Doctors said my son was constipated – in fact, he had CANCER
British doctors are very reluctant to order tests and scans. They cost money!
A mother has spoken of her fury after doctors sent her son home 11 times in five months before discovering a football-sized tumour in his stomach.
Sharon Woolley was told her five-year-old son Charlie was suffering from constipation – when all along he had neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive cancer with one of the lowest survival rates.
Miss Woolley believes the time delay in diagnosis may now affect whether he survives the disease or not. He has been given a survival rate of less than 40 per cent.
Miss Woolley, who lives in Lytham St Annes, said: ‘If we hadn’t been fobbed off so much for so long, and Charlie had been diagnosed earlier, maybe he would have much better odds today.
‘I’m just hoping that he can been strong enough to fight this terrible disease. I am so angry that he was sent home by doctors eleven times before it was diagnosed. ‘It was only because I was so convinced that something was terribly wrong that I kept going back to the doctors repeatedly. ‘When he was finally diagnosed with cancer I was so angry that it hadn’t been spotted before.’
Charlie first started complaining of stomach ache in January last year. He was also refusing to eat and appeared pale. Miss Woolley, who is separated from Charlie’s father, took him to the GP.
The doctor told Miss Woolley that it was probably just constipation, but the problems worsened over the next few weeks and his stomach started to swell.
She took him back to the doctors twice more. Both times she was referred to Blackpool Victoria Hospital,here doctors gave him laxatives and sent him home.
Miss Woolley said: ‘I was so worried about Charlie. He had severe stomach ache constantly and his stomach was swelling.
‘He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome – a form of autism – at the age of three, and they said that constipation can be a problem for autistic children.
‘I told the doctors I wasn’t happy with the diagnosis of constipation and I begged them to scan him, but they wouldn’t, as they told me that stomach ache was very common.’
In March, she took him back to the GP for his sixth visit, who gave him a different type of laxative to try.
Then in April, she was forced to take him to both the GP and then the out-of-hours surgery at the hospital as it was during a weekend and she was so worried. She said: ‘By now I was almost demented with worry. He was losing weight, his spine was protruding, and his stomach was even more swollen.
‘By May, when I took him for his ninth appointment, he looked nine months pregnant. He had stopped going to school as he was in so much pain. He couldn’t walk properly as he couldn’t stand straight, instead he wanted to crawl everywhere.
‘I didn’t know what to do – I was at the end of my tether. I had gone to the GP’s, the out of hours surgery and the hospital nearly a dozen times, but no-one would listen to me. I felt like I’d been failed on every account. ‘In desperation I even rang his paediatrician whom he is under for Asperger’s Syndrome, but even she couldn’t help.’
On her 11th visit to the GP, she was once again referred to the Blackpool Victoria Hospital. This time, as she sat in A&E, she told the nurse that she wasn’t leaving the hospital until Charlie had been given a scan.
She said: ‘I sat in the hospital with Charlie in my arms and I was so angry I shouted at the nurses that I wasn’t going anywhere. ‘I didn’t care who was watching me, I had to get someone to listen to me. I could see my boy was dying and no-one was doing anything about it.’
The hospital agreed to do a CT scan and when they saw the results the doctors immediately carried out more scans and biopsies.
‘The sonographer asked the nurse if Charlie was an in-patient, and told her that if he wasn’t, he needed to be admitted fast. He had seen something on the scan but I didn’t know what it was.’
Charlie was then referred to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital where Miss Woolley was told that he had neuroblastoma, an aggressive childhood cancer.
‘I was devastated, but I’d known that something was badly wrong with my boy. The doctors told me the tumour in his stomach was the size of a basketball and it was so big that they couldn’t even see his lungs or liver on the scan.’
A stage two or three tumour has a survival rate of 80-95 percent, but Charlie had a stage four tumour, where the survival rate drops to less than 40 per cent.
Miss Woolley said: ‘I was so angry I couldn’t even think straight. All this time when I’d been fighting for someone to take me seriously, cancer was ravaging my son.’
Charlie is currently undergoing chemotherapy and he also needs an operation to remove the tumour. Miss Woolley is also raising funds to take him to America for treatment, at a cost of £250,000.
Miss Woolley added: ‘The doctors and nurses at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital have been fantastic, and I’m hoping that Charlie will pull through. ‘But I’m so angry with the previous doctors, that I was sent home 11 times. I can only hope that my son survives after all this.’
Alison Moy, Chief Executive for the Neuroblastoma Alliance, said: ‘It can be a difficult cancer to diagnose, but it is a nasty and phenomenally aggressive cancer, so a few months delay in diagnosis can make such a difference as a neuroblastoma tumour can grow from two to 12 centimetres in a fortnight.’
Dr Mark O’Donnell, Medical Director at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘The Trust is deeply sorry to hear about this family’s distress, it’s always very upsetting when a family member is seriously ill, particularly so when it’s a child.
‘We are unable to discuss details of individual cases due to patient confidentiality. Whilst I’m not aware of the family raising any complaint with the Trust, I will be writing to them to arrange a meeting in person so that they can discuss their concerns in detail with us.’
Ambulance fails to turn up to boy, 2, who stopped breathing after swallowing mints with enough nicotine for 15 cigarettes
A mother had to give her two-year-old son the kiss of life when he stopped breathing after mistaking nicotine replacement mints for sweets after an ambulance failed to turn up.
Kerry Brown, 27, feared she was going to lose her son, Max, when he collapsed at their home in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.
Max started vomiting violently after eating the mints containing the equivalent of up to 15 cigarettes-worth of nicotine.
However, despite dialling 999, paramedics failed to turn up and after 20 minutes Ms Brown was forced to step in when her son turned blue.
She contacted paramedics again but claims she was told that the ambulance would be there in another half an hour.
‘I had to blow in his mouth to save his life,’ said Ms Brown, who added that she was ‘totally disgusted’ with the ambulance service as a result of the ordeal on Sunday. ‘If my son had died, I don’t know what I would have done.’
The two-year-old had been watching television at his grandmother’s house in Huntingdon when he swallowed the mints after finding them in her purse while his mother was out of the room.
Horrified Ms Brown dialled 999 when she returned to find Max holding the packet of NiQuitin Minis.
‘All of a sudden he just went really pale, he had no life in him,’ she said. He was going blue so we phoned an ambulance straight away.
‘My brother phoned the ambulance and they said it was on its way,’ said Ms Brown, who has another son and two daughters.
‘Then Max got a lot worse so we phoned 20 minutes later and they said it would be here in half an hour.’
Ms Brown’s brother Lee McCool decided to rush his terrified sister and her son to Hinchingbrooke Hospital himself. ‘We got him in the car and he was going in and out of consciousness,’ said Ms Brown. ‘Then he stopped breathing – I had to blow in his mouth to save his life.’
An East of England Ambulance Service spokesman said a rapid response vehicle was dispatched when Ms Brown dialled 999 and was on course to reach the scene within the 30 minute target time set for calls of that nature.
He said Ms Brown’s son was conscious and breathing at the time of the call, which was logged as a ‘category green two’, – referring to an incident that is serious but not life-threatening.
When the family called a second time, the operator was informed they would be driving the toddler to hospital themselves, and the ambulance on its way to the house was called off.
‘People must remember that 999 is designed to give life-threatened patients priority. This incident was correctly diagnosed through a thorough clinical call handling process as not life-threatening,’ the ambulance service said.
Max, who was given emergency treatment and kept in hospital overnight, is now recovering at home with his mother. But Ms Brown said: ‘If something like this happened again I wouldn’t phone an ambulance.’
In 1981 there were eight NHS press officers in Britain. Now there are 82 in London alone
Health Service attacked for spending on PR when frontline services are at risk
The NHS is spending tens of millions of pounds a year on public relations at a time when frontline services are under threat.
In 1981, there were only eight press officers working for the entire Health Service. There are now ten times that number in London alone, a survey has found – 82 at the last count, on an average salary of £37,278.
Some £9.7million went on press officers’ salaries at hospitals and primary care trusts in the capital, while private PR firms were paid a further £3million. The total cost of almost £13million would be enough to pay for 600 nurses.
And, as the total refers solely to London, it means that across the NHS as much as £100million may go on PR each year.
Critics said it was outrageous that so much was being spent on spin when waiting times are getting longer and some operations are cancelled.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Many will ask whether this funding would be better spent on medical doctors, rather than spin doctors.
Far too many patients experience longer waiting times, cancelled operations and standards of care below what they deserve.’
The BBC sent Freedom of Information requests to all 33 London hospital trusts, all primary care trusts and the strategic health authority, NHS London.
The results reveal that as well as paying an army of full-time publicists, trusts spend millions of pounds on external PR firms.
NHS North West London PCT gave the London Communications Agency almost £1million for work on a consultation programme. Tower Hamlets PCT paid four different PR companies a total of £353,391, mostly for public health campaigns.
Chelsea Children’s Hospital paid Eureka Marketing Solutions £10,620 to design a logo and ‘branded merchandise’.
The Royal Marsden paid a firm £1,500 to ‘print news clippings following the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’.
The Royal Free in North West London paid a PR firm £12,427 for advice on handling the UK’s first face transplant, even though it employs five press officers at a total cost of £198,000.
Dr John Lister, of pressure group London Health Emergency, said: ‘Sadly the default setting of NHS managers seems to be bringing in private consultants to do jobs staff should be doing. Most people would regard it a total waste of money.’
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘NHS organisations are responsible for how they spend their funds.
Money should only be spent on external consultancies if this is absolutely necessary and provides good value for money.’
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations insisted the use of PR firms by the NHS could save money by raising awareness of health issues.
NHS trusts in England spent more than £1billion on sick pay over the past three years, data obtained by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy shows.
It blamed the 19.3million sick days that were attributable to musculoskeletal conditions, such as back pain, on a failure to implement official recommendations made in 2009 that were aimed at reducing staff absence.
Exercising four times a week from childhood ‘helps stave off dementia and increases brain power by a third’
Or maybe smarter people are more likely to see value in exercise for both themselves and their children
It is not only our heart and waistline that benefit from lifelong exercise – our brains do too.
Undertaking physical activity four or more times a week from childhood helps improve brainpower in later life by up to a third, and could help stave off the onset of dementia.
While all adults suffer mental decline with greater age, scientists found regular exercise, such as playing sport, jogging, attending the gym or even a brisk walk with the dog, can have a protecting effect on the brain.
More than 9,000 individuals took part in a 40-year study from age of 11. Researchers quizzed them on levels of exercise at regular age intervals, and participants also undertook tests of memory, attention and learning.
The study found participants who exercised weekly throughout their life performed better on tests of memory, learning, attention and reasoning at the age of 50, compared to those who exercised two to three times per month or less.
Men who undertook physical activity more than four times a week were found to have lost a third less of their brainpower by the age of 50, compared to their peers who did no exercise, while women benefit from a 25 per cent reduction.
Even those who exercised once a week saw a boost, with the physical activity helping to slow their mental decline by an average of 10 per cent.
Study leader Dr Alex Dregan, from King’s College London, said: ‘The research shows that any physical activity is beneficial for cognitive function.
‘Current guidelines are for 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week, but the study has found you do not have to take this much exercise to see benefits. Even those that take part in physical activity once a week still benefit.
‘For a man who exercises regularly, the rate of cognitive decline when they reach 50 is reduced by a third, while for women it is a quarter.
‘And the benefits of regular exercise will continue after an individual reaches 50.
‘The results suggest that regular physical activity could help delay dementia.’
Government guidelines say that adults aged 19 to 64 should exercise for at least 150 minutes per week, the equivalent of five half-an-hour sessions.
‘It’s widely acknowledged that a healthy body equals a healthy mind,’ said Dr Dregan, whose findings were published in the journal Psychological Medicine.
‘However, not everyone is willing or able to take part in the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
For these people any level of physical activity may benefit their cognitive well-being in the long-term and this is something that needs to be explored further.
‘Setting lower exercise targets at the beginning and gradually increasing their frequency and intensity could be a more effective method for improving levels of exercise within the wider population.’
£100m a year to kick out illegal immigrants from Britain: Removing one person who has no valid passport or visa can cost £25,000
Booting out migrants who arrive without a visa or valid passport may be costing up to £100million a year. At least 4,000 foreigners enter the UK every 12 months despite having no right to be here.
Each costs as much as £25,000 to remove – putting the potential annual bill at £100million.
Officials admit however that the illegals are often allowed to stay. Many will claim asylum, or be impossible to remove because they do not have a passport and will not co-operate with investigators.
Last night ministers warned that such individuals pose a significant risk to national security. In many cases officials will have no idea who they are, where they are from or if they have a criminal or terrorist history.
Many are thought to come from countries it is difficult to return them to because of human rights issues, including Uganda, Afghanistan and Somalia.
Details of the problem emerged as ministers launched a crackdown on undocumented migrants. Fines for airlines that allow them on to their planes will rise from £2,000 to up to £10,000 per migrant.
Immigration Minister Mark Harper admitted the numbers abusing the aircraft route was ‘too high’.
‘Border security is vital for the UK,’ he added. ‘While it is right that the Government is in the lead on this, carriers and the transport sector as a whole have an important role to play.
‘The proposed changes to incentives and penalties are designed to ensure all passengers arriving in the UK have the correct documentation to get through our strict passport controls.
‘If a passenger arrives in the UK without a document which satisfactorily establishes their nationality or identity, they can pose a significant risk to the UK.’
The Home Office believes 4,100 migrants arrived on flights and ferries to the UK without proper documents in 2011.
Many carry counterfeit or forged passports that should be spotted when they try to board the plane. Others are allowed on to planes despite having expired documents.
Some flush their passports down the toilet during the flight to try to disguise their nationality and help them claim asylum.
Fines are levied in only around half of cases, and airlines may escape paying up if the passports are a very good forgery or if they have a proven record of carrying out effective checks.
The Home Office could not say how many of those who abuse this route into the UK are successfully removed from the country. Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the MigrationWatch think-tank, said: ‘It is high time these fines were increased. These are all going to become illegal immigrants.
‘They will want to undercut the wages of British workers and allow unscrupulous employers to compete unfairly with honest ones who offer decent pay and conditions.’
In 2009 the National Audit Office estimated that every failed asylum seeker costs between £3,000 and £25,000 to remove.
At first, many arrivals will be locked up in immigration detention centres, but they cannot be held behind bars indefinitely, and the courts may demand they be let out on to the streets if there is no prospect of prompt removal.
Officials suggest that the current fine – which has remained the same since the early 1990s – is now less effective at encouraging airlines to combat the practice. Had it simply been increased to keep pace with inflation, it would be £3,500 today. France and Germany levy fines of around £4,300 (5,000 euros).
The consultation document suggests a £7,000 fine will be of a ‘sufficiently high level to encourage carriers to perform better document checks’. Offending airlines could face even higher penalties. The Home Office estimates a new penalty charge of £7,000 would raise £63million over ten years.
Britain’s coffers are empty, yet still the compassion industry squeals for more money
Cut spending and taxes now, Tory MP Liam Fox demanded yesterday. A week ahead of the Budget, he delivered an almost undisguised assault on the Coalition’s economic policies – and his speech will be music to many Conservative ears.
We are almost three years into the life of a Government which took office promising to reduce the mountain of debt bequeathed to the nation by Gordon Brown and Ed Balls.
Yet today, while the BBC runs an unrelenting propaganda campaign on behalf of the Left, proclaiming the iniquity of ‘Tory cuts’, there has been no effective progress in reducing that debt.
State spending takes nearly half of national output. The national debt burden is still rising and scheduled to reach an awesome 96 per cent of GDP by 2016. The social security budget will rise from £182 billion this year to £199.3 billion in 2016-17. What is happening to Britain – and to our money?
The Chancellor, George Osborne, has arguably done his best. In his first years of office, he set targets for reducing state expenditure that seemed at the time brave and ambitious. He also increased many taxes to boost Treasury revenues, with hopes of cutting them again towards the end of this parliament.
Yet, in the event, thanks to the stagnation of the economy, the tax take has fallen well short of predictions. Meanwhile, cuts have proved extraordinarily hard to deliver.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, only 67 per cent of promised reductions have materialised, including just 32 per cent of pledged savings in the £208 billion bill for welfare.
The Treasury has struggled against the intractable problem that £138 billion of the Government’s total £677 billion spend is committed to public sector pensions, almost all of them index-linked. The cost of servicing these continues to soar.
Since the welfare state was founded in 1945, a vast fortress of public entitlements has been created, defended by a garrison of lobbyists and crusaders which we might call the compassion industry. This fights tigerishly against every attempt to turn off the tap of taxpayers’ generosity, even to the least deserving recipients.
There is currently a new applicant every nine minutes for Disability Living Allowance, which is due to be phased out; 71 per cent of those who come forward are provided benefits for life without checks.
The Archbishop of Canterbury weighed in at the weekend with remarks wet enough to earn him a place on a fishmonger’s slab about the wickedness of proposed real-terms benefit cuts.
The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, earlier this month warned of possible civil unrest if the legal aid budget is cut as proposed. Scarcely a day goes by without some prominent educationalist denouncing the Government’s parsimony towards schools and universities.
Yesterday morning, I read an online blog about the NHS by a contributor who complained: ‘I am a nurse and I find it increasingly frustrating that there seems to be a focus on a cost-effective service rather than the patient being the focus of the service.’
My point is that we are institutionally wired to assume unlimited public funds are available to fulfil obsessively extravagant requirements for human rights, environmental protection and much else.
Coroners constantly demand drastic new public safety measures to protect against outlandish forms of accident.
We need the imagination and courage to defy kneejerk sentiment about health care, and admit that the resources do not exist to give any hospital or NHS trust the money it wants to do everything modern medical science makes possible for every patient.
This is a harsh but vital message. Yet the Government gets almost zero support from health professionals, pundits and the media in conveying it to the public.
I recently heard a senior doctor say smugly: ‘It is not my job to ration medical care. My job is to give patients the very best treatment available, and leave it to the politicians and bureaucrats to worry about the money.’
He thought this emphasised his own high ethical standards. Some of us would say that, instead, he exposed a wretched lack of responsibility about helping to solve a huge problem in our cash-strapped society.
We cannot reasonably expect the recipients of welfare to refuse their opportunities to claim cash on offer. But it seems somewhere between regrettable and scandalous that so many people holding responsible jobs collude with them.
For instance, consider those young unmarried mothers who make no attempt to find jobs because they live perfectly comfortably on benefits.
There are doctors who knowingly sign false sickness claims, and local councillors and officials who fight tooth and nail to cling to every penny of their budgets.
And at the same time there are always BBC correspondents who peddle repeated half-truths and sometimes outright falsehoods about government cuts.
Must not call a Pom a twit
A British God-doctor can’t take criticism. A cystic fibrosis sufferer was struck off as a patient from his local GP surgery after posting an “offensive” message about its staff on Twitter, it emerged tonight
Mathew Cochrane, 26, was left astonished after being removed without notice from the Stanwell Surgery, Penarth, south Wales for describing staff as “incompetent t***s”.
Practice officials wrote to him this week, saying he had to find another GP practice at which to register.
But tonight the case provoked a backlash on Twitter, after Mr Cochrane posted a copy of the letter and a picture of the offending “tweet” on the social media site.
While it is understood the decision by the practice to protect “defenceless” staff from “abuse”, critics said it raised fundamental questions about free speech.
The row was provoked last week when he contacted the surgery to make an appointment after getting a letter in the post telling him he needed to see a doctor.
Because he usually only dealt with a specialist consultant, he rang worried it was a serious problem but a receptionist told him the next available slot was three weeks away.
The pair then argued about the practice’s systems, and he was told “in an unpleasant tone” that mangers were unavailable to hear his complaint and he had to make it in writing.
He then took to Twitter at lunchtime on Friday and posted to his just over 500 followers: “#StanwellSurgery in #Penarth is run by a bunch if [sic] incompetent t***s!”
On Monday, the practice’s senior partner, Dr Jonathon Evans, wrote to him informing him he had been deregistered for his “offensive tweet” and that he needed to find an alternative doctor.
Tonight Mr Cochrane, a driving instructor from Penarth, admitted he was left astonished that his surgery “could have me removed for what I thought was a harmless tweet”.
“Pom” is Australian slang for the English.