Twenty more hospitals face probes over patient deaths amid fears hundreds are dying needlessly
Nearly 20 hospitals face inspections over concerns that hundreds of patients are dying needlessly, it emerged last night.
David Cameron has ordered an investigation into standards of care at trusts where death rates are persistently high. In addition, he outlined plans for performance-related pay for doctors, nurses and managers based on their level of care.
He made the announcements on the day the author of the report into one of the Stafford hospital scandals warned a similar outrage could happen again.
Hospitals which will be inspected include Basildon and Thurrock, Colchester, Tameside, Blackpool and East Lancashire, where death rates have been persistently high over the past two years.
Officials would not confirm which other hospitals face inspections, but over the past year a total of 20 trusts have been found to have high death rates. They include Wye Valley, Aintree University Hospitals, Mid Cheshire Hospitals, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole and Hull and East Yorkshire.
According to the NHS’s measurement of death rates, a total of 1,500 patients have died ‘unexpectedly’ across all trusts over the past year.
Mr Cameron told the Commons: ‘I have asked the NHS medical director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, to conduct an immediate investigation into the care of hospitals with the highest mortality rates, and to check that urgent remedial action is being taken. The way Robert Francis (the report’s author) chronicles the evidence of systemic failure means we cannot say with confidence that failings of care are limited to one hospital.’
Mr Cameron also took the unprecedented step of apologising to the families of patients who suffered ‘horrific abuse’ at the trust.
He said: ‘This public inquiry not only repeats earlier findings but also shows wider systemic failings …. so I would like to go further as Prime Minister and apologise to the families of all those who have suffered for the way that the system allowed such horrific abuse to go unchecked and unchallenged for so long. On behalf of the Government – and indeed our country – I am truly sorry.’
Mr Cameron announced that hospital chief executives and chairmen could be sacked if patients say their trust’s care is poor. At present, senior managers are usually sacked only if their trust gets into debt or if they miss targets.
The Prime Minister also confirmed that healthcare assistants – untrained nurses – would be subject to new minimum standards and better training. This autumn, he will appoint a chief inspector of hospitals who will be responsible for checking they are clean, safe and caring, in the same way as schools inspectors check educational standards.
Mr Cameron said: ‘We need a hospital inspection regime that doesn’t just look at numeric targets, but makes a judgment about the quality of care.’
In addition, Mr Cameron has appointed MP Ann Clwyd – whose husband suffered appalling care – to investigate the NHS’s complaints system.
Mr Francis said the Mid Staffordshire scandal was not an ‘event of such rarity or improbability’, and he could not ‘assume that it has not been and will not be repeated’.
Christine Green, chief executive of Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said she looked forward to receiving Sir Bruce’s team, adding it was ‘well recognised’ that the trust’s death rate had been elevated for the past two years.
Miss Green said: ‘Over recent years the hospital has undertaken an extensive quality improvement programme, which has seen significant quality gains across a wide range of other clinical indicators including hospital infections, falls, deep vein thrombosis screening and pressure ulcers.’
A spokesman for Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said they were committed to improving mortality rates, with all hospital deaths reviewed to identify any lessons that can be learned.
Hospital sued over children left neglected and dying on wards
A leading hospital has been accused of a catalogue of neglect and mistreatment of babies and children with heart problems, it is disclosed today.
University Hospitals Bristol Foundation trust is being sued by a group of families over its treatment of newborn babies and young children who died or suffered complications at the hospital in a landmark case which raises fresh questions over the NHS’s treatment of its patients.
The ten families – of whom seven lost children, while three children survived – are seeking an admission of wrongdoing by the hospital trust, which would also open the way for compensation payments for those who face looking after the surviving children who were damaged by their treatment.
In some cases nurses are accused of switching off or turning down alarms supposed to warn them that children’s conditions were deteriorating.
Other parents say that there were so few nurses caring for children who had undergone heart surgery that they administered medication, monitored oxygen levels and even cleaned up vomit themselves.
The legal case is the latest to hit the NHS and comes in the wake of the damning report into Stafford Hospital, where up to 1,200 patients died needlessly and hundreds more suffered appalling care.
The ten cases include:
* Luke Jenkins, 7, who died of a cardiac arrest within a week of heart surgery last April after hospital staff failed to recognise that he was deteriorating. His parents say they witnessed nurses “resetting” alarms which indicated his condition was deteriorating.
* Sean Turner, 4, died of a brain haemorrhage last March after staff did not identify that his condition was worsening. All around the ward, alarms were left unanswered, his parents said.
* Maisie Waters, just one week old when she died last August, after a nurse accidentally fed her a day’s worth of food in just one hour, using an infusion machine.
* Oscar Willcox, died aged 9 weeks last April. His mother said his death followed a catalogue of failings, with nurses failing to clean up his vomit or change his nappies while he was dangerously ill.
* Jack Casey, left with brain damage, causing developmental problems, since complications following surgery in 2010, aged just 10 months, and a subsequent procedure in which his lung lining was pierced.
Bereaved parents said they had been left devastated after their children’s deaths, which they say followed a catalogue of failings and severe neglect.
Luke’s father, Stephen Jenkins, 31, from Cardiff, said he and his partner were left “screaming and shouting for help” because they could see their child was dying, yet nurses refused to listen, and failed to call senior doctors.
Although monitoring alarms were repeatedly sounding, warning that the child’s condition was worsening, nurses reset the alarms to a lower threshold, so they were less likely to go off, he said.
Laywers will accuse the trust of negligence in the post-operative care given to children, and in some cases in the surgery they received. They will say that without the failings, such as missing clear signs of deterioration, the children who died could have survived, while others might have suffered less extensive damage.
The trust has already admitted that failures to detect the worsening condition of Sean and Luke may have contributed to their deaths.
The cases, which occurred between 2008 and last autumn, will also deepen concerns about failings in NHS systems of regulation.
The legal actions come after the trust was censured by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), after an inspection found that too many children were receiving unsafe care and treatment, because there were not enough nurses to care for those recovering from surgery.
That visit only took place after regulators were repeatedly contacted by the bereaved parents of Sean Turner and Luke Jenkins, who expressed their fears that more children would die, if action was not taken.
CQC then issued a warning notice in October which said that staffing levels were unsafe on the cardiac ward for children who had undergone surgery.
Seven weeks later, it declared the hospital “compliant” with its standards. In fact the hospital only achieved this by reducing the number of patients it would accept for heart surgery, so that there are fewer children for nurses to care for.
Experts said the move by the hospital was a desperate measure, which could ultimately increase the risks to children treated at the cardiac unit as surgeons are supposed to carry out hundreds of procedures each year, in order to maintain their skills.
Robert Woolley, the trust’s chief executive, said the latest mortality figures, covering the three years up to 2010, showed a 1.6 per cent mortality rate for children below the age of one, and 1 per cent among older children, but that unaudited figures since then were not yet available.
He said. “All paediatric cardiac surgery carries with it significant risk and these risks are explained to parents. Despite these risks and the complex needs of the children we care for, we have results among the best in England.”
The trust said it could not comment on cases which had yet to go to an inquest, but apologised for the death of Maisie Waters. A spokesman said the trust had taken every possible step to minimise the chance of a similar human error occurring.
Cookery lessons back on the British school menu
Carpentry too? Apparently not
Cookery lessons are to become a compulsory part of the school curriculum for the first time after pressure from leading chefs and health campaigners.
Children as young as eight will now be taught basic cooking skills and how to make a balanced meal.
From September next year, primary school students will be given practical lessons in how to combine ingredients to produce simple, healthy food.
At secondary school, pupils will then master a number of different meals and will learn a range of cooking techniques including baking.
The proposals, made in the new draft national curriculum, have been welcomed by health experts concerned that children are growing up without basic culinary skills or food knowledge, which they say has helped to fuel the rise in childhood obesity and dietary-related diabetes.
They warn the demands of modern life have left many children living on a diet of ready meals because their parents are often too busy to cook.
Food technology is currently a component of the design and technology syllabus, but is not an independent part of the national curriculum.
And although food education is part of the curriculum at primary school level, teachers often prefer to focus on the nutritional aspects rather than the practical side of cooking.
The move is part of the Government’s strategy to tackle obesity, with one in three children in the UK now overweight by the age of nine.
The NHS spends around £6billion a year on diet-related diseases, which is thought in part to be due to poor levels of knowledge about healthy eating in schools and at home.
The proposals follow years of campaigning by a number of groups including leading chefs, Olympians and health organisations.
In a letter to the Telegraph last week, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tom Aikens and Prue Leith, all chefs and restaurateurs, as well as Alex Partridge, the Olympic rower, and Paul Lindley, the founder of the baby food producer Ella’s Kitchen, warned that the country is sleepwalking into a “dietary crisis”.
Their campaign, Averting A Recipe For Disaster, urged the Government to commit to improving nutrition for children or face saddling future generations with a multi–billion pound health bill.
Other signatories include Rob Rees, chair of The Children’s Food Trust, David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum and John Vincent, co-leader of the Government’s School Food plan and founder of restaurant chain Leon.
A study conducted for the campaign found that that the number of children who fail to eat any fruit or vegetables had increased by a third between 2009 and 2010.
Seventy per cent of primary school teachers and 87 per cent of mothers and fathers questioned said that cooking should be part of the curriculum.
The Department for Education ordered a review into school meals last year led by Henry Dimbleby and Mr Vincent, the co-founders of Leon.
Their aim was to get all children eating good food at school and to increase the teaching of cooking in primary and secondary schools.
Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen, said: “The announcement from the Department for Education that cooking will be reintroduced onto the National Curriculum at Key Stages 1, 2 and 3 is a hugely positive development in the mission to improve our children’s relationship with food.
“I wholeheartedly welcome this change, which has been driven by John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby as part of the School Food Plan and shows the change that can take place when good ideas gain traction.”
Libby Grundy, director of Food For Life Partnership, a national programme working with schools to teach them about healthy eating, said: “It’s exceptionally good news that the Government is serious about improving children’s health. Catching the children at a young age is the best way to tackle the problem, when it’s not too late to teach them how to cook healthy meals for themselves.
“In schools that already offer cookery lessons, we have seen pupils go home and teach their parents what they have learnt. We found 45 per cent of parents were saying the family now ate more healthily as a result.”
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “For the first time ever cookery will be a compulsory part of the curriculum from Key Stages 1 to 3. The new design and technology curriculum is about giving pupils the knowledge needed for their daily lives. Given the obesity issues that face our children today, it is vital that they know as much as possible about healthy eating and what constitutes a balanced diet.
“It’s also important that they can develop an interest and understanding of good food. By bringing this into the curriculum, we want to encourage children to develop a love of food and cooking that will stay with them as they grow up.”
Parents should not be allowed to feed their children
Karl Marx would applaud. He saw the family as a barrier against his ideas
The Coalition’s advisors on school food said head teachers should prevent pupils bringing their own lunches into school – and ban them from visiting fast food outlets – amid continuing fears over the state of children’s diets.
It was claimed that the move would effectively force parents to pay for school dinners – allowing staff to spend more money upgrading kitchens and generating healthy canteen food.
Ministers have already agreed to introduce compulsory cookery classes for seven- to 14-year-olds under a newly revamped National Curriculum.
From 2014, children will receive new lessons in nutrition and cooking techniques, eventually building up a repertoire of 20 dishes by the time they leave secondary school.
Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, co-founders of the Leon restaurant chain, who have been appointed to lead a review of school meals, said the move would improve children’s understanding of the importance of a healthy diet.
But they suggested that more radical action may be needed to boost standards of food consumed in schools themselves over lunchtime.
Mr Dimbleby said: “There’s still too much processed food in school canteens. Some of the meals I ate were a bit institutional – meat and two veg – and there is undoubtedly work to be done.”
Currently, around 40 per cent of children eat school meals, with the remainder bringing in packed lunches or leaving school at lunchtime to visit local fast food stores.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, Mr Dimbleby, son of the broadcaster David Dimbleby, said schools should consider banning packed lunches and requiring pupils to remain on site over lunch to drive up investment in school catering services.
He suggested billions of pounds was needed to enable all schools to provide high-quality healthy options for pupils.
“What we need to do is lift uptake from 40 per cent to 80 per cent over five years to make school meals solvent again,” he said. “Rather than ask government to subsidise a structurally bust system, we want the system to become solvent by getting more customers to pay for school dinners.”
Mr Dimbleby said that head teachers should effectively police packed lunches themselves, considering an all-out ban or restrictions on the type of food that can be included. This would prevent parents sending children to school with sugary and high-fat food.
“Because of the criticism school dinners underwent, there is a legacy in our minds as parents that you are going to feed your kids bad food if you give them school dinners,” he said. “But that is not true because scientific analysis shows cooked meals are healthier than packed lunches.”
An eminent naturalist becoming increasingly strange in his dotage
No, David Attenborough: Africa hasn’t warmed by 3.5 degrees C in two decades
It’s not often one looks to the Guardian’s environment pages for an incisive and thorough critique of green propagandising. But hats off – really – to Leo Hickman for this ruthless deconstruction of an erroneous claim made by David Attenborough on his latest BBC nature documentary that in the last twenty years Africa has warmed by 3.5 degrees C.
3.5 degrees C in two decades? That would indeed be a remarkable temperature rise in anybody’s money. (Remember, since 1850 global mean temperatures have risen by about 0.8 degrees C – and we’re supposed to find that worrying and significant). Which is why, you might have thought, the BBC would have spotted so obvious an error and removed it before the programme went out.
To his credit, this troubled Leo Hickman, too.
“I’d never heard this arresting claim before. If that rate of temperature rise continued over, say, a century, then those parts of Africa would see a deathly rise of 17.5C?! Could that claim really be true?”
So began his wild goose chase to track down the source of the BBC’s factoid. As you’ll see from his superb piece he never got a terribly satisfactory answer.
“I was told that it came from a report published in 2006 by the “Working Group on Climate Change”. The full title of the report was “Africa – Up in Smoke 2: The second report on Africa and global warming from the Working Group on Climate Change and Development” and it was “written and compiled” by Oxfam and the New Economics Foundation, with the support of a wide range of environmental and development NGOs such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF, Cafod and the Institute of Development Studies.”
This, in turn, takes him to a report produced by Christian Aid; and thence to the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia – which has a stab at citing a “peer-reviewed” article in Nature, which doesn’t support the claim made in the programme either.
What’s rather touching about this is that Hickman is so surprised. Those of us who follow Donna Laframboise’s research, for example, will have long been wearily familiar with the extent to which the IPCC’s supposedly authoritative reports depend on “grey literature” – ie propaganda – produced by activists at organisations like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Cafod, etc.
“Personally, I find it bizarre – and frustrating – that an otherwise exemplary series, which took years to film, has been tainted – in my mind, at least – by such a sloppy piece of research. Why rely primarily on a seven-year-old report published by an NGO? Why not just directly ask climatologists who would have the latest available data to hand? And how did the BBC’s researchers even come across such an obscure fact? You get the sense they simply Googled “Africa temperature rise” and went for the first thing they found.”
I agree. But it’s so much nicer – and frankly more damning – when instead of my saying it comes from someone on the other side.
Last week MPs revived the corpse of the ‘Secret Justice’ Bill. Here we spell out the full terrifying implications of life in… Secret Britain
Even the British Conservatives seem to be looking at the old Communist East Germany as the model for Britain
While all attention at Westminster was focused on whether to allow gay marriage, this Coalition Government did something furtive – something that is not only much less liberal, but coldly terrifying.
Under the cover of the furore, it quietly disinterred the corpse of its ‘Secret Justice’ Bill. This Bill creates extraordinary new legal powers to keep official dealings hidden from us. It changes all the comforting certainties about the rule of law in Britain.
Most of us have some kind of grasp of what is officially called the Justice and Security Bill. But it can be hard to imagine what it would actually mean in practice.
The Government wants us to think its scope is limited to rare and arcane disputes, perhaps born of foreign battlefields. Or ones that sound as if they belong in spy novels, involving CIA ‘black ops’ and ‘dark jails’. But if it becomes law, the effects will be felt much closer to home.
The shocking outcome of the recent Hillsborough Inquiry, bringing justice at last to 97 families? If similar circumstances were to arise again, it is likely that justice would never be delivered: if the families tried to sue, alleging a bungled police operation and a subsequent cover-up, the Bill would give the authorities the ability to keep the truth concealed.
A case brought against the Ministry of Defence by families of soldiers killed in a foreign deployment, alleging their loved ones’ equipment was defective? This is not mere hypothesis. Many argue now that the British death toll in Afghanistan has been higher than it should have been because some of our military vehicles were too vulnerable to roadside bombs.
With this law enshrined, the Government could insist on a closed, secret hearing. There, it could present evidence denying such claims. No one could challenge it, because no one directly affected by the case would ever know what it was.
Or take the very real, current scandal of the women green activists who unknowingly entered sexual relationships with undercover police officers.
Those defending such a case could be entitled to a secret hearing, at which they could claim that such tactics were entirely justified, on the basis that the women posed some kind of threat to national security.
This is the reality of a society regulated by secret justice: a legal system weighted irredeemably in favour of those in power. The legislation had previously been watered down considerably, and wisely, by the House of Lords. Now, it is not just as bad as it was when introduced last year. It’s even worse.
Under the resuscitated Bill, matters involving State security will usually be heard at secret ‘closed material procedure’ hearings. They will be attended only by security-vetted ‘special advocates’. Those involved in cases against official bodies will be permanently unable to know about the evidence deployed against them.
The new revised draft, the product of the final session of the Bill’s committee stage, was forced through by a majority of one. The Ulster Democratic Unionist Ian Paisley Jnr cast the critical vote.
This took place at precisely the same time as the same-sex marriage debate was happening in the main Commons chamber, which is why all this went virtually unnoticed.
The consequences are draconian. The Government’s actions, prompted by intense lobbying from MI5 and MI6 security chiefs, mean there is now less than three weeks to stop the enactment of a ruthless measure that amounts to a charter for cover-ups.
A real recent example of a case that will be affected is that of Abdelhakim Belhadj. He is the Libyan opposition leader abducted with his family from Bangkok with the help of British intelligence, then tortured by Gaddafi’s brutal regime for years.
Like other victims of ‘extraordinary rendition’, Mr Belhadj, who has never been alleged to have committed a single hostile act against Britain, its citizens or its allies, is suing the UK Government. But the official evidence of what was done in our name will be deemed far too ‘sensitive’ to be aired in open court.
Once the Bill becomes law, his chances of success are remote. And the prospects for enforcing the merest whiff of accountability on the agencies responsible for torture cases, and, indeed, a vast range of official activity from national security to the country’s ‘economic wellbeing’, will be just as distant.
Previously, the Lords had passed two crucial safeguards to stop this. The first said judges could grant the Government a secret hearing only if other alternatives had already been considered, like, for example, asking permission from the judge in a case to withhold sensitive evidence altogether, under the longstanding system of ‘public interest immunity’. The second Lords safeguard was more fundamental.
It stated that judges could allow a secret hearing only after balancing the Government’s demand for one against the historic legal principle that justice must always be open.
Last week, with the passage of Amendment 55, moved by the junior Justice Minister James Brokenshire, both these safeguards were swept away. ‘In practice, it will now be very difficult for a judge to resist a closed hearing,’ one legal analyst said yesterday.
Under this Bill, it is now possible a prisoner in a British jail who tried to challenge his detention in the courts would remain incarcerated without hearing the evidence against him.
The battle is not over. Pending is a High Court action by The Mail on Sunday which seeks to make public a secret judgment issued in an Afghan alleged torture case two years ago, which resulted from an earlier form of secret hearing, now deemed illegal by the Supreme Court.
As this newspaper has pointed out, the Bill will inevitably lead to a body of secret law and secret legal precedents. Our case also asks the court to issue guidelines on how such secret judgments should be reviewed, and whenever possible, published.
Meanwhile both Labour and several influential Tories are determined to try to reinstate the Lords’ safeguards when the Bill returns to the full House of Commons later this month.
David Davis, the leading Conservative backbencher, said: ‘It is appalling that the Government has reneged on its promise to allow full judicial discretion as enacted by the Lords.’
Andrew Tyrie, the Tory who campaigned for years against torture and rendition, says: ‘Not only must all of the Lords’ amendments remain in the Bill, they need to be underpinned by further improvements.’
Mr Davis added: ‘What the Government did last week is a massive dilution of the protections put in place by the Lords. I can only hope they will summon up the courage to reinstate them.’
It is a hope anyone with even the vaguest interest in open justice would surely share.
British free speech campaigners condemn Press regulation proposals as an ‘unacceptable attempt to hold the Government to ransom’
Free speech campaigners yesterday condemned a House of Lords amendment to introduce statutory regulation of the Press as an ‘unacceptable’ attempt to ‘hold the Government to ransom’.
Earlier in the week, an alliance of Labour, Lib Dem and rebel Tory peers passed the proposal to introduce an arbitration service for members of the public who have been wronged by the Press.
The amendment to the Defamation Bill raised the possibility that some of the most controversial aspects of Lord Justice Leveson’s report on the Press would become law by the back door.
Prime Minister David Cameron opposes statutory regulation of newspapers.
But Index on Censorship has condemned the amendment, proposed by Labour peer Lord Puttnam, the film producer.
The group, which has been campaigning to defend freedom of speech for 40 years, warned the proposal threatens the ‘vital’ Defamation Bill.
Kirsty Hughes, CEO of Index on Censorship said: ‘It’s unacceptable for Labour Peers to hold the government to ransom by injecting statutory regulation of the Press into a vitally needed Defamation Bill.
‘These two very different issues should be dealt with separately. The government must not drop the Defamation Bill, but continue the all-party talks on Leveson.’
Index on Censorship is one of three charities behind the Libel Reform Campaign, which has fought for three years to reform the libel law.
Jo Glanville, director of writers’ rights group English PEN, also criticised the amendment, saying: ‘This would chill the Press and free speech and is exactly what we’ve tried to avoid in the Bill. ‘The Government must reject these amendments and continue with the Bill.’