Seventeen NHS hospitals have dangerously low numbers of nurses
Seventeen NHS hospitals have dangerously low staffing levels, according to rulings by the official safety watchdog, it has been revealed. The hospitals, many of them busy district generals, were issued with warnings by the Care Quality Commission after its latest inspections, the body has disclosed.
Each was told it did not have enough staff “to keep people safe and meet their health and welfare needs” — the standard every part of the health service must meet.
The English hospitals were named at a time of growing concern over the safety and dignity of NHS patients, with the report into the Stafford Hospital scandal due to be published in the next few weeks.
Last night Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said there was “no excuse” for hospitals not to provide adequate staff and he expected “swift action” to be taken by those named as failing.
Labour, which obtained the list, accused David Cameron of imposing a “toxic medicine of spending cuts and reorganisation” on the NHS.
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said: “The public has a right to know if their local hospital is taking risks with staffing levels.”
The inspections were carried out by staff from the CQC at each hospital, although not every ward was visited. Each hospital was told it had failed to employ enough staff “to keep people safe”.
There is no universal ratio of staff to patients. The inspections took place as recently as November.
The warning may affect only part of the hospitals concerned, but patients’ groups said any lack of staff was a grave concern.
The 17 hospitals were named on a list of 26 “health providers” found to have inadequate staffing levels. The data has never before been made public.
The hospitals named were: Scarborough Hospital; Milton Keynes Hospital; Royal Cornwall Hospital; Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool; Queen’s Hospital, Romford; Stamford & Rutland Hospital; Southampton General Hospital; Croydon University Hospital; Bodmin Hospital, Cornwall; Northampton General Hospital; St Peter’s Hospital, Maldon; Queen Mary’s Hospital, London; Chase Farm Hospital, London; Westmorland General Hospital; Pilgrim Hospital, Leicestershire; St Anne’s House, East Sussex; and Princess Royal Hospital, West Sussex.
London Ambulance Service and eight mental health units were also warned about dangerous staffing levels.
They were: Ainslie and Highams Inpatient Facility, London; The Campbell Centre, Bedford; Forston Clinic, Dorset; The Cavell Centre, Peterborough; The Bradgate Mental Health Unit, Leicestershire; Avon and Wiltshire NHS Mental Health Trust; Blackberry Hill Hospital, Bristol; and Park House, Manchester.
At Milton Keynes, patients with dementia were left unable to reach call bells, tables, drinks and warm clothing.
Inspectors said those who were unable to communicate their needs were forced to do without, and that while staff were busy, some did not even seem to notice that some patients were uncomfortable.
At Queen’s Hospital in Romford, Essex, women in labour were exposed to unnecessary risk because there were not enough staff.
Some midwives could not perform basic skills. Previous reports described a “culture of abuse” at the hospital’s maternity unit.
Mr Hunt has promised a renewed drive to protect patient care ahead of what is expected to be a damning report into the Stafford scandal by Robert Francis QC.
Poor staffing levels, particularly involving nurses, were a factor behind the problems at Stafford Hospital, where up to 1,200 patients died needlessly while managers slashed their budgets in pursuit of NHS foundation trust status.
Mr Hunt said: “Where CQC inspections find NHS and social care providers failing in their legal duties to provide enough staff or appropriate care, we expect swift action to be taken.
“There can be no excuse for not providing appropriate staff levels when across the NHS generally there are now more clinical staff working than there were in May 2010 — including nearly 5,000 more doctors and almost 900 extra midwives.”
Mr Burnham said: “One by one, David Cameron has broken all the promises he made on the NHS. It is now struggling with his toxic medicine of spending cuts and reorganisation.
“Almost 7,000 nursing posts have been lost since David Cameron entered Downing Street. The public has a right to know if their local hospital is taking risks with staffing levels.”
Katherine Murphy, the chief executive of the Patients Association said: “It is a deeply worrying picture: these are just the parts of the hospital that the inspectors have seen and there is no reason to think it will be any safer on the wards they have not visited.”
Concern over the quality of care was highlighted last night as it was disclosed that a whistle-blowers’ line for doctors and nurses to report concerns about risks to patients was receiving more than 700 calls a month.
Figures show that in the past three months, almost 2,200 calls have been received from those too frightened to raise their concerns with their bosses, or whose attempts to do so had fallen on deaf ears.
New mum Lily Allen has complained that she was yet to see a midwife – four days after giving birth. The singer, whose second daughter, Marnie Rose, was born on Tuesday, posted a series of messages on Twitter to NHS Direct yesterday telling of her ‘worry’.
The tweets, which could be read by the 27-year-old star’s 3.9 million followers, read: ‘@nhsdirect hi there, can’t seem to find out which hospitals [sic] community midwifery team are coming to see me. Discharged weds morning!!!!
‘I’m starting to worry now, and no one answers the phone, or if they do, I just keep getting passed around. Let me know if you can [help].’
Guidance from the Government’s health body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) on postnatal care says new mothers should receive specific advice in the first few days after giving birth on breastfeeding and how to spot potentially life-threatening conditions in babies.
Although there has been additional funding for more community midwives in recent years, staff numbers have been unable to keep up with the UK’s rising birth rate.
After she posted the messages, several of Miss Allen’s followers got in touch offering advice.
Kathy Roberts, from Wales, wrote: ‘Contact the delivery suite where you had the baby and they will know which midwife to contact.’
It is not clear where Miss Allen, who changed her name to Lily Cooper after marrying construction firm boss Sam Cooper in 2011, gave birth and there was no sign of her at home in Gloucestershire yesterday.
Miss Allen, daughter of actor Keith Allen and film producer Alison Owen and whose hits include Smile and The Fear, has taken a break from the music business since becoming a mother for the first time with the arrival of first daughter Ethel in November 2011.
On Thursday, the star tweeted of her exhaustion after the arrival of her second daughter: ‘Can’t uncross my eyes. Unique mixture of tiredness and strong painkillers.
A spokesman for Miss Allen said yesterday that the star could not be reached for comment.
A spokesman for the Royal College of Midwives said: ‘Any woman should reasonably expect to know when they will get their first visit or phone call from a midwife within a couple of days of being discharged.
‘We would advise any woman who doesn’t have that information to contact the maternity unit directly.’
Imperial weights and measures will be back in British classrooms in radical shake-up of maths lessons
Children will be required to learn imperial measures as part of the national curriculum for the first time in decades, in a radical shake-up of maths lessons.
Education Secretary Michael Gove wants schools to ensure pupils have a firm grounding in the imperial units most commonly used – including miles, pints, feet and ounces.
Schools have been required to teach metric units as the prime system of measurement since 1974.
Although metric units will still be taught as ‘standard’, schools will now be expected to improve children’s understanding of imperial units to reflect their continued widespread use on the roads, to measure height and for many basic goods, including milk.
The current curriculum merely asks that pupils are familiar with the names of imperial measures and know approximate conversions into the metric system.
But the Government yesterday revealed it intended to ‘go further’ to increase the rigour of maths lessons and improve children’s fluency in dealing with both sets of measures. A revised maths curriculum for primary schools will ‘include explicit reference to miles’.
According to drafts of the curriculum, pupils will now be required to ‘use, read, write and convert between standard units…including between miles and kilometres’.
They will also need to ‘understand and use basic equivalencies between metric and common imperial units’.
The plans emerged in response to a Commons written question by Andrew Percy, Tory MP for Brigg and Goole. Mr Percy, a teacher, said he was pleased the Government had backed his call to ‘improve and extend teaching of imperial measurements’.
‘The idea that these measures are “old money” and outdated is rubbish and we have got to make sure that kids know how to use both.
‘Of course everyone has to learn metric as well,’ Mr Percy said. ‘Some professions are completely metric.’
Plans for a new primary curriculum, along with other subjects at primary and secondary level, are to be published in the next few weeks. Ministers intend to introduce them in September 2014.
Education Minister Liz Truss said: ‘We propose to include imperial units within the new programmes of study for mathematics.’
Officials said the Government was adding more elements to the curriculum, including an increased focus on imperial units, but insisted the initiative would not entail ‘significant’ change.
‘Imperial units are in the current curriculum and will be in the new curriculum. Both the mathematics and science curriculum will continue to teach metric measures as standard,’ said a spokesman for the Department for Education.
However, the additional emphasis on imperial units will dismay campaigners, including the UK Metric Association.
Lord Howe, the former Tory Cabinet minister, earlier this year called on ministers to end the ‘deeply confusing shambles’ of using a mixture of metric and imperial measures.
He warned: ‘The only solution is to complete the changeover to metric as swiftly and as cleanly as possible.’
A new height of absurdity for the Church of England
CoE plan to bless gay couples’ civil partnerships… But they may be told to take solemn declaration to remain celibate for life (!) If Welby allows this he is off his rocker
The Church of England is considering allowing gay couples to have their civil partnerships blessed in church. Insiders have told The Mail on Sunday that a top-level panel of bishops set up to review the Church’s policy on homosexuality is actively discussing the issue.
If the reform is approved, vicars would be permitted to conduct a formal blessing service in church for a same-sex couple who have earlier ‘tied the knot’ at a register office.
But any move to relax the ban on such blessings would provoke the biggest split yet in the Church, which is already reeling from rows over women and gay bishops.
One option the panel is expected to consider is a compromise under which gay couples seeking a blessing could be asked to declare they intend to remain celibate, in line with official Church teaching.
But this could create a backlash among gay couples, who would regard it as demeaning to be quizzed about their private lives.
A source close to the working party said that a ‘wide-ranging discussion’ was under way covering a ‘whole range of options’ and recommendations will be made to the House of Bishops later this year.
The working party of five bishops is meeting amid unprecedented pressure on the Church over its policies on homosexuality. Growing numbers of liberal clergy, including the Dean of St Paul’s cathedral Dr David Ison, are openly calling for formal ceremonies for gay couples.
Christina Rees, a member of the Church’s ‘cabinet’, the Archbishops’ Council, said: ‘If this happens it is long overdue. If we allow something, it is only logical that we can bless it.’
But traditionalists warned that a lifting of the ban on blessings would cause even deeper ructions than those over women bishops or by the Church’s decision before Christmas to allow clergy in civil partnerships to become bishops. One said: ‘If the bishops lift the ban on blessings it will be far more serious than the divisions we have seen so far.’
The issue will be one the most contentious facing the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, when he takes up his post next month. Although he opposes the Government’s plans to introduce gay marriage, he has signalled that he may soften his views.
He said last year he would ‘prayerfully and carefully’ rethink his traditionalist stance and underlined his support for civil partnerships.
The Church allows clergy – and now bishops – to enter into civil partnerships as long as they promise to remain celibate. But it has always banned formal blessing services for civil partnerships. It also opposes the Government’s plans to introduce civil gay marriage, which it says undermines the traditional understanding of the institution as between a man and a woman and threatens its place in the establishment.
The Government’s determination to push through its reforms for civil same-sex marriages has opened the Church to accusations that it is out of step with society. Many clergy believe a move by the Church to bless civil partnerships would offer a middle way that might assuage its critics.
The Church’s original ban on blessings was spelt out in a statement it released before civil partnerships – such as that between TV presenter Clare Balding and Radio 4 announcer Alice Arnold – were legalised in 2005.
The statement said sex should be confined to marriage. It added that because many people in same- sex partnerships would not be celibate, ‘it would not be right to produce an authorised public liturgy in connection with the registering of civil partnerships.
‘In addition, the House of Bishops affirms that clergy of the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register a civil partnership.’
‘If the bishops lift the ban on blessings it will result in deep divisions of a kind that has not been seen in the Church of England for centuries. People are already close to setting up an alternative Church.’
But the statement added that people in such partnerships should be treated sensitively and many clergy do already pray for them in church. Some clergy also flout Church law by quietly carrying out unofficial blessings, and conservatives accuse liberal bishops of turning a blind eye.
A vicar caused a major row in 2008 when he conducted a service for two gay priests using the traditional wedding liturgy, including an exchange of vows and rings. The Rev Dr Martin Dudley, the vicar of St Bartholomew the Great in East London, was heavily censured by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, but was not sacked from his post.
Traditionalists said last night that the Church should not lift its ban on such blessings even if the civil partners involved pledged to remain celibate.
One senior cleric said: ‘Many in the Church will never believe civil partnerships are moral.
‘There is an element of unreality about treating gay civil partnerships as a celibate arrangement, and it puts the Church in a very difficult position if it is required to ask intimate questions. If the bishops lift the ban on blessings it will result in deep divisions of a kind that has not been seen in the Church of England for centuries. People are already close to setting up an alternative Church.’
But Mrs Rees called for blessings to be introduced and said the Church should think hard before asking gay couples about their private lives. She said: ‘We need to debate this fully before deciding whether we should put any further requirements on couples in civil partnerships.’
Sources stressed that no decisions had yet been taken by the bishops’ working party on whether or not to lift the ban on blessings, and the House of Bishops would have to consider any recommendations sent to it before sanctioning any reforms.
A spokesman for the Church of England said: ‘To presume that these discussions will even find a way into the final conclusions of the working party is pure speculation. Meanwhile the Church of England continues to serve this country and its people through daily acts of devotion in schools, hospitals, churches and communities.’
BBC hostility to Christianity again
With its decision to move the Radio 2 Sunday evening hymns programme to 6am – yes, you read that right, six o’ clock in the morning! – the BBC might as well just admit it hates church-lovers, our old culture of hymn-singing and communal worship.
Why not scrap the programme altogether? What will simply happen is that the audience will fall off the cliff and the Darwinist atheists at the Beeb will be able to claim religious shows are even more unpopular than they have already made them.
For some of us, Sunday Half-Hour has long been part of the rhythm of the week. Sunday evening is when you start to ease your mind out of weekend mode and reapply yourself to thoughts of work. Hymns helped that process.
Sunday evening is deep-rooted, distinctly British, the light closing in to the strains of The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Has Ended. Well, that’s one favourite that will no longer be played. It would sound a bit daft before dawn.
Last year Radio 2 imposed a new presenter on the programme: Diane Louise Jordan, formerly of Blue Peter. She has talked down to her adult audience as though they are children. The hymns are still OK, but the links have been as spiritual as a primary school lesson.
Radio 2 says Sunday mornings have a higher audience. That ignores the programme’s aesthetic fit with eventide, its echo with the Anglican tradition of Evensong.
If Radio 2 Controller Bob Shennan ever went to church before breakfast on Sundays, he would not hear hymns. He would find services solemn and entirely spoken.
There is no point complaining to Mr Shennan or to the Corporation’s chairman, Lord Patten, who, as a Roman Catholic, may have limited interest in Anglicanism.
We must simply hope Classic FM or some other broadcaster spots its chance.
I have no doubt that a grown-up programme of hymns on Sunday night, with beautiful liturgy, intelligent musical footnotes and a mature presenter, could succeed.
More than 1,000 priests sign letter claiming gay marriage is biggest threat to religious freedoms since the reformation
More than 1000 priests have signed a letter voicing concerns about how same-sex marriage will threaten religious freedoms and may even lead to Catholics being excluded from jobs.
In the letter, which is one of the biggest open letters of its type ever written, the priests claim that same-sex marriage could threaten freedoms in a way that was last seen during centuries of persecution of Catholics in England.
The letter, signed by 1054 priests as well as 13 bishops, abbots and other senior Catholic figures, expresses fears that the simple acts of practising or speaking about their faith will be severely limited.
They even claim the freedom to speak freely from the pulpit could be at risk.
Published in The Daily Telegraph, the letter goes as far as to compare David Cameron’s proposed changes to the meaning of marriage to those of Henry VIII, whose efforts to divorce Catherine of Aragon sparked centuries of upheaval between Church and State.
Their fear is that Catholics who believe in the traditional meaning of marriage would effectively be excluded from some jobs – in the same way as Catholics were barred from many professions from the Reformation until the 19th century.
It said: ‘After centuries of persecution, Catholics have, in recent times, been able to be members of the professions and participate fully in the life of this country.
‘Legislation for same-sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship.
‘It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time.’
The Equal Marriage Bill, allowing couples of the same sex to marry, is due to be published this month.
The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Philip Egan, one of the signatories, told The Daily Telegraph: ‘I am very anxious that when we are preaching in Church or teaching in our Catholic schools or witnessing to the Christian faith of what marriage is that we are not going to be able to do it, that we could be arrested for being bigots or homophobes.’
A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: ‘We have been very clear that our plans for equal marriage will fully protect the freedom of religions bodies to preach, teach and put into practice their beliefs about marriage.’