Alzheimer’s patient found alone in freezing weather 19 miles away from hospital after being discharged at 5am
An Alzheimer’s patient who was discharged from hospital at 5am in freezing temperatures was found when he knocked on a stranger’s door 19 miles away and pleaded to come in from the cold.
The family of Michael Clement, 68, who suffers severe Alzheimer’s, have accused health staff of ‘disgusting’ incompetence after the pensioner went missing for 23 hours. His disappearance left his frantic family scouring the streets looking for him and triggered a desperate police helicopter and sniffer dog search.
The grandfather, from Thamesmead in Kent, had been admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Woolwich, London, suffering from dehydration.
But members of Mr Clement’s family have accused hospital staff of discharging him at 5.19am on December 7 without a coat, money or his relatives being contacted.
He was in the early hours of December 8 after he knocked on a door in Sutton and told the homeowner: ‘I’m cold, can I come in?’
His daughter-in-law Michaela Curren told MailOnline: ‘We were worried sick. ‘We were driving around looking for him and the whole family was out searching. ‘The hospital said that they offered him transport and he refused it.
‘But he was in a couple of weeks previously and family had been called and it must be all over his medical records that he has Alzheimer’s.
‘We’re never going to know how he got where he did and it was freezing. Who knows how many doors he knocked on at that hour before someone answered. ‘He had food on him so someone must have bought him food at some stage.
‘When we had a call from the police saying he’d been found, we were shouting and screaming, if you can imagine what was going through our minds, it was such a relief he’d been found.’
Mrs Curren said that the family were overwhelmed with the support they received while searching for her father-in-law. Mr Clement’s picture was circulated across social networking sites and hourly pleas for help to find him were played out on radio stations.
An Alzheimer’s sufferer for five years, Mr Curran had been able to live alone before he went missing but is now being cared for by family members, according to Mrs Curren.
Mrs Curren says that the family wish to take the matter further but are awaiting forms from the NHS Trust that runs the hospital to make a formal complaint.
The hospital confirmed that an investigation into the matter is now underway.
A spokesman for the South London Healthcare Trust, which runs the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said today: ‘We are investigating the circumstances around the discharge of Mr Clement from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital last weekend. ‘Mr Clement unfortunately left the hospital before arrangements for his travel home had been completed.
‘We worked with the family and the police to try and locate Mr Clement.’
Out-of-hours care, the shocking truth: Lives at risk as cash squeeze leaves private firms begging GPs to work
The terrifying state of out-of-hours GP services responsible for the care of millions of patients is laid bare today.
Private firms are so short-staffed they are sending out ‘mayday’ text messages to doctors begging them to work shifts at the last minute. One firm, Harmoni – responsible for the out-of-hours care of eight million patients – has been offering locum doctors extra cash to come in immediately.
An out-of-hours doctor from Harmoni has been accused of turning up at a patient’s home so drunk that he could not speak. And at least one baby has died after a doctor working at Harmoni sent her home with an inhaler having failed to realise she was suffering from whooping cough.
Senior doctors say the budgets of NHS out-of-hours services have been ‘squeezed’ to the extent they can no longer afford to pay enough doctors to cover shifts. They warn that if the health service continues to slash its spending, patients will be put at risk.
The claims were revealed in the Guardian newspaper yesterday. Harmoni, Britain’s largest out-of-hours provider, covers 20 Primary Care Trusts mainly in the South and East.
Since the beginning of this month, it has sent a series of text messages to locum doctors on its books which begin ‘help’, ‘very desperate’ or ‘urgent cover needed tonight’ in north central London.
Some summon doctors to its call centres immediately to speak to patients and assess the severity of their illness over the phone.
Others give them just six hours’ notice to cover evening shifts at out-of-hours clinics run at hospitals.
A former clinical chief at the company, Dr Fred Kavalier, who left in January 2011, is reported to have quit over concerns that Harmoni’s out-of-hours care had become unsafe. He is said to have warned in his resignation letter: ‘I fear it is only a matter of time before this low level of service leads to a serious clinical incident.’
Laurence Buckman, of the British Medical Association, said out-of-hours services across the country had been ‘squeezed’ over the past few years.
He said that there was a shortage of locum GPs willing to cover evening and weekend work as NHS trusts could not afford to pay them high enough rates.
Freedom of information requests by the Mail have uncovered that a quarter of Primary Care Trusts, which are responsible for GP services, have slashed their out-of-hours budgets over the past year.
One, NHS Cornwall, at least once employed a single doctor to look after 500,000 patients overnight.
Dr Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, said: ‘I have concerns about the way all out-of-hours services are being squeezed. They and the NHS are under terrific pressure to save money.
‘As you turn the screw downwards on money you reach a point where people don’t want to do the work. ‘It’s unsociable hours, it can be very demanding depending on where you are. ‘You reach a point where you’re not paying enough to get people to do the unsociable hours.
‘There’s a point when if you try to save any more money you’re actually going to harm patients.
‘I don’t believe Harmoni is in that position but I think we are heading for one squeeze too many.’
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Seeking to unreasonably cut costs will have a detrimental effect on the care that patients receive.
‘If the quality of that provision is not properly monitored and regulated we could see whole pockets of patients around the country being let down.’
The standard of out-of-hours care has been under scrutiny ever since 2004 when a new contract enabled GPs to opt out of working evenings and weekends.
Many trusts have since outsourced this work to private firms which hire locum – or temporary – doctors to fill the shifts.
But there is concern that some firms are inclined to hire only a skeleton staff to maximise profits.
Out-of-hours providers have also been found to be employing doctors from overseas without checking they have the necessary medical skills or can even speak English.
In 2008, pensioner David Gray died after a German GP, Daniel Ubani, gave him ten times the recommended dose of a painkiller.
Harmoni was set up in 2005 by a group of GPs in north-west London.
It rapidly expanded and has since taken over out-of-hours care in counties including Buckinghamshire, Suffolk, Hampshire and Warwickshire.
The company now makes £100million a year from its NHS contracts. Last month it was bought by another private firm, Care UK, which mainly runs care homes, for £48million.
A Harmoni spokesman said: ‘Harmoni categorically refutes that our out-of-hours services in North Central London have been or are currently short staffed, or that our North Central London service is unsafe.
‘Our safety record, incidents, complaints, response times to patients and rota fills all show that the service is safely run.
‘As an organisation, we will never compromise clinical safety and our performance is reviewed daily. At no point has it been the case that there were no overnight clinicians available to see patients or to make home visits.’
‘Back-to-basics’ grammar tests for British 11-year-olds revealed
New spelling, punctuation and grammar tests for 11-year-old pupils as well as proposed plans for a new higher maths qualification have been revealed today as part of Michael Gove’s plans to improve literacy and numeracy in schools.
A new ‘back-to-basics’ test of spelling, punctuation and grammar to be sat by up to 600,000 primary school students from next summer was unveiled today by the Department for Education.
The new test will consist of one 45-minute grammar exam and one 15-minute spelling assessment. It will replace the discredited written component of national curriculum tests – known as Sats – sat by 11-year-old pupils, which was scrapped in 2011.
The move is a key part of Michael Gove’s ongoing education reforms to improve literacy among school pupils. Primary school results released last week showed nearly 500 schools had missed targets for the ‘three Rs’.
The writing composition Sats test was scrapped in 2011 because of concerns over inconsistent marking and fears young children struggled to come up with creative prose under formal test conditions.
The new exam, which is more focused, will assess pupils on correct use of punctuation, appropriate grammar usage including knowledge of nouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions and the correct use of tenses and pronouns such as “I” and “me”. The tests will form part of the ‘writing’ component of Sats alongside existing teacher assessments of pupils’ written composition skills.
The grammar component will test pupils on their understanding of principles such as where to insert commas in a sentence, how to use colons and semicolons correctly, and when to use personal, relative and possessive pronouns.
The spelling assessment will ask pupils to correctly spell commonly misspelt words such as permanent, preferred and desperately.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The new, rigorous spelling, punctuation and grammar tests will drive up standards in primary schools.
“Too little attention has been given to these core skills. It is vital that pupils are confident in key writing techniques.
It was also revealed that key GCSE subjects will be revamped to include specific marks allocated for correct spelling, punctuation and grammar.
The reforms are part of the Department for Education’s efforts to address concerns from universities and employers that too many pupils arrive without basic literacy and numeracy skills despite having passed national curriculum tests.
Earlier today mathematics experts from the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (Acme), which advises the Government on maths education, revealed plans for a new higher maths qualification for sixth-form students who do not wish to study the subject as one of their main A-levels.
The qualification, which includes questions requiring problem-solving in real-life settings through applied use of statistics and probabilities, is expected to be embraced by ministers. Details will be set out in a report due to be published later this week.
This weekend Michael Gove told the Telegraph that he was close to announcing something “not quite as demanding as an A-level” aimed at students between 16 and 18 who are not studying maths or science A-levels.
He said: “The final piece of the jigsaw will come out shortly, for more academic students, to make sure there are courses and qualifications for them to carry on doing mathematics until the age of 18, even if they are doing humanities.
“We want to be able to support people to integrate into education post-16 a way of maintaining mathematical fluency even if, for example, they are planning to do modern languages at university.
“The economic crisis through which we are now living is a crisis of maths because people relied on dodgy equations to do the work for them.”
He added that the Government is spending more money on mathematics than any other subject and has recruited 300 graduates on £11,000 bursaries to be maths specialists in primary schools, or maths teachers in secondary schools.
Fewer than one in ten British women now stay at home to look after their children
A huge change in a relatively short time and a sad one for both the mothers and their children
The stay-at-home mother is fast becoming consigned to history, according to the latest census figures. Returns showed there are 300,000 fewer than officials had previously estimated, with those who devote their lives to bringing up families now reduced to a tiny minority. Fewer than one in ten women of working age are stay-at-home mothers.
The collapse follows a decade in which governments urged mothers to take jobs on the grounds that working is the route to fulfilment for women and that families with two incomes are much less likely to fall into poverty.
Critics, however, are concerned for the well-being of mothers who might prefer to be with their families, and the impact on increasing numbers of toddlers who spend long hours in day care.
The 2011 census results found there are 1,598,000 women who do not work because they are looking after their home and family – 298,000 fewer than estimates from the Office for National Statistics.
In the 1970s, when the term ‘housewife’ was still popular to describe the lives of millions of mothers, the great majority of women with young families stayed at home.
Two decades ago, at a time when higher career expectations combined with fast-rising house prices to push increasing numbers of mothers into the labour market, 17 per cent of women were estimated to be stay-at-home mothers.
That fell to 12 per cent by 2002 and has now dropped below 10 per cent. The census results also showed there are 538,000 more women who have jobs than official estimates calculated.
The additional numbers mean there are now just under 13million women in England and Wales who work or who are looking for work – a figure growing close to the 14.6million men who are reckoned to be ‘economically active’.
The decline in numbers of stay-at-home mothers will be welcomed by ministers as the Labour drive to push mothers into work has continued under the Coalition.
Childcare minister Elizabeth Truss has made a priority of providing cheaper day care to help mothers into jobs.
In an article earlier this year she said it was ‘vital’ for mothers to work, adding: ‘To power ahead Britain needs to look at best practice from overseas to discover how to increase women’s participation, especially for those who are parents.’
But critics say the sky-high level of house prices and the lack of help for two-parent families in the tax and benefit systems means most mothers have to work, whether they like it or not.
Family researcher Patricia Morgan said: ‘There is an assumption that all mothers are desperate to work. ‘But the evidence that is available says they would mostly rather be at home looking after their children, and go back to work when the children are older.’
Critics of Coalition policy say benefits such as tax credits are skewed towards helping single mothers and there is no assistance for couples.
A report last year from the CARE charity found that married couples where the mother stays at home face a tax burden 42 per cent higher than the average tax level in developed countries.
Human rights no defence for criminals and terrorists, says Britain’s Justice Secretary
Criminals and terrorists should no longer be able to cite “human rights” as a defence for their behaviour, the Justice Secretary warns today as an official commission prepares to set out plans for a British Bill of Rights.
Chris Grayling says that an “absolutely clear balance between rights and responsibilities” now needs to be set out in British law in the wake of controversial European legal judgements.
In an article for today’s Daily Telegraph, the Justice Secretary indicates he may call for Britain to leave the European Court of Human Rights if the Tories win the next election.
The Commission on a Bill of Rights will today set out how a new Bill could be introduced by Parliament which would set out the fundamental rights for British citizens in a single piece of legislation. It will recommend such legislation be delayed until after the referendum on Scottish independence in autumn 2014.
It will demonstrate how similar legislation used in other countries can be considered by European courts. The UK Bill of Rights “could also help address certain rights that had arguably been eroded by successive legislative measures”.
But the commission was not asked to study whether Britain should now leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) so its recommendations are being seen as “short-term” solutions by ministers.
The Justice Secretary said: “As a Conservative minister, I believe that it is time to examine how to curtail the involvement of the European Court of Human Rights in UK domestic matters.
“I also think that in future there needs to be absolutely clear balance between rights and responsibilities in law. ‘I know my rights’ has to stop being a defence against unacceptable behaviour.”
He added: “As Conservatives, we remain absolutely committed to the importance of human rights around the world. But we do not believe that people should be able to claim the right to family life as an excuse for operating outside the norms that apply to most people in our society. We believe that with rights come responsibilities.”
Controversy over human rights laws has risen up the political agenda over the past few years following legal judgments demanding that prisoners be allowed to vote – and blocking the extradition of terrorism suspects. Kenneth Clarke, Mr Grayling’s predecessor as Justice Secretary, and Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, established the commission to draw up plans for new legislation. Mr Grayling now believes that the commission’s recommendations can only provide a temporary solution.
In today’s article, he hopes the work of the commission “will allow us to take further steps to improve the situation.
“But we also have to accept that there are limitations to what we can do as part of a Coalition. Whether we like it or not, both Labour and the Lib Dems disagree with us about the scale of change which is needed.”
The commission comprises nine of the country’s most senior legal experts. They include Anthony Speight QC, a Conservative lawyer, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, a Liberal Democrat peer, and Baroness Kennedy, a Labour peer.
Earlier this year a cache of emails and internal papers leaked to The Daily Telegraph showed the commission was riven by division. The leaks came after the academic Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, one of the original members, resigned, claiming the commission was rigged by Europhiles such as Mr Clegg.
We want exemption on gay marriage too: Angry Muslims demand government treats them the same as Church of England
Muslim leaders yesterday criticised controversial plans to allow gay marriages – and demanded they should have the same legal exemption as the Church of England.
The Muslim Council of Britain, which represents 500 mosques and community organisations, claimed the law was ‘utterly discriminatory’ and said they were ‘appalled’ by it.
Farooq Murad, secretary general of the MCB, said his organisation had also ‘explicitly’ stated its strong opposition to the proposals, and he was seeking an urgent meeting with Culture Secretary Maria Miller to discuss amending it.
The legislation, announced by Mrs Miller last week, would allow same-sex couples to marry as early as 2014.
However, she made it expressly illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to conduct same-sex weddings.
Mrs Miller added that any religious group was allowed to ‘opt in’ and perform ceremonies if they wish.
She made the unexpected exemption for the Church saying it was a ‘special case’ because it has its own laws, the Canon laws, which compel vicars to marry any couples who live in the parish, regardless of denomination.
The compromise left both sides unhappy, with traditionalists saying it undermined marriage and human rights campaigners saying it could be open to legal challenge.
Gay marriage has been fast-tracked by David Cameron despite strong opposition within his party and from some religious groups.
Mr Murad said: ‘We find it incredible that while introducing the Bill in the House, Mrs Miller could keep a straight face when offering exemption for the established Church while in the same breath claiming “fairness to be at the heart” of her proposals.
‘The Muslim Council of Britain along with most other faith groups also made equally strong representation. ‘No one in their right mind should accept such a discriminatory law. ‘It should be amended to give exactly the same exemption to all the religions.’
There was further confusion over the plans yesterday as Mrs Miller wrote a blog on her department’s website claiming the Church of England was not banned from carrying out gay marriages and could opt in.
Appearing to contradict her previous announcement, she wrote: ‘Are we “banning” the Church of England from holding same-sex weddings? No, of course not – they can opt in too.’
Her spokesman said yesterday that last week’s announcement was ‘poorly worded’ and that the Church of England and Church in Wales can opt in if they wish by changing Canon law.
She added: ‘All religions who do not wish to carry out same-sex unions have the same protection, but the Churches must have it in law because of their legal obligation to marry couples.’
Ministers expect the legislation to take up to 12 months to get through Parliament.
Tory MPs, including ministers, will get a free vote. Privately ministers believe at least 40 per cent of Tory MPs oppose the plans. In a surprise move, Labour has also granted its backbenchers a free vote.
Britain’s first gay fathers hope to mount a legal challenge to the CoE’s gay marriage ban.
Millionaire couple Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, who have five children, are committed Christians in a civil partnership and want to get married at their local church in Danbury, Essex.
They said the proposed changes would ‘enshrine discrimination in law’ against gay people.