Hospital at centre of police probe after death of 89-year-old pensioner ‘left lying on mattress placed on floor without pillow’
Police today launched an investigation into allegations that a great-grandmother suffering from dementia was left to sleep overnight on a mattress on a hospital floor.
Bernice Zair, 89, was admitted to Darlington Memorial Hospital in December last year for a water infection and was only expected be in for a few days.
When her son Sam and his wife went to visit they claim they found Mrs Zair in a room on her own curled up on a mattress facing the skirting board.
Mrs Zair’s daughter-in-law, Lesley, said: ‘I wouldn’t treat my dog like this. There was not even a pillow under Sam’s mum’s head.’
‘I was just horrified to see a mattress on the floor with Sam’s lovely mum curled up on it.’
Sam Zair, a County Durham Councillor and cafe owner in Bishop Auckland said: ‘We couldn’t believe what we were seeing.’
He said his mother had initially spent 72 hours on a ward before being transferred to the room.
She later contracted pneumonia while at the hospital and died on January 18 this year.
Mr Zair is also making a complaint about the lack of staff on duty, many of whom were from an agency.
‘As a family we are absolutely distraught and I am absolutely disgusted by the way a certain ward in Darlington treated my mother.’
He was one of the leaders of the ‘Save Our Hospital’ campaign which tried to prevent the scrapping of 24-hour emergency care at the Bishop Auckland General Hospital.
He said: ‘With living in Bishop Auckland, mam would have been treated a lot quicker and there would have been a greater continuity of care, it would have been a lot better.’
Paying tribute to Mrs Zair, he said: ‘She worked right up beyond retirement, she used to help out in the shop. She was a fantastic cook, she liked to please everyone.’
A spokesman for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘We offer our condolences to Mr Zair for his recent loss.’
‘We have made Mr Zair aware that we cannot complete our investigation until the police investigation is complete.’
Banker, 69, died in hospital toilet cubicle after ‘confusion about his care by different doctors checking on him’
An NHS consultant has blamed a hospital system which allowed different doctors to look after the same patient for the death of a pensioner who was found collapsed in a toilet.
David Pattrick, 69, was discovered lying on the floor of the cubicle two days after a gall bladder operation.
An inquest heard he had complained of severe abdominal pain, which his widow, Susan, 64, said staff at Colchester General Hospital failed to investigate properly.
Giving evidence at the hearing, the hospital’s professor of surgery, Roger Motson, said a system which allows different surgeons to check on post-operative patients had led to confusion about Mr Pattrick’s care.
‘A pool list was introduced to try to treat patients more quickly,’ he said. ‘It breeds uncertainty as to who is looking after a patient. It’s a reflection of doctors’ working hours and never would have happened in the past.’
Mr Pattrick, a retired banker from Marks Tey, near Colchester, was admitted to the hospital in December 2010, to have his gall bladder removed.
He was told he would be able to return home the day after the routine operation but the surgeon discovered he had an infection and opted for a different procedure.
He was put on antibiotics and his vital signs were monitored but on December 22 he was found collapsed in the toilet.
A post mortem examination revealed he had died from septicaemia, or infection of the blood.
The surgeon who performed the operation, Dr James Wright, told the inquest in Chelmsford: ‘In my opinion he was making good progress to getting better and going home.’
But Mr Pattrick’s legal team questioned why staff had not become concerned at his high white blood cell count and blood sugar levels.
They also said he had only seen a nurse and a registrar with four months experience in the day before his death. Mrs Pattrick has accused registrar Dr Kalpesh Vaghela of failing to alert senior doctors to her husband’s abdominal pain.
He told the inquest: ‘I agree some of his levels were abnormal but not something to be alarmed at enough to alert someone at a senior level.’ Dr Jonathan Refson, an independent clinician, told the inquest he had concerns about how the hospital cared for Mr Pattrick after the operation.
He said the junior doctor looking after him should have raised warning signs with senior consultants.
‘There was a confusion of consultants,’ he said. ‘They are all saying it wasn’t their responsibility. No one took ownership.’
The hospital has denied wrongdoing, but has admitted no senior doctors were able to see Mr Pattrick on the day he died, leaving a trainee and a nurse to diagnose his symptoms when he complained of pain.
Nurse Jane Bradley-Hendricks admitted she routinely made surgical decisions despite not being a qualified doctor. Mrs Pattrick, an equality, diversity and disability consultant, is suing Colchester General Hospital for other ‘failings’ in its care for her husband.
She said investigations revealed an emergency alarm system had not been fitted in the cubicle at the new £18.75million Mersea Ward. Nurses also did not have sufficient training to use a suction pump to clear his airways.
A Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: ‘Additional training was organised for staff in the checking and use of resuscitation equipment and the ward sister now ensures that all emergency equipment is checked daily.’
The inquest was adjourned until Wednesday.
Michael Gove: free school applicants ‘subjected to death threats’
Teachers and parents who support the Coalition’s flagship free schools are being subjected to personal attacks and even death threats, according to Michael Gove.
Organisations seeking to open their own schools under the Government’s education reforms have been repeatedly intimidated by groups ideologically opposed to the programme, the Education Secretary warned.
In some cases, existing teachers who support the scheme are being hounded out of their jobs, it was claimed.
The comments were made as the Department for Education was forced to release details of all organisations applying to open free schools.
Data released after a long-running battle shows that 517 separate bids have been made for new schools, which are taxpayer-funded institutions run completely independent of local council control, in the last two years.
Of those, around a quarter of applications were by faith-based organisations, including those named as Muslim, Plymouth Brethren, Orthodox Jewish, Sikh, Hindu and Greek Orthodox.
The DfE had opposed a Freedom of Information request for the data, claiming that naming applicants before bids were provisionally approved would deter future organisations from coming forward.
Free schools have proved hugely unpopular with teaching unions and left-wing pressure groups who claim they are undemocratic and may pull pupils away from existing schools – placing them under threat of closure.
But Mr Gove claimed that opposition to the scheme had “gone further than normal healthy debate”, with at least one applicant facing death threats and others losing their jobs.
He also suggested that the release of the latest information – ordered by the Information Commissioner – may subject future applicants to similar treatment.
In a letter to Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, he said: “We are aware of personal attacks on individuals who simply want to improve educational standards and choice locally.
“Organisations opposed to free schools have run hostile publicity campaigns. In some cases these have become highly personal, vilifying individuals involved in opening a free school.
“We have been told of instances where teachers have lost their jobs simply by virtue of their association with a free school application.
“One proposer has even told us that they have been the subject of a death threat.
“It is because we wanted to protect public-spirited volunteers from intimidation that we fought against the ruling.”
The British Humanist Association originally submitted an FOI request for data about the religious affiliations of organisations seeking to open free schools. The request was turned down by the DfE but subsequently overturned by the Information Commissioner.
Free schools have been opposed by teaching unions such as the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT. They have also been attacked by the Social Workers Party.
Toby Young, the writer, who was behind a successful bid to open a free school in west London in 2011, said he had been subjected to intimidation over the move.
“The NUT shop steward in my part of west London circulated a document to the local council on NUT-headed paper falsely accusing me of, among other things, sleeping with prostitutes,” he said.
Richy Thompson, BHA faith schools campaigner, welcomed the release of the data but insisted it underestimated the involvement of faith groups.
“We believe the true number of religious schools is likely to be a third to 50% higher than what the data implies,” he said. “This is because it only shows schools with a formally designated religious character, and not those with a ‘faith ethos’. Academies and free schools can be religious without formally designating as ‘faith’ schools.”
“Ethnic” jury unprecedently dumb, says British judge
10 out of 12 jurors were of African or Pakistani origin. Another triumph of multiculturalism in Britain
The jury in the trial of Chris Huhne’s ex-wife Vicky Pryce was discharged today after the judge expressed grave concerns that they had not understood the case.
Mr Justice Sweeney was forced to send the 12 jurors home without reaching a verdict, saying they had demonstrated ‘absolutely fundamental deficits in understanding’.
There will now be a retrial starting on Monday.
The judge spoke out after the jury sent him an extraordinary list of ten questions about key aspects of this relatively simple case, which they did not understand, and said they were ‘highly unlikely’ to reach a verdict.
Jurors had reached a stalemate over the allegation that Pryce, 60, perverted the course of justice by taking her then-husband Huhne’s speeding points a decade ago.
Pryce, a former government economist, admitted taking the points but argued she was forced into it because of ‘marital coercion’.
The eight women and four men retired on Thursday but remained deadlocked, even after they were told the court would accept a majority decision agreed by at least ten of them.
Their list of questions included: ‘Can a juror come to a verdict based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it, either from the prosecution or defence?’
The question flew in the face of the jury’s oath – sworn by every juror in every trial in Britain – to try the case solely on the basis of the evidence presented in court.
Another question asked if ‘religious conviction’ was a satisfactory reason for a wife to obey her husband, because it was included in her wedding vows.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC said the jurors had shown an ‘unparalleled’ failure to understand ‘very basic concepts of jury trials’. He told the court: ‘This is a jury which hasn’t, it appears, understood its function.’
He added: ‘I don’t recollect getting to this stage in any trial – even far more complicated trials than this – and after two days of deliberation getting a list of questions of this very basic kind, illustrating that at least some of the jurors don’t appear to have grasped it.’
Jurors were asked to decide if Huhne, the former Energy Secretary and MP for Eastleigh, had bullied his ex-wife into taking his speeding points in 2003.
The case hinged on the comparatively straightforward question of whether the jury believed she had no choice but to accept.
The judge gave the jury lengthy written guidance about the meaning of marital coercion, and said the prosecution had to prove its case ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
Despite those directions, the list of jurors’ questions included requests for definitions of both marital coercion and reasonable doubt.
Mr Justice Sweeney responded: ‘A reasonable doubt is a doubt which is reasonable. These are ordinary English words that the law doesn’t allow me to help you with.’
Their questions were handed to the judge on Tuesday but could not be reported until he decided if the jury should be discharged on the basis they had not understood the case.
He ruled they should be given further instructions in the hope they could continue and eventually reach a verdict, without the need for a costly retrial. They couldn’t.
Give suspects in rape cases anonymity to prevent the innocent becoming ‘stigmatised’, says top barrister
The identities of men accused of rape and other sex crimes should be kept secret unless they are found guilty in court, a leading lawyer said yesterday.
Maura McGowan, a deputy High Court judge and chief of the professional body for barristers, said the law should protect the identity of those charged with sex offences because the crimes ‘carry such a stigma’.
‘Until they have been proven to have done something as awful as this – I think there is a strong argument in cases of this sort, because they carry such stigma with them, to maintain the defendant’s anonymity, until he is convicted,’ she said.
‘But once the defendant is convicted then of course everything should be open to scrutiny and to the public.’
Miss McGowan, who is chairman of the Bar Council, acknowledged that there were arguments in favour of allowing suspects to be named.
‘There is obviously a public interest in open justice,’ she said. ‘People would say that they are entitled to know not simply who has been convicted but who has been accused.’
She added that if Jimmy Savile had been accused of sex crimes when he was alive he should have been named.
‘In a case like that, people would say, if one complainant comes forward against a person it might give other people who don’t know her, but who went through the same experience, the courage to come forward as well.’
The idea of anonymity for rape defendants was a surprise inclusion in the list of promises made by David Cameron and Nick Clegg when the Coalition was formed in 2010.
But the plan was dropped by the end of that year in the face of criticism and fears that protection for some defendants would mean secrecy could be extended in future to others.
John Cooper, a human rights barrister, said: ‘Anonymity for sex crime victims is unworkable. ‘Why should somebody who is accused of a sex crime receive anonymity?
‘Why don’t we broaden that out to include people who are accused of beating children or murdering children? There’s no distinguishing case for sex crimes to be singled out, it has to be anonymity for all or anonymity for none.’
Victims and alleged victims of rape have been granted anonymity since 1976 to spare women from humiliation and encourage more victims to report attacks.
The law originally gave the same protection to those charged with rape. But anonymity for defendants was withdrawn in 1988 after judges protested that it prevented police from appealing for witnesses.
Judges also said that the acquittal of a man charged with rape was enough to clear his name and reputation.
But Terry Harrison, who was falsely accused of rape in 2007, told the BBC: ‘If the person has done a crime as heinous as that, then they should be named and shamed, I agree, but not until they’ve actually been done for it.
‘Innocent until proven guilty is a load of rubbish. I was guilty until I was proven innocent, and even when I was proven innocent I’m still getting judged. ‘I ended up going to jail for something I didn’t do.
‘I was in the paedophile wing, the rapists’ wing, the grass wing. I was there for three months before the DNA results finally came back negative.’
The woman who falsely accused Mr Harrison, 42- year-old Shirley Prince, was jailed for three months in 2008 for perverting the course of justice.
Mansion tax: The Labour Party shows its true colours with this spiteful tax on homes
If the two Eds get their way, an Englishman’s home will not be a castle, but a leaky ruin
Whoa there, I hope you haven’t just spent a happy weekend of pottering about and improving your home, in the way of British families for hundreds of years. Forget about the conservatory, folks. Stuff the new kitchen. You want my advice, you will let it all slide.
If you see one of those damp patches appear on the ceiling – about the size and colour of a poppadom – you should just lie back and watch it grow. If the floorboards yawn open, just cover the gap with cardboard. Never mind the state of the downstairs lavatory. A faint aroma of ammonia never hurt anyone. Drip from the ceiling? Shove a bucket under it.
I tell you why I offer these household tips: they are the only sensible response to the first policy Ed Miliband has offered the British people. Under a Labour government, it is now clear, you would run a risk in making any improvements whatever to your home – because any such effort might lift you over the limit for Ed’s so-called “mansion tax”.
At which point the state would fine you viciously for any increment in value over a certain threshold. It is always a relief when your opponent stops ducking and weaving, and announces what he actually believes in.
At last we can see exactly what kind of a Labour leader Ed Miliband proposes to be – and he is taking his party right back to the politics of envy and nihilistic class war that kept them out of office for a generation. The proposal for a new tax on people’s homes is ill-thought-out, unjust and un-British. It is colossally unfair on Londoners, since the vast majority of homes that would currently qualify are in the capital; but then there are plenty of other properties dotted around the country – family farms, for instance – where the notional cash value of the buildings would incur a mansion tax far beyond the ability of the family to pay.
The proposed tax is unfair on those who may be asset-rich – the elderly widow springs to mind – but whose income is low. If Labour were to pursue the policy announced last week, and set the threshold at £2 million, the result would be bizarre – from discontinued improvements to deliberate vandalism: anything to help the home owner limbo dance under the danger area. It is peculiar to try to raise money for the state by taxing this one particular form of wealth, and in this one particular way.
What about someone who owns several houses, all of them worth £1.9 million: why should he or she pay nothing, while someone who owns just one pricey home gets totally clobbered? What about someone who lives in a home worth a million, but happens to have a load of Van Goghs and Cézannes on his kitchen wall, or gold bars under his bed? Why should he get away with paying nothing, while the taxman pulverises the little old lady still living in the former family home next door?
The pressure to be fairer between households, and to reduce the sudden severity of the tax, would be very great. If Ed and Ed came to office – a very big if – they would almost certainly modify the mansion tax, so that it was less of a blatant disincentive to doing up a home. They might have several bands for the new tax – hundreds of bands, thousand of bands (or Milibands, as they will be known).
They might decide to solve the elderly widow problem by going with the even more demented Liberal Democrat proposal, and taxing fixed wealth of all kinds. So we would have a new race of ghastly beady-eyed officials tasked with feeling under our beds for gold bars and running an expert eye over the pictures on the wall, or rifling through the jewellery box. An Englishman’s home, to put it mildly, would no longer be his castle.
Every property owner in the country would be engaged in an undignified haggle with the authorities to persuade them that their home was under this or that threshold. The end result would be in many cases to force sales, and to reduce the value of property – and for a country whose wealth is, for better or worse, so tightly tied to property, that would not be a good outcome.
Yes, of course we need people to be able to afford to live in Britain. But the answer is not to make it even more punishing to own a home in an expensive part of the country. The answer is to get going with a massive programme of house-building on the many brownfield sites. Here in London we have a crying need for homes — hundreds of thousands of them over the next 10 years.
We could build about 80 per cent of them on the 18 brownfield opportunity areas that have already been identified across the city, and all we need is a steady stream of funding to be able to get on with it. That could be found by simply earmarking, for London, the £1.3 billion that the London residential market already raises in stamp duty. And with one in four small and medium businesses in construction, that programme would get huge numbers of people into work.
If you listen to Nick Boles, the housing minister, you can see that he understands the urgency of the problem. The Treasury understand it, and George Osborne knows that Tories win elections when they help aspirant people get the homes they need – and it is time to return to the great Tory building programmes of the Fifties, but with beautiful standards and on brownfield sites.
As for Labour, they have shown their true colours. The Blairites in the party must be watching with incredulity and despair. Never mind the individual injustices – the message of the Miliband policy is that Labour is once again hostile to one of the deepest instincts of the British people: to show the energy, enterprise and ambition to want to improve your own home and to raise its value. I cannot believe Miliband will pursue this policy through to the election. If he does, he will have signed his political death warrant.
The false rape allegations keep coming in Britain
Feminists say there is no such thing
A teenager who put a man through two months of torment by falsely accusing him of rape has been spared jail.
Sophie Hooper, 19, told police she had been forced to have sex against her will with a man she had only just met in the pub.
But two months later her conscience got the better of her and she wrote a letter to the police confessing she had lied about the allegations.
Hooper had claimed she went with the unnamed man to his home where he held her down by the neck on his bed and raped her.
After she called police, who came out in the middle of the night, the man was arrested and held in custody for more than seven hours.
But there was no truth in Hooper’s allegations. She didn’t admit this for over two months, before she eventually told police she was lying.
Southampton Crown Court heard how police began investigating and found inconsistencies with her version of events.
Hooper accused the man of raping her in June 2011 but by August that year officers told him he wouldn’t face prosecution.
A short time later police received a letter from Hooper, who has just become a mum, in which she said ‘maybe calling it rape was wrong’.
The teenager from Eastleigh, Hampshire, was later arrested in September 2011 on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.
But it wasn’t until January 2012 that ‘she fully accepted the lies she had told’ said prosecutor Carolyn Branford-Wood. Hooper revealed how, in fact, the pair had gone to his home from the pub, began kissing and the sex ‘just happened’, adding she didn’t say yes or no.
When she left his home she returned to the pub run by friends of her family who told her she had been raped and to call 999.
In court Hooper apologised by saying ‘I shouldn’t have lied, I am sorry’ and added that if she could turn the clock back she would.
The court was told how the man described in a victim impact statement feeling ‘sick to the stomach’ and anxious following the accusation. He was also unable to go out because, even though he knew he was innocent, he felt he would be tarred.
He said he could not sleep properly and resorted to taking anti-depressants.
Mitigating for Hooper, Fern Russell said it was not a sophisticated plot – she was in a state and made a bad decision out of stupidity rather than malice.
Recorder Stuart Jones QC handed the teenager an eight-month prison term suspended for two years.
He told her she was lucky not to have gone to jail for what the court deems a very serious offence.
Mr Jones said: ‘The consequences for the man accused must have been traumatic in the extreme.’
He added that Hooper had just come out of a difficult period of adolescence and her mental health was far from robust.
The teenager was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.