NHS chief’s right-hand woman who threatened to sack whistleblower ‘axed inquiry into 670 deaths’
A health chief who threatened to sack a whistleblower is now under investigation for quashing a probe into high death rates at his hospital.
Dame Barbara Hakin, who is one of the most powerful women in the NHS, has been referred to the General Medical Council for allegedly ditching an inspection at United Lincolnshire NHS trust three years ago. As many as 670 patients are feared to have died unnecessarily at the trust since 2009.
Concerned that the hospital’s ‘target culture’ was putting patients at risk, Gary Walker – who was then the trust’s chief executive and has since turned whistleblower – told Dame Barbara in 2009 he was planning to get an external review of mortality rates.
He was concerned that patients who weren’t seriously ill were being treated ahead of urgent cases, simply to allow the trust to meet targets.
But Dame Barbara, 55, who has been described as the ‘right-hand woman’ of NHS Chief Sir David Nicholson, is said to have halted the review and warned Mr Walker he ‘would have to go’.
She has also been accused of writing a letter to the hospital trust ordering it to meet its waiting list targets ‘whatever the demand’.
Mr Walker said Dame Barbara told him in a face to face the trust must hit targets despite it being full to breaking point. This, he claims, endangered patients because meeting the non-emergency targets would require him to turn away emergency patients or cut down on care.
In a handwritten note, Dame Barbara said to the chairman of the East Midlands Strategic Health Authority John Brigstocke: ‘Need to meet targets whatever demand.’
The Mail understands that the GMC is now investigating a number of claims that Dame Barbara’s actions put patients at risk.
The GMC will now decide whether Dame Barbara – a former Bradford GP who is a senior director on the NHS Commissioning Board on a salary of £70,000 a year – should be hauled in front of a disciplinary hearing. This could lead to her being suspended or even struck off.
Although she no longer practises as a GP, the humiliation would be disastrous for her career as one of the most senior NHS executives.
The allegations, which date back to 2009 when Dame Barbara was head of the regional body in charge of United Lincolnshire NHS Trust, were made by Dr Phil Hammond and Andrew Bousfield, a journalist, who handed the GMC a dossier of evidence.
A spokesman for the GMC said it would not comment on cases under investigation.
Dame Barbara lives in Oxenhope, West Yorkshire, with her husband, Dr Ronald Hakin, 75, a retired neurologist. She has two grown-up children.
Initially she was chief executive of Bradford Primary Care Trust and was then appointed head of the East Midlands Strategic Health Authority, which was in charge of United Lincolnshire hospitals.
In 2009 she was made a dame for her ‘services to healthcare’ and at the time said she was ‘very honoured’. She is now the national managing director of commissioning development at the NHS Commissioning Board – the new body in charge of hospitals and GP services.
A spokesman for the strategic health authority said: ‘During her tenure as SHA chief executive, Dame Barbara acted at all times in the interest of patients, ensuring that they received high quality and safe services.’
Mr Walker said he had told Dame Barbara that he was going to order a mortality rate review at the hospital due to the high number of patients he was having to treat. He said: ‘I emailed Dame Barbara to set the agenda for the meeting the following day and I said I wanted to order a mortality review.
‘When I met her, she didn’t want to speak about it. She was incensed by my email. Her words were: “You will have to go or your career will be in tatters”.’
He claimed: ‘If she had acted on my concerns, I believe fewer people would have died.’
Three-year-old girl dies of dehydration after locum doctor sent her home from A&E without carrying out basic tests
A girl of three died of dehydration after a locum doctor in a casualty unit sent her home without doing basic tests that would have saved her life, an inquest was told.
Mylee Ward should have been admitted to hospital and given fluids after being sick and barely able to eat or drink for three days.
Instead the doctor, who had treated a large number of children that week with sickness bugs, sent the youngster home with antibiotics.
Around 36 hours later, her mother Terrina-Ann Laughton and father Kevin Ward were considering taking her back to hospital when she found the youngster unconscious in her playpen. ‘I was hysterical,’ she said. ‘We lay her flat on the floor but could not get any response.’
A doctor called to the family home in Chesterfield pronounced the girl dead. In a narrative verdict, coroner Robert Hunter ruled that Mylee died due to dehydration contributed to by neglect. He criticised Dr Mushfikur Rahman for his failure to treat the girl properly.
The coroner told the inquest in Chesterfield: ‘Had she been admitted and fluids given, on balance she would have survived.’
The child was taken to Chesterfield Royal Hospital in March last year after being seen by a paramedic at home.
Mylee was laid across two chairs, instead of being found a trolley, and examined by Dr Rahman, who should have carried out a simple blood or urine test to check for dehydration. ‘These are basic medical checks, nothing complex or sophisticated,’ said the coroner.
Dr Rahman, who sent Mylee home at 1am, admitted there were ‘lots of things he missed’.
Mylee, who was born with brain damage and was unable to walk or talk, was described by her mother as a ‘happy, cheerful, giggly little girl’.
After the hearing, Miss Laughton, 39, who has four other children, said she had received no apology or contact from the hospital.
Asked about Dr Rahman, she said: ‘I think every day that if he had done his job properly Mylee would still be alive.’ A spokesman for the hospital said the doctor had not worked there since Mylee’s death and concerns had been passed to the agency that supplied him.
He said the hospital wanted to pass on ‘our sincere and unreserved apologies’ that aspects of the girl’s treatment ‘were poor’.
Changes to staffing and procedures had been made as a result of the tragedy. [Ha!]
Cancer patient left ‘terrified’ after hospital doctor issues him with a Do Not Resuscitate order
A cancer patient said he was left feeling terrified after a hospital doctor issued him with a Do Not Resuscitate order.
Alan Cargill was being treated for cancer of the inner chest wall and a blood clot at the University Hospital of North Durham.
During his stay a doctor approached him and told him he wouldn’t be revived if he took a turn for the worse.
The 69-year-old said: ‘I had reacted badly to chemotherapy and I also had a blood clot so they admitted me to hospital.
‘This doctor came to see me and informed me that I wouldn’t be brought around again if anything happened. I would just be left.’
Mr Cargill from Durham, said the doctor gave him a form prominently marked Do Not Resuscitate and walked away.
The former haulage boss said the experience had really frightened him.
He said: ‘He terrified me, to be truthful. It is bad craic for something like that to happen when you are that ill.
‘It is stamped all over with Do Not Resuscitate. Apparently, you are supposed to carry it round with you.’
Mr Cargill was also concerned that the matter was raised with him without any other member of his family being present.
A few days later Mr Cargill was discharged and allowed home where he discussed the Do Not Resuscitate order with his family.
He was so concerned that Mr Cargill decided to raise the matter with his solicitor. He said: ‘I talked to my solicitor and asked him, could they do that? He told me they can’t.’
After taking legal advice Mr Cargill contacted the hospital, confirmed that he did not wish the order to apply to him and then tore up the document.
Despite the shock of being issued with a Do Not Resuscitate order, Mr Cargill has nothing but praise for hospital staff. ‘I have no complaints about the medical care. It couldn’t have been better.’
The widowed grandfather, who has two grown-up daughters, has decided not to have any more treatment for his cancer for the time being.
But last night he joked: ‘I have every intention of living as long as possible. I have just bought a new car!’
Do Not Resuscitate, or DNR orders are increasingly being used in the NHS when it is thought that the benefits of resuscitation are outweighed by the negative effects.
The presence of a DNR order on a patients file means that medical staff are not required to resuscitate a patient if their heart stops or if they stop breathing.
Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The Patients Association, said: ‘The use of DNR orders is understandably a sensitive and deeply distressing issue.
‘Sadly, there have been far too many cases where healthcare professionals have failed to facilitate proper conversations with relatives and patients about how, when and why a DNR order may be used.
‘Hospitals need to look carefully at their procedures to ensure there are open discussions around end of life care involving both patients and relatives.’
Guidelines from the British Medical Association state that DNR orders should only be issued after discussion with patients or their family.
A spokesman for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘We are sorry to hear about this complaint, and would welcome contact via the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALs), and the opportunity to meet with the complainant to discuss their concerns.
‘Resuscitation decision making is a complex process. County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust has a comprehensive policy that describes the process that we expect staff to follow when supporting patients and their families during this difficult time. This policy is based upon regional best practice.’
Cutting salt could save 20,000 lives each year in UK
This is just assertion (no new data) that ignores a lot of evidence that salt restriction is harmful
Reducing the amount of salt in our diets could save nearly 20,000 lives in the UK every year, according to researchers.
Doctors say deaths from heart disease would fall dramatically if consumers paid attention to food labels.
Yet most Britons have no idea how much salt they consume or what the maximum recommended levels are.
The recommended maximum daily intake for adults is 6g in the UK, although just last month the World Health Organisation revised this down to 5g.
Yet according to figures from the British Heart Foundation, men consume around 9.7g a day, while women have 7.7g.
Now researchers at three universities, including Harvard Medical School, have revealed the dramatic effect reducing salt could have on death rates by using computer models.
They estimated that reducing salt intake to 6g (or 2,300mg of sodium) would save 500,000 to 850,000 lives in the U.S over the next decade.
‘No matter how we look at it, the story is the same – there will be huge benefits in reducing sodium,’ said study author Dr Pam Coxson, from UCSF.
The British consumer group Consensus Action on Salt & Health said reducing the UK’s daily intake to 6g could save around 17,500 deaths from heart attacks and strokes a year.
British GP Ian Campbell, medical director of charity Weight Concern, told Mail Online: ‘Salt is a big problem in the UK too. It’s a silent killer. Over time consuming too much of it increases the risk of high blood blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
‘About 80 per cent of our salt intake comes from processed foods, so it can be difficult to avoid.
‘Many people are unaware of where salt is hidden, such as bread, soups, ready meals, even breakfast cereals and mayonnaise.
‘The Government approach has been to encourage food manufacturers to modify the amount of salt in their products. There has been a reduction but it is taking too long. The Food Standards Agency should consider setting mandatory maximum levels for salt.’
Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, added: ‘Eating too much salt may raise your blood pressure and having high blood pressure increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease.
‘The Government has worked with the food industry to reduce the amount of salt in our food and make labels clearer. But there is still work to be done by everyone because the majority of Brits are still consuming more salt than they should be.’
British Conservative councillor suspended for posting a Facebook picture which ‘compared Muslim children in burkas to bin bags’
A pretty good comparison, as far as I can see
A local councillor has been suspended for posting a comment on Facebook comparing Muslim children wearing burkas to bin bags.
The Conservative councillor for Enfield, in north London, has denied being Islamophobic and defended his comments as ‘blokeish banter’.
Mr Joannides posted a photo showing a woman and child dressed in burkas standing next to two bin bags.
He wrote underneath: ‘I saw her standing there and I told her she had three beautiful children. She didn’t have to get all p***ed off and threaten me. It was an honest mistake!’
Mr Joannides is of Greek Cypriot origins. Decades back, the Muslim Turks invaded and took over Northern Cyprus. And Greeks are passionate people so it would be a long search to find a Greek Cypriot who approves of Muslims