to combat other strains of meningitis, no vaccine against the B strain currently exists in this country.
Meningococcal B is the most common form of bacterial meningitis in Britain, one of the most deadly, and the one that poses the toughest challenge to develop a vaccine for because there are so many variations to target.
Bexsero is the first vaccine providing broad protection against 800 deadly meningococcal B strains which, in some cases, can kill within hours.
The European Medicines Agency, a drug regulatory body which covers the UK, issued a ‘positive opinion’ on Bexsero yesterday, which means it is safe and effective.
This is the first step in an approval process that should result in the jab, developed by Novartis, being licensed within three months.
But the critical decision on whether it will become part of the routine NHS immunisation programme for babies and children lies with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises the Government.
It will consider factors such as price, cost-effectiveness and compatibility with other childhood vaccines. The last major vaccine against meningitis – the pneumococcal vaccine – took five years to be introduced into the immunisation schedule.
Steve Dayman, founder of the Meningitis UK charity who lost his baby Spencer to meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia in 1982, said: ‘This is a landmark moment in the fight against meningitis. I have waited three decades to hear this along with many other families who have supported the cause.
‘It is vital that the vaccine is introduced in the UK immunisation schedule as soon as possible.
‘It will save countless lives and prevent many people enduring the suffering caused by this devastating disease. We will be campaigning hard to make the Government introduce it.’
Andrin Oswald, of Novartis, said the company was already in discussions with the Government and warned: ‘Every year of delay in a country like Britain costs the lives of dozens more children who do not have to die – a sense of urgency is appropriate.’
In trials involving 7,500 children, adolescents and adults, the vaccine, which can be used for babies aged two months and older, produced antibodies against 77 per cent of strains.
Sue Davie, chief executive of the Meningitis Trust charity, said: ‘We see the devastation that meningitis continues to cause to victims and their families, tearing lives apart in a matter of hours.
‘This vaccine could save many lives every year, but it could also save the long-term suffering that many survivors face after the disease.’
But she warned that people must not become complacent as, even if Bexsero is introduced, people are still not protected from all types of meningitis.
She said: ‘It’s vital that everyone makes themselves aware of the signs and symptoms and remains vigilant.’
Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said: ‘The independent expert group on vaccines that advises the Government is currently looking at use of this vaccine and will provide advice in due course.’
Britain’s Green Deal ‘in tatters’ as no-one registers
The launch of the Coalition’s flagship green energy project is “in tatters” after a Government minister admitted that not a single household has yet registered for the deal.
The Green Deal encourages homeowners to take out a loan to make their house more energy-efficient. The project goes live in 10 weeks but households have had since October 1 to have their home assessed for the scheme prior to its launch.
However Greg Barker, the climate change minister, has admitted that “no assessments have yet been lodged” on the Government’s official register by homeowners.
Luciana Berger, the shadow climate change minister, described the Green Deal as a “shambles” and said its launch is “lying in tatters”. The Coalition hopes that owners of up to 14 million draughty homes will sign up to the scheme.
Last night the energy industry called on the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to launch an urgent marketing campaign to alert homeowners to the scheme.
Angel Knight, the head of Energy UK, which represents energy companies, said that members of the public are simply unaware of the Green Deal: “If you ask people what they think of the Green Deal they will say ‘I don’t know what it means, will you tell me about it?’”
Mr Barker made the disclosure in an answer to a parliamentary question by Ms Berger. She asked him how many in-house assessments have been carried out since that part of the scheme launched at the start of October.
Mr Barker answered: “Green Deal assessments are completed when they have been conducted in the property and the results are lodged on the Energy Performance Certificate register, through software developed specifically for occupancy assessments. While we understand a number of appointments for the in-property assessments have been made, no assessments have yet been lodged on the register.”
The Green Deal is the Government’s flagship policy to make homes more energy efficient and – ultimately – cut energy bills, which have soared in recent years. This week British Gas raised prices for the 10 million homes it supplies, and other large companies have done the same.
Under the Green Deal people can borrow up to £10,000 from a private sector loan provider and have loft and wall insulation fitted in their homes. The loan is repaid over a period of up to 25 years through higher bills. The idea is that bills will fall once the loan has been paid off because the houses need less energy.
Central to the deal is the ‘golden rule’, which states that the expected savings that a homeowner ultimately makes must be equal to or greater than the cost of the work being done.
Speaking in June 2011, Mr Barker said that the Green Deal would be “the biggest home improvement programme since the Second World War”.
Homeowners could book an assessment from October 1 and the scheme actually launches on January 28. However the slow start has made people nervous.
In an effort to kick-start interest, DECC last month announced a £125 million ‘cashback’ scheme, offering homes up to £1,000 if they sign up as ‘early adopters’.
Ms Berger said that homeowners are being put off by the Deal’s complicated finance arrangements: “The scheme had the potential to create thousands of jobs and help everyone lower their energy bills. Instead bungling ministers have squandered this opportunity by designing a scheme that is a bad deal for the public and doing nothing to promote it.”
As well as lack of interest from homeowners, building companies are also shying away from getting involved.
According to the Federation of Master Builders, the UK’s biggest building trade body, only one firm from its 10,000-strong membership has signed up to become an accredited Green Deal installer.
Brian Berry, the chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “Only one building company [that is a FMB member] has signed up to become an installer out of 10,000 because that demonstrates the lack of a market.”
The Government’s official register of Green Deal installers, providers and assessors – including non-FMB members – shows that just under 300 companies have signed up to be involved.