Shortage of nurses is ‘killing thousands a year’: Patients in overstretched hospitals developing fatal complications which could have been cured
Thousands of patients are dying in hospitals each year because there are not enough doctors or nurses, research shows.
Patients are almost 10 per cent more likely to die if there are fewer medically-trained staff on wards, the study found.
Researchers believe patients in overstretched hospitals are prone to developing fatal complications and infections because they are not properly monitored.
Already there is widespread concern that the quality of NHS care is deteriorating because there are too few nurses to carry out basic tasks.
Researchers from the University of Southampton and Imperial College London looked at the records of almost 70million patients who had surgery between 1997 and 2009.
They calculated how many had later died of complications including pneumonia, bladder infections or blood clots.
Such conditions can normally be treated if detected early but if patients are not properly monitored they will die.
By calculating how many patients died of these conditions, researchers could get a rough idea of the quality of care. They found that across the NHS every year around 28,000 patients died as a result of complications which potentially could have been cured.
The study, published in the International Journal of Nursing Research, also looked at data on the numbers of doctors and nurses on all wards.
It found that patients were 9 per cent more likely to die if there were fewer doctors than average, and 8 per cent more likely to die if there were fewer nurses.
Researchers also calculated that patients on wards where there were more untrained workers such as healthcare assistants were 10 per cent more likely to die.
Lead researcher Professor Peter Griffiths said some very frail patients would have died regardless of the standard of treatment but a high proportion of the deaths were probably due to poor care.
‘The suspicion is that poor care is a very plausible explanation in a lot of these cases,’ he said.
‘If a hospital responds with the best possible care, the consequences of that complication should be less. If you do not have enough staff, they cannot provide good care.’
Many hospitals have been axing nursing posts or imposing recruitment freezes since 2005 and 2006, having racked up huge debts. The cuts have worsened since the financial crisis.
Official figures show 5,964 nursing posts have been axed in the past two years. Although the number of doctors has increased over that period, there is concern that some departments remain understaffed.
Student to sue Oxford over ‘anti-poor’ rule that saw him ordered to find £20,000 before taking up his place
This does seem very authoritarian. Students should be left to support themselves in their own way. It’s clearly an attempt to keep out the “riff-raff”. I worked to fund myself through two postgraduate degrees but that would not be good enough for St Hugh’s
A student is suing an Oxford college claiming it discriminates against the poor after he was ordered to find more than £20,000 before taking up a place.
St Hugh’s College is accused of ‘selection by wealth’ after asking for evidence that applicants for postgraduate degrees have funds to cover costs, including living expenses of £12,900 a year.
Damien Shannon, 26, claims he was forced to provide evidence of ‘resources totalling £21,082’ before he could begin an Msc in economic and social history.
He was granted a conditional place last March, depending on the financial requirements. Mr Shannon got a loan of £10,000, which would have covered fees and made a small contribution to living costs, but could not prove he had the full amount.
The student, from Salford, Manchester, says the university failed to allow him to take into account projected earnings from part-time work during the course.
He will take the college to court next month claiming its policy selects on the basis of wealth and discriminates against poorer students, breaching human rights.
The university is expected to argue that the requirements are necessary to allow students to complete courses without financial anxiety, the Observer newspaper reported.
Hazel Blears, the former Labour cabinet minister and Salford MP, is backing the student and has won a Parliamentary debate on postgraduate funding to be heard on Wednesday.
‘Oxford University’s demands for a guarantee on living costs are deeply unfair,’ she said. ‘They will price gifted students out of doing these courses and our country will lose out on some really talented individuals.
‘It is ludicrous that a student deemed to be of sufficient academic merit is deemed incapable of budgeting to ensure they have enough money to live on. ‘Even in an expensive city like Oxford, a student can live on far less than £13,000-a-year with careful budgeting.
‘In any case, living costs should be a student’s personal responsibility and many get part-time jobs to help make ends meet.’
St Hugh’s, which counts Home Secretary Theresa May among its alumni, has hired a QC to defend it at Manchester county count, where hearings begin next month.
A college spokesman said: ‘The requirement that postgraduate students provide a financial guarantee in order to take up their course place at the University of Oxford is made clear to potential applicants.
‘The university and college have both made fundraising for postgraduate scholarships a key priority.’
Boris Johnson on Global Cooling
As Mayor of London he has to step cautiously
“The Sun is god!” cried JMW Turner as he died, and plenty of other people have thought there was much in his analysis. The Aztecs agreed, and so did the pharaohs of Egypt. We are an arrogant lot these days, and we tend to underestimate the importance of our governor and creator.
We forget that we were once just a clod of cooled-down solar dust; we forget that without the Sun there would have been no photosynthesis, no hydrocarbons — and that it was the great celestial orb that effectively called life into being on Earth. In so far as we are able to heat our homes or turn on our computers or drive to work it is thanks to the unlocking of energy from the Sun.
As a species, we human beings have become so blind with conceit and self-love that we genuinely believe that the fate of the planet is in our hands — when the reality is that everything, or almost everything, depends on the behaviour and caprice of the gigantic thermonuclear fireball around which we revolve.
I say all this because I am sitting here staring through the window at the flowerpot and the bashed-up barbecue, and I am starting to think this series of winters is not a coincidence. The snow on the flowerpot, since I have been staring, has got about an inch thicker. The barbecue is all but invisible. By my calculations, this is now the fifth year in a row that we have had an unusual amount of snow; and by unusual I mean snow of a kind that I don’t remember from my childhood: snow that comes one day, and then sticks around for a couple of days, followed by more.
I remember snow that used to come and settle for just long enough for a single decent snowball fight before turning to slush; I don’t remember winters like this. Two days ago I was cycling through Trafalgar Square and saw icicles on the traffic lights; and though I am sure plenty of readers will say I am just unobservant, I don’t think I have seen that before. I am all for theories about climate change, and would not for a moment dispute the wisdom or good intentions of the vast majority of scientists.
But I am also an empiricist; and I observe that something appears to be up with our winter weather, and to call it “warming” is obviously to strain the language. I see from the BBC website that there are scientists who say that “global warming” is indeed the cause of the cold and snowy winters we seem to be having. A team of Americans and Chinese experts have postulated that the melting of the Arctic ice means that the whole North Atlantic is being chilled as the floes start to break off — like a Martini refrigerated by ice cubes.
I do not have the expertise to comment on the Martini theory; I merely observe that there are at least some other reputable scientists who say that it is complete tosh, or at least that there is no evidence to support it. We are expecting the snow and cold to go on for several days, and though London transport has coped very well so far, with few delays or cancellations, I can’t help brooding on my own amateur meteorological observations. I wish I knew more about what is going on, and why. It is time to consult once again the learned astrophysicist, Piers Corbyn.
Now Piers has a very good record of forecasting the weather. He has been bang on about these cold winters. Like JMW Turner and the Aztecs he thinks we should be paying more attention to the Sun. According to Piers, global temperature depends not on concentrations of CO2 but on the mood of our celestial orb. Sometime too bright the eye of heaven shines, said Shakespeare, and often is his gold complexion dimmed. That is more or less right. There are times in astronomical history when the Sun has been churning out more stuff — protons and electrons and what have you — than at other times. When the Sun has plenty of sunspots, he bathes the Earth in abundant rays.
When the solar acne diminishes, it seems that the Earth gets colder. No one contests that when the planet palpably cooled from 1645 to 1715 — the Maunder minimum, which saw the freezing of the Thames — there was a diminution of solar activity. The same point is made about the so-called Dalton minimum, from 1790 to 1830. And it is the view of Piers Corbyn that we are now seeing exactly the same phenomenon today.
Lower solar activity means – broadly speaking – that there is less agitation of the warm currents of air from the tropical to the temperate zones, so that a place like Britain can expect to be colder and damper in summer, and colder and snowier in winter. “There is every indication that we are at the beginning of a mini ice age,” he says. “The general decline in solar activity is lower than Nasa’s lowest prediction of five years ago. That could be very bad news for our climate. We are in for a prolonged cold period. Indeed, we could have 30 years of general cooling.”
Now I am not for a second saying that I am convinced Piers is right; and to all those scientists and environmentalists who will go wild with indignation on the publication of this article, I say, relax. I certainly support reducing CO2 by retrofitting homes and offices – not least since that reduces fuel bills. I want cleaner vehicles.
I am speaking only as a layman who observes that there is plenty of snow in our winters these days, and who wonders whether it might be time for government to start taking seriously the possibility — however remote — that Corbyn is right. If he is, that will have big implications for agriculture, tourism, transport, aviation policy and the economy as a whole. Of course it still seems a bit nuts to talk of the encroachment of a mini ice age.
But it doesn’t seem as nuts as it did five years ago. I look at the snowy waste outside, and I have an open mind.
Migrant baby boom triggers midwife crisis in Britain: Half of wards being forced to turn expectant mothers away
Women in labour are being turned away from maternity units as midwives are overwhelmed by record numbers of births.
With immigrants helping push birth rates in England to their highest level for 40 years, more than half of maternity wards admit shutting their doors an average of seven times a year when the strain on midwives becomes too great.
Expectant women who then turn up are sent away to other hospitals.
Research by The Royal College of Midwives says that thousands of new midwives are needed if the ‘massive gap’ in staffing is to be plugged, the ‘relentless rise in births’ handled and for mothers and babies to be given the quality of care they need.
Yesterday Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, warned of ‘threadbare’ services with midwives ‘running themselves ragged’. She said: ‘Maternity units are under intense strain, with many midwives really at the end of their tether. We are reaching a crucial tipping point for maternity services.’
The RCM’s State Of Maternity Services report, which will be launched at an event in Parliament tomorrow, says that although there have been attempts to boost midwife numbers, England alone still needs another 5,000 – an increase of about a quarter on today’s level.
Office for National Statistics figures show there were 688,120 babies born in England in 2011, the most since 1971.
The trend seems set to continue, with provisional data for 2012 pointing to it being another record-breaker and ONS projections suggesting the birth rate in England could hit 743,000 by 2014.
Corby in Northamptonshire saw the biggest baby boom, with a 63 per cent jump between 2002 and 2011 – three times the rise across England as a whole. Other hotspots include Bournemouth, with a 54 per cent increase, Boston, Lincolnshire (53.5 per cent), the London borough of Barking and Dagenham (52.5 per cent) and Slough in Berkshire, which saw a 50.5 per cent rise.
Immigration is one factor, with foreign-born mothers now having nearly a quarter of all babies in Britain, but the RCM report says midwives are also struggling to look after record numbers of older mothers, who are more prone to complications.
The report follows a survey of new mothers which found that despite a Government pledge for mothers-to-be to have their care overseen by one midwife, 40 per cent always saw a different one.
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said that more than 800 new midwives have started work since 2010, and 5,000 more are due to qualify in the next three years.
He added: ‘The number of midwives is increasing faster than the birth rate. Most women already have one-to-one maternity care, and we are working closely with The Royal College of Midwives to ensure that is available for every woman.’
Thousands of patients are at risk from appalling care reminiscent of scandal-hit Stafford Hospital, the health secretary has claimed.
Jeremy Hunt’s warning comes just weeks before the report of a public inquiry into the deaths of up to 1,200 people from poor care in the hospital’s A&E department between 2005 and 2009.
He said that while there are no hospitals as bad as Stafford, ‘there are little bits of Stafford dotted around the system’.
He added: ‘The biggest change the NHS needs to make is to embed compassion at the heart of what it does.’
Illegal immigrants pay £1,500 to be smuggled OUT of Britain: Fears gangs are helping foreign criminals flee the country
Illegal immigrants are paying criminal gangs £1,500 a time to smuggle them out of Britain, it emerged last night. The foreign nationals – many of whom sneaked into the UK undetected in the first place – are put in the back of lorries and transported to France.
By avoiding contact with the authorities they can travel on to a European destination of their choice, rather than risk being sent back to their homeland thousands of miles away.
It is feared that foreign criminals on the run from the police are fleeing in this way.
The bizarre trade, exposed by a BBC Panorama investigation to be shown this evening, is an embarrassment for ministers.
Critics will say it shows how the Government cannot stop illegal migrants from leaving Britain, let alone entering.
Over a year, Panorama made contact with three criminal gangs offering to smuggle illegal immigrants out of the country with no questions asked.
Reporter Paul Kenyon secretly recorded the meeting with the fixer of one gang, held in a fast-food restaurant in London.
He posed as an immigrant from Moldova who had been working illegally in the UK without a passport or paperwork and who wanted to return home to his sick wife.
The fixer, a former Indian police officer called ‘Munga’, said for £1,500 per person the gang would smuggle groups of three or four illegal immigrants across the Channel in the back of a lorry, taking them to Calais train station.
Mr Kenyon told the Daily Mail: ‘This is a trade in human cargo of a very different kind to the one the UK Border Agency is used to.
‘Many people will be astonished – as well as relieved – to learn that illegal immigrants are abandoning the UK in search of work abroad.
‘It suggests that attempts to crack down on failed asylum seekers and overstayers – as well as the downturn in our own economy and subsequent lack of work here – could at last be having an effect.
‘But who is to say that when these people fail to find work abroad, they won’t simply buy their way back to Britain via the very people traffickers they used to leave the country.
‘Once back here, they might then try again to claim asylum, or simply vanish into the “ghost” community.’
Illegal immigrants who are caught by the authorities are offered financial ‘bribes’ if they agree to go home.
Officials estimate a forced deportation costs more than £11,000.
Mark Harper, the immigration minister, yesterday admitted: ‘It is possible we don’t catch every single person who tries to enter the country clandestinely.’
But he added: ‘When we do catch people, we’re increasing the work we do with our European colleagues. We make sure people are fingerprinted so we can check to see if they have entered the European Union in another country.
‘If they have, we can return them back to the country where they first entered.’
Britain’s legitimation crisis
What happens when the citizens of a country lose trust in those in key positions of authority and responsibility?
When I was growing up in England in the 1950s, there was a widespread (and perhaps slightly naive) faith in the integrity of people in authority. The local bank manager was a man (always a man) of the highest standing. Nurses (always women) were angels of mercy committed to altruistic ideals of public service. The virtue of priests and vicars was unquestioned; ditto the honesty of political leaders. The BBC was the ultimate voice of truth. And if you needed to know the time, you asked a policeman.
The rot began with the revelations of sexual abuse perpetrated (and then covered up) over many years by priests in the Catholic Church.
Shortly after that, the bankers were exposed as greedy and dishonest, trading in debts which they knew to be toxic, and conspiring to distort market lending rates so they could squeeze out bigger profits and bonuses for themselves at the expense of their customers.
Hot on the heels of the banking crisis came the revelations about Westminster MPs fiddling their expenses. British voters discovered their elected representatives had been embezzling thousands of pounds from taxpayers by claiming to live in houses they rarely frequented, or by submitting expenses for dredging their moat, building a duck house, or even paying for their husband’s porn. Several of them ended up in jail; many more probably should have.
Next came the exposure of serious neglect and abuse in the nation’s hospitals and elderly care homes. One investigation last year reported that hospital patients were being left in their own excrement and denied access to drinking water. Another suggested that nurses with impressive paper qualifications often lacked compassion, a sense of vocation, or even basic caring skills.
Then the BBC came under the spotlight – first, when allegations surfaced of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile and others on BBC premises, and then when the Corporation responded to criticisms by falsely and recklessly accusing a senior Conservative politician from the Thatcher years of involvement in a child sex abuse scandal without bothering to check the veracity of its ‘evidence.’ Meanwhile, the nation’s press has been put through the wringer by the Leveson inquiry which has exposed the grubby practices by which the popular newspapers feed their readers’ appetites for scandal and titillation.
Most recently, it has been the turn of the police. First we learned that, following the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 (when 96 football supporters were crushed to death on overcrowded terraces), officers systematically falsified their accounts to exempt the police from any responsibility or blame. Then it came to light that a cabinet minister forced to resign for allegedly insulting police officers in Downing Street had done no such thing. They’d ‘fitted him up.’ Many of us have assumed for a long time that the cops might ‘massage the evidence’ to ensure that a villain gets convicted, but when even cabinet ministers get ‘stitched up like a kipper,’ nobody can feel safe.
Now it may be that those in authority were always flawed. Perhaps the nurses 50 years ago weren’t angels, the local bank manager had his fingers in the till, and the priests were never as innocent as we supposed. But the important point is that we didn’t think this was the case. We respected authority figures back then. We believed the country was in the hands of decent, honest, virtuous people, people we could trust.
That trust has now collapsed as, one after another, the pillars supporting our civic culture have crumbled. It has been displaced by a weary cynicism. Whether a liberal, democratic nation can survive mass disillusion and distrust (what the Marxist theorist, Jürgen Habermas, once aptly called a ‘legitimation crisis’) nobody knows. But I think we’re about to find out.
Convicts owe £1.8billion in fines as ‘free pass’ makes a mockery of the British justice system
More than £140million is owed to the taxpayer by criminals who have been kicked out of Britain, lost or who have died. The shambolic management of court fines and compensation orders means foreign criminals have been deported despite owing vast amounts to the taxpayer.
The sum is part of a colossal £1.8billion which has not been collected in court fines and compensation orders. Critics said the figures showed criminals were being given a ‘free pass’ to ignore financial penalties.
Figures released by Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) showed the total debt owed at the end of the 2011/12 financial year was more than £1.8billion. That compares with £484 million which was collected from criminals.
More than a billion pounds is accounted for by compensation orders – court demands for criminals to hand over the proceeds of criminal enterprises.
In 2007 the amount of uncollected confiscations orders stood at £507million. It is now £1.2billion.
Another £154million has been successfully hidden from collectors and cannot be recovered despite ‘forensic’ financial investigations. Around £40million cannot be collected because of ongoing appeals.
Officials also admitted that £278million is owed in interest on money that has not yet been paid. And they said £141million related to individuals who were ‘deceased, deported or cannot be located’.
HMCTS said it is looking for a private debt agency to help collect outstanding fines and confiscation orders.
Much of the money is likely to be written off. More than £65 million was written off in 2011/12, compared to £50million a year earlier.
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘There’s no point in dishing out fines if criminals simply fail to hand over what they owe. ‘If offenders can easily ignore penalties or are given a free pass, then it makes a mockery of the justice system.
‘A huge amount of money remains outstanding, the authorities must do a far better job of collecting cash rather than just writing it off the money when it is too late.’
A Public Accounts Committee report two years ago complained about ‘lax’ financial controls at the Ministry of Justice, the department which oversees the courts.
The Ministry of Justice said the value of outstanding money owed was down from £1.9billion a year earlier.
Justice Minister Helen Grant said: ‘We are determined to take action which will ensure criminals are made to pay what they owe.
‘We’ve done a good job of collecting the smaller fines- £484 million last year – and we are not giving up on the larger debts which have been more difficult to recover.
‘Enforcement agencies are also working with authorities in other countries and hiring specialist teams to track down hidden assets which make up a substantial part of the larger debts.
British food folly: Horses
A French chef working in Britain comments
I was raised in France on a diet that included horse. I still savour the memory of Saturday lunchtime, when tiny Maman Blanc dashed about her kitchen, steaks sizzling in a pan of foaming butter.
These were steaks of horse, rather than beef. My mother had five hungry mouths to feed, we were poor and horse was the cheapest of meats. Free if you happened to own one.
My grandfather owned two. They were big, broad Percheron horses used to plough the land. It was a tough job but they were built for it.
My grandfather cherished those horses. He looked after them, fed and watered them and provided them with a home. They seemed pretty happy, but when they reached the end of their lives he would have no qualms about eating them. He loved a chunk of horse.
This will be disturbing reading for many because Britain is a nation that does not eat horse meat – though that’s not quite true now as it transpires many have been eating horse without knowing it, devouring the flesh in supermarket burgers and other beef products.
The supermarkets have swept their shelves clean and simultaneously sent thousands of jokes galloping on Twitter, including the announcement that a woman who ate a horse burger ended up in hospital. Her condition was said to be stable.
But behind the scandal, I detect the unappetising taste of hypocrisy. Many British people like to pretend food doesn’t come from animals. Consumers are overly fussy and precious and hate to think what they are eating once grazed on our land or swam in our waters.
All of this has helped lead to the demise of the high street butcher and has brought tough times for farmers who see their crops go to waste because their apples are not perfectly round, or their carrots have one too many bumps.
Poor old Mother Nature has yet to earn the respect of the British. And still we are shocked at the suggestion of waste.
It is only a week or so since a report – Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not –revealed that up to half the world’s food goes in the bin rather than on the plate. However, education is at the root of the problem.
Horse can be eaten and is a good source of protein. I know to an Englishman this may sound rather confusing, but I love horses and I also love horse meat. I feel the same way about pigs and pork, cows and beef, hens and chicken.
But as a chef and as President of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, I take my responsibilities seriously. It goes without saying that if you are to kill an animal it must be in the most humane way. This will also result in better taste and texture because the animal is not stressed.
The horse is a thing of beauty but it is still something to eat, a source of protein far superior to much that pleases the British palate.
Consumers of chicken burgers, made from the meat, beaks, feet and claws of battery-farmed poultry might disagree, but hear me out.
In France there is an agreement –unwritten of course – between owner and animal: you look after it during its life, and when it dies it feeds you.
The British stroke their pets. In France, we stroke them but we also eat them.
Mind you, the British have a healthy appetite for other animals such as cute lambs, with mint sauce.
Horse is not only eaten in France, where 15 per cent of the population still consume horse steaks bought from specialist horse butchers. It is eaten in China and Japan. It is eaten in Scandinavia. You will find it on the tables of Belgium, while the average Italian devours about 2lb of horse each year.
And who exports their old horses to be eaten on the Continent? Yes, the British. Again, it seems hypocritical.
I was discussing the subject with Matthew Fort, the food writer and a judge on BBC1’s Great British Menu (on which horse has never appeared). Matthew agrees we should not spare the horse from the British plate but come to terms with consuming it.
Indeed, horse meat is lean and rich in iron. There is the slight taste of game and it is incredibly tender. It is similar in colour to beef and has great character due to its sweetness and acidity. It is an interesting meat, which I am sure could cook like boeuf bourguignon – slowly with wine.
What a great shame it is not eaten in Britain. Though that has not always been the case. You may be surprised to know the British did eat horse.
In the days when it was the main form of travel and horses were used in mines, poor Britons viewed the animal in the same way as the French, namely a solid, hard-working beast that would eventually provide a few meals.
In Britain during the Second World War it was not rationed, though butchers needed a licence to sell it. One butcher in Yorkshire continued to sell horse right up to the mid-Fifties, and its fat was bought by home bakers for cakes and pastries.
Can it make a comeback? Will British chefs take on the challenge of cooking horse meat for their guests? Will they create a dish such as cheval bourguignon, maybe cooked with a British red wine?
It’s a good bet that one day it will be on the menu