Now a gag on doctors and nurses: Hundreds being prevented from exposing poor care in hospitals by ‘Stalinist’ rules
Hundreds of doctors, nurses and NHS managers are being prevented from exposing poor care by ‘Stalinist’ gagging orders.
A leading surgeon said the case of Gary Walker, who broke his silence to tell the Mail about high death rates, was just the tip of the iceberg.
Mike Parker said the secret deals to keep former staff quiet were a ‘threat to the survival of the Health Service’.
Freedom of Information requests show that 90 per cent of severance agreements between health trusts and doctors have gagging clauses. They stop frontline staff revealing their concerns about patient safety and hospital standards. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says he will write to all health trusts, urging them to drop the clauses or face ‘the consequences’ if they don’t.
But the row has placed question marks over the future of the most powerful man in the NHS, Sir David Nicholson, who has clung to his job despite presiding over the Mid Staffordshire hospital disaster that cost the lives of 1,200 patients.
Mr Parker, who sits on the council of the Royal College of Surgeons but was speaking in a personal capacity, said meetings with colleagues across the country had made him aware of ‘something akin to Stalinism’ in the NHS. Mr Parker said that Mr Walker – sacked as chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals in 2010 – was ‘speaking on behalf of many’.
An investigation revealed that at least 170 hospital doctors in England and Wales had been handed gagging orders backed up by taxpayer-funded payoffs of millions of pounds when they quit. The doctors had signed severance deals with 71 NHS trusts. Fifty-five of the 64 contracts supplied by trusts – 90 per cent – had gagging clauses. Mr Parker, a laparoscopy and colorectal surgeon who has recently retired, said this approach had failed and that tough legal powers were needed to stop whistleblowers being ‘prosecuted or persecuted’.
He said: ‘It’s still going on. All we are seeing is the tip of a huge iceberg. I have spoken to colleagues up and down the country and I’m very aware of gagging orders and gagging clauses being put on doctors and surgeons.
‘It wouldn’t surprise me if there were hundreds of them out there. At the moment people are frightened of speaking out. I have the utmost admiration for this man in Lincolnshire, he is a brave man speaking on behalf of many doctors, surgeons, nurses and administrators.
‘Who knows how many there may be? If the minister really wants to get to the bottom of this my suggestion is he really must implement some sort of legal intervention.
‘This sort of behaviour is very, very frightening, it’s nothing less than what you had in Stalinist Russia, and it has got to be rooted out. I think it goes right to the very top.
‘If the NHS is going to survive, this behaviour, this sort of philosophy has got to stop. It’s unacceptable in this day and age. It goes back 15 or 20 years but has been getting gradually worse and worse.’
Julie Bailey, founder of the pressure group Cure the NHS, said gagging clauses were a ‘disgrace’ in a caring profession.
‘It’s an outrage that people are silenced when they want to raise concerns about care in the NHS,’ she added. ‘It’s also worrying that many of those being gagged are doctors and nurses on the front line. Could this be one of the reasons the NHS is in the crisis it’s in? What we want Jeremy Hunt to do now is declare an amnesty for all whistleblowers and invite them to share their concerns about our Health Service.’
Mr Parker said he knew medical staff who had tried to speak out but encountered ‘bullying’ including threats to lose their job or lose performance-related pay, or a campaign by management to try to isolate them from their colleagues.
It emerged yesterday that Mr Walker had been forced to sign his gagging order in October 2011 just a week after the last health secretary, Andrew Lansley, wrote to trusts demanding they be banned.
The minister told hospital bosses that staff ‘need to know that they have a responsibility to raise concerns if they see risks to patient safety’ and ‘be reassured that the Government stands full square behind them’.
Mr Walker stands to lose his £500,000 payout for speaking in defiance of the order.
Watch your balls: NHS pays out £1million in compensation to men who have had the wrong TESTICLE removed
More than £1million in damages have been paid out by the NHS to men who have had the wrong testicle removed by surgeons.
In the last four years there have been 56 successful claims made by men who have been affected by medical blunders, according to the National Health Service Litigation Authority.
In most cases the men didn’t need surgery at all and in others surgeons also had to remove the second testicle.
The NHS normally pays out around £20,000 if the wrong testicle has been removed.
Roger Goss, co-director of Patient Concern, told The Sun: ‘It is amazing that surgeons don’t always take enough care to guarantee that they are removing the correct testicle.
‘Despite the huge total compensation bill, individual payments sound modest for wrecking men’s lives.’ According to the figures £1.3million has been paid out since 2009. Men who have been left infertile can be rewarded up to £70,000.
But the most common reason for payouts is when doctors misdiagnose testicular torsion — where the tubes inside the body get twisted, cutting off the blood supply.
Other claims result from hernia operations where the blood supply to the testicle is accidentally cut off.
Testicular cancer affects one man in 450 before the age of 50 and is the most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 45.
The number of cases in the UK has doubled in the past 40 years and around 2,200 new cases are diagnosed each year.
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Quite simply, never events should never happen.
‘There are simple ways to prevent them occurring, like the Surgical Safety Checklist, and everyone working in the NHS should ensure that the checklist is being followed
‘The NHS treats a million people every 36 hours, and we know that the vast majority of these patients have excellent care.
‘But the NHS needs to do more to really tackle these events. The NHS Commissioning Board is now setting up a taskforce to eradicate these never events from NHS surgery.’
It’s MY job to deport foreigners who commit serious crime – and I’ll fight any judge who stands in my way, says Home Secretary
Unless there are very exceptional circumstances, foreigners who have committed serious crimes in this country, or who have attempted to cheat the immigration system, should be deported from Britain.
Parliament wants that to happen, the public wants that to happen, and I want that to happen. But, too often, it is not happening.
Time and time again we are treated to the spectacle of people who have been found guilty of rape or serious assault being given the right to stay in this country.
It is not in the national interest that this situation continues. What is going on? The short answer is that some of our judges appear to have got it into their heads that Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, the ‘right to family life’, is an absolute, unqualified right.
This means that if a foreign criminal can show that he has a family in this country, they take the view he has a right to remain here, regardless of the gravity of the offences.
That interpretation is wrong. The Convention is quite plain: the right to family life is not an absolute right, like the right not to be tortured. It is a qualified right, and it can be restricted when that is required, for example, to protect public safety, or for the prevention of crime.
I thought that possibly the problem for the judges was that our Parliament had not explicitly stated how the right to family life could be restricted.
So in June last year I ensured that the House of Commons was able to debate my amendments to the immigration rules. Those amendments stated that in the usual case, any foreign national who was convicted of a serious crime should be deported, regardless of whether or not the criminal had a family in the UK.
After a vigorous debate, the Commons adopted the changes unanimously. There was no division because there was no one in the Commons who opposed them.
I made it clear that I would introduce primary legislation should the Commons’ acceptance of my amendments not be sufficient to persuade judges to change the way they interpreted Article Eight. But I hoped that the outcome of the debate would be enough.
Unfortunately, some judges evidently do not regard a debate in Parliament on new immigration rules, followed by the unanimous adoption of those rules, as evidence that Parliament actually wants to see those new rules implemented.
As a justification for ignoring the new rules, one immigration judge recently stated that ‘the procedure adopted in relation to the introduction of the new rules provided a weak form of Parliamentary scrutiny. Parliament has not altered the legal duty of the judge determining appeals to decide on proportionality for him or herself’.
Just think for a moment what this judge is claiming. He is asserting that he can ignore the unanimous adoption by the Commons of new immigration rules on the grounds that he thinks this is a ‘weak form of parliamentary scrutiny’.
I find it difficult to see how that can be squared with the central idea of our constitution, which is that Parliament makes the law, and judges interpret what that law is and make sure the executive complies with it.
For almost all of the long history of disputes between judges and Parliament, it has been common ground that Parliament is the ultimate law-maker, and that it is not for the judges to be legislators.
It is essential to democracy that the elected representatives of the people make the laws that govern this country – and not the judges.
Yet some judges seem to believe that they can ignore Parliament’s wishes if they think that the procedures for parliamentary scrutiny have been ‘weak’. That appears actually to mean that they can ignore Parliament when they think it came to the wrong conclusion.
Most judges, especially in our higher courts, do not take this attitude. One High Court judge, for example, has explicitly recognised that the new rules are ‘unquestionably valid laws, democratically enacted under a procedure which is necessary for the efficient practical functioning of Parliament’. The majority of judges share his view.
But a minority think that it is their role to determine, for instance, whether or not foreigners who commit serious crimes shall be deported. They are able to frustrate Government policy and prevent the deportation of criminals.
It is now clear that only explicit parliamentary legislation will convince them that the law is what Parliament says it is, not what they think it should be.
I am therefore determined to introduce primary legislation that will specify that foreign nationals who commit serious crimes shall, except in extraordinary circumstances, be deported.
Once this primary legislation has been enacted, it is surely inconceivable that judges in this country will maintain that it is they, rather than Parliament, who are entitled to decide how to balance the foreigner’s right to family life against our nation’s right to protect itself.
It is depressing that the steps we have already taken should have been insufficient to produce that result. The inevitable delays inherent in passing primary legislation will mean that there will be many more foreign criminals who successfully avoid deportation on the basis that they have a family here.
There will also be more victims of violent crimes committed by foreigners in this country – foreigners who should have been, and could have been, deported.
This is not a dispute about respect for human rights, which I certainly agree is an essential part of any decent legal system. It is about how to balance rights against each other: in particular, the individual’s right to family life, the right of the individual to be free from violent crime, and the right of society to protect itself against foreign criminals.
One of the most distressing results of judges taking it on themselves to determine how that balance should be struck, in defiance of Parliament’s wishes, has been the damage done to the notion of human rights: in the popular imagination, ‘human rights’ are wrongly, but perhaps understandably, becoming synonymous with legal dodges that allow criminals to escape proper punishment and to continue to prey on the public.
I am a great admirer of most of the judges in Britain.
I absolutely accept that the power of Ministers should be reviewed and restrained by independent judges who are appointed, not elected, and who are not accountable to the electorate for their decisions.
But the law in this country is made by the elected representatives of the people in Parliament. And our democracy is subverted when judges decide to take on that role for themselves.
Conspiracy of silence on value of marriage: Politicians frightened to admit fathers are vital, says top British family lawyer
Marriage is as important to the future of the nation as climate change and poverty, a senior family lawyer said yesterday.
Baroness Deech said the growing numbers of families without fathers was doing more harm to the next generation than other factors such as smoking, alcohol, poor diet and lack of exercise.
And she warned that a conspiracy of silence surrounded the issue because political leaders were afraid to say married families were better for children than cohabiting families or single parent families.
Lady Deech, who is head of the Bar Standards Board, made her remarks at a conference organised by the Marriage Foundation, a pressure group led by High Court family judge Sir Paul Coleridge. She said marriage was based on a public promise and evidence showed married parents were twice as likely to stay together through a child’s early years as cohabiting parents.
Children of single mothers have greater problems than those of cohabitee parents, and children of cohabitees have greater problems than those of married parents.
‘Since this is so incontrovertible, why is it so brave, as Sir Humphrey would put it, to tackle the desirability of marriage over cohabitation, both for adults and children?’ Lady Deech asked.
‘The topic has become a no-go area.
‘We live in a world where we are encouraged to take care of our own and our children’s health: we are constantly admonished to take exercise, eat healthily, wear a cycle helmet, study the side of the package, stop smoking, recycle, combat global warming, brush our teeth, control our drinking habits and have health checks.
But when it comes to the one issue that does more harm to the next generation than any of these – the absence of a father in the family – there is a conspiracy of silence.
‘Politicians fear to address it. It is time to place marriage issues up there along with climate change, poverty and peace as a topic pre-eminently relevant to the present and future happiness and health of all people.’
Lady Deech said those who favoured cohabitation often said marriage was ‘only a piece of paper’, adding: ‘It is clearly a very important piece of paper, nonetheless, of the utmost significance to life, equal love and happiness, say the gay community, when gay marriage is on the agenda.’
Other kinds of relationship are seen as lesser than marriage, she added.
‘Children deserve natural parents who are prepared to make the act of commitment and aspiration found only in marriage, in order to demonstrate to those children that they intend to be there for them, without question, as they grow up.
‘The wedding ceremony highlights the fact that marriage is the strongest bond ever invented to link together two people and two families, for now and posterity – intimately, legally, politically, religiously, civilly and publicly.’
Lady Deech added that same-sex couples who have entered civil partnerships are pressing to have marriage, which is seen as a ‘better alternative’.
Same-sex fertility: Depriving a child of mother and father is ‘abuse’, say British pro-life campaigners
Access to NHS funded fertility treatment is to be extended under new guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence despite experts warning that the health service is facing its biggest ever financial crisis.
The NHS is having to find £20bn of efficiency savings over four years to cope with increasing demand at a time of flat rate increases in budgets.
However Nice does not have to consider budgets when setting guidelines and is updating its 2004 fertility advice to take into account medical advances and changes in society.
The guidance due out on Wednesday will recommend that same sex couples be offered artificial insemination on the NHS for six cycles before moving on to IVF if that fails.
Anthony Ozimic, communications manager for pro-life organisation Society for the Protection of Unborn Children was critical of the new guidance.
“The decision ignores biology in the name of politically correct social engineering,” he said. “Children are being abused by being deliberately deprived of either a father or a mother.”
However, James Taylor, health officer for gay rights campaign group Stonewall, rebutted such claims as he welcomed the move.
He said: “There is no research that shows being brought up by two dads or two mums puts you in any worse position than being brought up by a mum and a dad.”
Pouring granulated sugar on wounds ‘can heal them faster than antibiotics’
Too much sugar may be bad for the waistline, but it could help doctors heal the sick.
New research shows folk medicine from Africa may hold the key to treating wounds that defy modern medicine.
A study found granulated sugar poured directly into bed sores, leg ulcers and even amputations promotes healing when antibiotics and other treatments have failed.
The study is headed by Moses Murandu, a senior lecturer in adult nursing at Wolverhampton University, who grew up in Zimbabwe where his father used sugar to heal wounds and reduce pain when he was a child.
Sugar draws water from the wound into a dressing – bacteria needs water to survive – which allows accelerates the healing process, or kick starts it where progress has stalled.
When Mr Murandu moved to the UK he realised that sugar was not recognised as a traditional medicine that had something to offer.
One of the patients receiving treatment as part of the research is Alan Bayliss, from Birmingham, who was being treated at Moseley Hall Hospital’s amputee rehabilitation ward.
He underwent an above the knee amputation on his right leg due to an ulcer at the Queen Elizabeth (QE) Hospital Birmingham in January 2013, and as part of the surgery a vein was removed from his left leg.
For his post-surgery rehabilitation, Mr Bayliss was moved to Moseley Hall Hospital where standard dressings were used but the left leg cavity wound was not healing effectively.
Nurses contacted Mr Murandu and Mr Bayliss was given the sugar treatment and within two weeks the wound had drastically reduced in size.
Mr Bayliss, a 62-year-old electrical engineer, said ‘It has been revolutionary. The actual wound was very deep – it was almost as big as my finger
‘When Moses first did the dressing he almost used the whole pot of sugar, but two weeks later he only needed to use 4 or 5 teaspoons.
‘I am very pleased indeed. I feel that it has speeded up my recovery a lot, and it has been a positive step forward.
‘I was a little sceptical at first but once I saw the sugar in operation and how much it was drawing the wound out, I was impressed.’
Staff Nurse Jonathan Janneman said: ‘One of the main benefits has been the morale of the patient. He could see the cavity in his leg as well as having been unwell and through operations.
‘But the sugar has given something to hold on to. It is amazing that something as simple as sugar has given him a morale boost – the psychological benefit is up there with the physical benefits.
‘The patient is ecstatic with the results.’ Mr Murandu is undertaking a trial at three West Midlands hospitals – Moseley Hall, the QE Hospital and Manor Hospital in Walsall – into using the sugar paste.
So far 35 patients receiving treatment have seen their condition improve, with no adverse effects reported, compared with 16 patients who did not have the treatment.
The treatment works because bacteria need water to grow, so applying sugar to a wound draws the water away and starves the bacteria of water. This prevents the bacteria from multiplying and they die.
Mr Murandu said pure sugar was used which had to go through infection control procedures.
He said ‘In Africa we would get the sugar from the supermarket, here it has to go through our aseptic services department.
‘The only problem we have is asking people to be prepared not to get the treatment – they have already been on standard treatment of antibiotics and modern dressings which hasn’t worked.’
Mr Murandu, who has won an innovation award for his research, said: ‘It is very pleasing for me to see the results, especially now that the nurses are able to take over and administer the treatment after I have made the initial assessment, and also that the patients are experiencing the benefits.
‘I believe in the sugar and the nurses and doctors who see the effects are beginning to believe in it too. I’d like to thank the University and the School of Health and Wellbeing for their support and also the patients for taking part.’