Premature twins died after being given 10 times too much morphine, nursing tribunal hears
Premature twins born at the scandal-hit Stafford Hospital died after receiving ten times the recommended dose of morphine, a disciplinary hearing has been told. Alfie and Harry McQuillan, who died on November 1 2010, were given an ‘excessive’ dose of morphine hours after their birth.
The babies, who were born at 27 weeks, received 600 and 850 microgrammes (mcg) of morphine respectively when they should have been given between 50 and 100 mcg, a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing was told.
Joanne Thompson, a senior staff nurse in the special care baby unit of the hospital, is accused of allowing a more junior nurse, Lisa Lucas, prepare and administer the drug to the twins with the help of a junior doctor. This is against hospital protocol which states this should be carried out by two registered nurses.
Hayley Amos, a neo natal senior staff nurse at the hospital at the time, said she had reported for duty on the 7am shift on October 30 2010 after the overdose had been administered.
Speaking about the reaction of the two nurses after the error had been discovered, she said: ‘Joanne went very quiet at this point and was visibly shocked. Lisa was hysterical and kept saying: “Oh my God, what if I have killed these babies?” and she was crying and shaking.
‘I did my best to calm and reassure Lisa by saying, ‘look at them Lisa, they are fine, now calm down’. I don’t recall Joanne saying anything. I sent them to the staff room to calm down.’
The two nurses were told to complete Serious Incidents Forms by senior mangers at the Stafford NHS Trust and told not take part in any clinical care of the twins, Ms Amos said.
She continued: ‘Lisa and Jo completed their forms in a consulting room. ‘I do not know what discussions were had or what went on between them.’ But she added: ‘It seems unfair that only Lisa has been held accountable for this drug error. ‘Lisa is a very compassionate nurse who normally provides great care to babies on the unit.
‘I do not know what went wrong that day. But you cannot say that Lisa is entirely responsible.
‘As the senior nurse, Joanne should have ensured that the hospital’s procedure was adhered to and that instruction was given to the junior nurse.
‘A controlled drug error had taken place and Joanne should take some responsibility.’
Despite being the senior nurse on duty at the time of the deaths, Ms Thompson was back on duty two days later on November 2nd, before an investigation had began while Miss Lucas remained suspended.
Mrs Thompson denies a series of charges including failing to take the clinical lead of nursing care when required in relation to the administration of the morphine to the babies.
The twins’ mother, Ami Dean, was rushed to Stafford Hospital in the early hours of October 30th, 2010, after she began to bleed.
Despite being born prematurely, the identical twins had been in a ‘good’ condition during the first few hours of their lives, an inquest into their deaths in 2012 heard.
But it was decided to give the twins morphine to stabilise them before they were transferred to the maternity unit at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire where the twins died on November 1st.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) heard today how an error in administration led to the babies having two doses of morphine administered at the same time.
Miss Thompson is accused of not following hospital protocol by allowing a junior doctor to be involved in the administration of medication.
Aj Hall, for the NMC, said: ‘On the hospital protocols it clearly states that medication administration should be carried out by two registered nurses. It is well known doctors do not get involved in administrating drugs as this is done by nursing staff.
‘Mrs Thompson should have ensured that this policy was complied with. The junior doctor had very limited experience and should not have been involved in administering the drugs. ‘Mrs Thompson would have been well aware of this.’ She added: ‘It is vital she take responsibility for this.’
Thompson is also accused of not keeping adequate records by scribbling out her signature on the morphine prescription charts without explanation, the court heard. Miss Hall added: ‘She scribbled out her signature on the chart but never explained why she did this.’
Shoosmiths – the law firm representing the twins’ parents – said last May that South Staffordshire Coroner Andrew Haigh had described the babies’ treatment after birth as ‘suboptimal’, adding that ‘there were failings in the care the twins received’.
A spokesman for the company said the coroner, who recorded a narrative verdict at Cannock Coroner’s Court, said the boys died from complications of extreme prematurity and that morphine was ‘likely to have played a role’.
The hearing comes after the Francis inquiry into failings at Stafford Hospital where it is estimated there were between 400 and 1,200 excess deaths between 2005 and 2009.
New top job for NHS boss who ‘gagged staff’: Man With No Shame makes woman in whistleblowing storm his No. 2
The woman accused of gagging a whistleblower who was raising concerns about patient safety has been given one of the most powerful roles in the NHS.
Dame Barbara Hakin has been made interim deputy chief executive of the new body in charge of the health service, second only to its head Sir David Nicholson.
She is said to have helped authorise a payment of £500,000 to silence the chief executive of a hospital trust where 670 patients are feared to have died needlessly.
Dame Barbara, a former GP, is also being investigated by the General Medical Council for allegedly quashing a report into high death rates at the trust, United Lincolnshire.
The move comes amid mounting concern that senior NHS managers are not being brought to book for their failings. Her promotion was almost certainly overseen by Sir David, who is himself facing growing calls to resign over his role in the Mid Staffordshire scandal.
Yesterday Gary Walker, the whistleblower allegedly gagged by Dame Barbara, said: ‘It shows a blatant disregard for public concerns.
‘It also shows the board has deep contempt for any investigations and processes that are under way. ‘She’s been under investigation for the General Medical Council for four months now for putting patients at risk. It also shows contempt for public concern over her action in gagging me.’
Mr Walker was chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals until 2010 when he was sacked after warning Dame Barbara that targets were being put ahead of patients.
He was later given a £500,000 payoff on the condition he keep quiet about shocking standards at the hospital.
Last month he broke his silence to claim that Dame Barbara, then head of the regional body supervising the hospital, had ordered him to prioritise targets.
He also claimed he had warned Sir David about the hospital in 2009 but had been ignored.
The GMC has yet to decide whether Dame Barbara should face a disciplinary hearing. But next week she and Sir David will come under renewed pressure when Mr Walker gives evidence about his gagging order to MPs.
He claims he has evidence showing the pair were involved in the contract to silence him which he will show to MPs on the health select committee.
Last week when Sir David appeared before the same MPs he insisted he would ‘never sanction’ such gagging orders.
Dame Barbara, 55, currently earns £70,000 a year as the national managing director on the NHS Commissioning Board, the new body in charge of GPs and hospitals.
From next month she will take up the combined role as interim deputy chief executive as well as chief operating officer. As the promotion is only temporary, she will remain on the same salary.
A spokesman for the board said: ‘This is an interim measure while we organise a full and open competition for the role.’
British children aged 10 who are good at maths earn £2,000 more by the time they turn 30
Children who are good at maths aged 10 go on to earn ‘significantly’ more in their thirties than classmates who are just average in the subject, government funded research shows.
They rake in an extra £2,100 a year while those with top reading skills end up earning an additional £550 per annum.
The findings, published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), illustrate the huge importance of children getting a good grasp of the three R’s at primary school.
Researchers analysed data from the British Cohort Study, which tracks more than 17,000 people born in April 1970 throughout their lives.
This group was tested on their maths and reading skills aged ten during the longitudinal study which also collected data on gross weekly earnings and number of hours worked per week.
IFS researchers examined the link between reading and maths scores aged ten and earnings at ages 30, 34 and 38 on around 6,000 people from the study.
They discovered that a child who was in the top 15 per cent of maths scores aged ten was likely to earn 7.3 per cent more aged 30 – an extra £2,100 per year – than an otherwise identical child who achieved a ‘middle ranking’ maths score.
This was even after controlling for additional factors like parental income and education and the highest qualifications the individual went onto obtain such as A-levels and degrees.
A similar pattern was detected at ages 34 and 38. Reading skills were also important for future earnings, but less so than maths.
A child who was in the top 15 per cent of reading scores aged ten was likely to earn around 1.9 per cent (£550) more per year aged 30 than their classmate who achieved a middle ranking result.
The study suggests that while reading ability earns some return in the labour market, employers seem to value maths skills more highly.
They are willing to reward people with higher wages, indicating there ‘may be a shortage of such skills’.
Claire Crawford, one of the authors of the report, said: ‘Our research shows that maths skills developed during primary school continue to matter for earnings 20 to 30 years down the line.
‘Moreover, they seem to matter more than reading skills and over and above the qualifications that young people go on to obtain. This highlights the importance of investing in skills, particularly maths skills, early.’
Dr Crawford, who is programme director of the skills sector at IFS, added: ‘In general, we might think that there’s a generally lower level of proficiency in terms of maths so employers are particularly willing to reward those who do have those skills more highly.’
Researchers plan to carry out additional work to see if people with good maths skills are going into careers that are particularly well rewarded financially such as engineering.
The study was carried out by IFS researchers working for the Centre for Analysis of Youth Transitions – a Department for Education sponsored research centre.
Meanwhile a study from London’s Institute of Education revealed last month that England’s brightest primary school children are almost two years behind their high achieving Far Eastern counterparts by the time they take their maths GCSEs.
They make less progress between the ages of 10 and 16 than the most able youngsters in Taiwan and Hong Kong despite almost matching their ability at primary school.
Education Secretary Michael Gove recently launched a new back to basics national curriculum, which sets out the topics teachers in English state schools should cover between the ages of five and 14.
In maths, five-year-olds will be introduced to basic fractions such as recognising and finding a half of a specified length. Currently, fractions are only introduced around the age of seven.
By the end of Key Stage Two, when children are 11, they will be expected to do sums with fractions.
They will need to learn their 12 by 12 tables age nine, instead of the current 10 by 10 tables by age 11, and use methods such as long division.
Schools Minister Elizabeth Truss yesterday said that the IFS research ‘clearly shows why mastering the basics in maths at primary school is so important’.
She said: ‘That’s why our draft maths primary school curriculum focuses on raising standards in arithmetic, including efficient calculation methods such as long and short multiplication and division, and fractions. The calculation of fractions, volume, and area will be introduced earlier.
‘We are also banning calculators from 11-year-olds’ maths tests. Children must able to tackle algebra and statistics by the time they reach secondary school.’
How sushi can make you FAT: It will shock
Since the Japanese are unusually slim and unusually long-lived, the condemnation of sushi below tends to suggest that the condemnation is based on false premises
Sushi is no longer the sole preserve of the adventurous diner. These days, grabbing a pack for lunch is almost as common as picking up a cheese and pickle sandwich.
The Japanese dish can be bought from every major supermarket (where sales have risen a staggering 88 per cent in the past two years).
Indeed, the British sushi industry — of which Tesco has a 60 per cent market share — is worth more than £56 million annually.
The main reason for its surge in popularity is its reputation as a healthy meal. Japanese women are among the healthiest in the world, while slender celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Cheryl Cole and Keira Knightley are all fans of the raw fish dish.
But do sushi’s nutrition credentials — especially the Western version — stack up? Not always, according to dietitian Rachel Beller. In her book Eat To Lose, Eat To Win, she says a ‘light lunch’ of sushi may mean you overdose on calories and carbohydrates.
‘A typical sushi roll contains 290 to 350 calories and has the carbohydrate equivalent of two-and-a-half to four slices of bread,’ says Ms Beller.
‘So a California roll (round rolled sushi, containing a small piece of fish and avocado plus fatty mayonnaise) equals two sandwiches filled with crab sticks (processed fish that is flavoured and coloured to look and taste like crab), a sliver of avocado and a tiny bit of veg.’
Bear in mind a sushi lunch contains two or three of these rolls, a total of up to 1,050 calories, and it’s easy to see how we’re conning ourselves that we’re enjoying a low-calorie, healthy lunch.
A petition worth signing
To the British government
Responsible department: Department for Energy and Climate Change
I petition for the following action to be taken:
To stop immediately the closure of any Power Station
To update existing conventional fuel Power Stations including Coal.
Not to allow any Power Station to close unless a replacement is up and fully running
To be self sufficient in Power Generation within the next five years
Time for Europe to let British farmers grow GM food, says environment minister
Genetically modified crops should be sold in Europe, despite consumers’ concerns about ‘Frankenstein foods’, the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson will say.
Mr Paterson, who has previously spoken out about the benefits of GM technology, has decided to make a high-profile speech in the hope of turning the tide on the issue.
It is understood he has the firm backing of Chancellor George Osborne, who believes GM food could provide opportunities for British farmers.
Brussels has so far only approved two GM crops for human consumption, although they are widely used in the US and China, and can be fed to animals in the EU. Supporters say Europe will suffer food shortages and be more reliant on imports if it continues to reject GM products.
But the Mail has highlighted concerns over ‘Frankenstein foods’ for years, amid fears that tampering with the genes in crops could damage natural ecosystems or even affect human health.
The Environment Secretary has dismissed these concerns as ‘complete nonsense’. He believes Britain should be open to using the GM science to increase crop yields and prevent disease.
Last year he called critics of the technology ‘humbugs’ and said the case for GM food needed to be made ’emphatically’ in Britain.
But Mr Paterson, who has been criticised for his handling of the horsemeat scandal, faces an uphill struggle convincing the British public of the benefits of GM food.
A survey last month by the Food Standards Agency found two out of three UK shoppers wanted products from animals fed a GM diet to be labelled.
Mr Paterson will also have to win over countries who are deeply opposed to any form of GM farming or food such as France and Germany.
His most viable option is for every nation to be allowed to choose whether to sell GM food in their shops.
In 2010, the EU Commission considered giving back control over GM crop approval to member states.
But this policy was abandoned last year after widespread opposition, as the food industry is too globalised for it to work.
An aide to Mr Paterson said: ‘He wants to have a national conversation about it, based on scientific evidence, and the Prime Minister supports that.’
Tory MP George Freeman has been advising Whitehall on the UK’s agri-tech policy. He believes the safety debate is over.
He told the Financial Times: ‘Over a trillion meals containing GM food have now been eaten in what is effectively the biggest ever global clinical trial in the history of mankind, without one adverse health report.
‘The world is adopting genetic crop science. The question is whether the UK is going to benefit or not?’
The Coalition has so far allowed scientists to carry out small-scale GM cultivation trials, but its use in consumer products is effectively banned.
However, British farmers have reportedly written to supermarkets warning them that they will not be able to guarantee chickens are fed on solely non-GM feed by May.
The Queen a gay rights champion? I don’t buy it
The Queen signs a new Commonwealth Charter today, declaring: ‘We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.’
‘Other grounds’ is interpreted to be a reference to gays and lesbians, whose sexual activities are punishable by death, life sentences or flogging in 41 of the 54 Commonwealth nations.
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay and lesbian pressure group Stonewall, reacted by calling the Queen ‘a feminist icon’ who has taken ‘an historic step forward’ on gay rights.
But another gay rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, points out: ‘In truth, the Commonwealth Charter does not include any specific rejection of discrimination based on sexual orientation. This was vetoed by the homophobic majority of member states.
Peter Tatchell, a lovely chap
‘While I doubt that Elizabeth II is a raging homophobe, she certainly doesn’t appear to be gay-friendly. Not once during her reign has she publicly acknowledged the existence of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] community.’
Will the new Commonwealth Charter’s anti-discrimination provisions make much difference? Or, like the contents of the Queen’s Speech at the beginning of every parliament, are they merely a description of what the powers-that-be would like to achieve?
We never make the mistake of thinking the Queen is personally attached to any of the policies she describes in Parliament. Why imagine it’s different with the Commonwealth? There must surely be occasions when she thinks ill of the policies her government has asked her to outline. But I can’t think of a single occasion when her mask has slipped.
As a Palace spokesman says of today’s announcement: ‘The Queen does not take a personal view on these issues. The Queen’s position is apolitical, as it is in all matters of this sort.’
The monarch began her reign in the pre-gay rights era, when homosexuality was an underground, illegal activity. Now, all discrimination against homosexuality is illegal.
In her lifetime, it has moved from being an aberration to becoming an official third sexual preference.
Ben Summerskill reacted to the Queen’s comments by calling her ‘a feminist icon’ who has taken ‘an historic step forward’ on gay rights
Ben Summerskill reacted to the Queen’s comments by calling her ‘a feminist icon’ who has taken ‘an historic step forward’ on gay rights
Indeed, HM’s current government is making homosexual marriage legal. Does HM approve? We’ll never know.
In any case, when the Queen acceded to the throne in 1952, homosexuality was not the monolithic concept it is today. Then, there were degrees of homosexuality, from slight to extreme, and little public pressure for any change in the law.
Her Majesty will have known homosexuals — and have been close to some of them — throughout her life.
It’s said she occasionally went incognito to a cinema near Buckingham Palace with a certain unmarried courtier. Her late mother’s household staff was evidently composed of disputatious, confirmed bachelors whom the Queen Mother addressed starchily one morning: ‘There is one queen in Britain today who has not had her breakfast.’
I don’t think much discrimination has ever been practised against homosexuals in the Queen’s household. But there isn’t much she can do about homophobia in her larger family — the Commonwealth — other than to articulate the desires of those who run its day-to-day affairs.
Apologists for the Commonwealth nations which execute, jail or flog homosexuals say they do so under their colonial-era laws. But this is nonsense.
Millions of Africans abominate homosexuality without having to rely on old laws they’re free to repeal. If they won’t allow the Queen to mention homosexuality among her Commonwealth’s new list of proscribed discriminations, there surely is no early prospect of them changing course.
Bigging up HM as an enemy of homosexual discrimination could easily backfire, reducing her influence rather than enhancing it.
British welfare minister slams bishops: There’s nothing moral about trapping people on benefits, says Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith was embroiled in a battle with the new Archbishop of Canterbury last night. The Work and Pensions Secretary told Church leaders there was ‘nothing moral’ about their opposition to flagship welfare reforms.
He reacted with fury after the Most Rev Justin Welby led an uprising against the Government’s plans to limit benefit increases to one per cent a year for the next three years.
Mr Duncan Smith, a devout Roman Catholic, insisted it was neither fair nor moral to trap millions of families on welfare payments which made it not worth their while seeking work.
The intervention of 43 bishops threatens the biggest row between the Government and the Church since the Coalition was formed in 2010.
Mr Duncan Smith is understood to be particularly angered because at a private meeting last week the new Archbishop made no mention of his concern about the benefit cap, let alone the Church’s plan to launch a public assault on it.
The Coalition has announced that increases in out-of-work benefits and some tax credits will be limited to one per cent for the next three years, a move which will save more than £2billion a year. Traditionally, benefits have been increased in line with the rate of inflation.
That prompted uproar last year, when the formula meant their value increased by more than five per cent at a time when many working families had to contend with pay freezes or below-inflation rises.
The Coalition’s Welfare Uprating Bill, passed by a big majority in the Commons, will affect single parents on benefits most. They will lose on average £5 a week.
Working households receiving state support in the form of tax credits will be an average of £3 a week worse off, though the Treasury insists this will be more than cancelled out by record increases in the basic-rate income tax allowance.
A letter signed by 43 bishops and endorsed by the new Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York claimed that capping benefit rises would have a ‘deeply disproportionate’ effect on children.
The welfare bill will be debated in the Lords next week and bishops in the house have tabled an amendment in an attempt to exempt all child-related benefits and tax credits.
Archbishop Welby, in his first significant political intervention, said the reforms could push 200,000 children into poverty, adding: ‘As a civilised society, we have a duty to support those among us who are vulnerable and in need. When times are hard, that duty should be felt more than ever, not disappear or diminish.
‘It is essential that we have a welfare system that responds to need and recognises the rising costs of food, fuel and housing.
‘The current benefits system does that, by ensuring that the support struggling families receive rises with inflation.
‘These changes will mean it is children and families who will pay the price for high inflation, rather than the Government.’
He added: ‘Politicians have a clear choice. By protecting children from the effects of this Bill, they can help fulfil their commitment to end child poverty.’
Mr Duncan Smith, hitting back, said the Government’s legislation was ‘about fairness’.
‘People who are paying taxes, working very hard, have hardly seen any increases in their salary and yet, under the last government, the welfare bill rose by some 60 per cent to £200billion,’ the Work and Pensions Secretary said.
‘That means they have to pay for that under their taxes, which is simply not fair. That same system trapped huge numbers, millions, in dependency, dependent on the state, unable, unwilling to work.
‘What is either moral or fair about that? ‘There is nothing moral or fair about a system that I inherited that trapped people in welfare dependency. Some one in every five households has no work – that’s not the way to end child poverty. ‘Getting people back to work is the way to end child poverty. That’s the moral and fair way to do it.’
Labour enshrined in law its measure of poverty – 60 per cent of median earnings – in law, and used tax credits to try to push families just over the line. Incredibly, nine in every ten families with children ended up qualifying for credits.
The last government set a target to reduce the number of children living in relative income poverty to 1.7million by 2010/11. This was not met, with a total of 2.3million that year.
The Coalition has now agreed to tear up Labour’s definition – insisting that basing it purely on a crude measure of family income is perverse, when other factors can be just as critical in determining children’s life chances.
Mr Duncan Smith suggests broader ways of calculating child poverty – including whether or not parents are in work, educational failure, family breakdown, problem debt, gambling and poor health.
He insists that giving a family ‘an extra pound in benefits’ does not address their problems – and can even push a family further into difficulty if a parent spends the cash fuelling his or her dependency on alcohol or drugs.
Justin Welby’s attack on the welfare reforms is the second time in recent years that the Church of England has become embroiled in a political row.
In June 2011 his predecessor as Archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams, took David Cameron to task, questioning the democratic legitimacy of many of the Coalition’s flagship policies.