NHS watchdog ‘declared hospitals were safe despite concerns over high death rates and poor care’
Hospitals with high death rates and poor care standards were registered as safe despite Britain’s main health watchdog knowing there were serious failings, a whistleblower has revealed.
Kay Sheldon, who is on the board of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), said the organisation routinely ignored concerns at a number of NHS trusts despite being set up to protect patients.
The alleged whitewash came as the Mid-Staffordshire public inquiry into up to 1,200 unnecessary deaths was announced in 2010.
Patients there were so neglected they forced to drink stale water from vases, sit in their own excrement for days while others were sent home with life-threatening injuries or died following routine operations.
Kay Sheldon believes ‘finding another Mid-Staffs had to be avoided at all costs’, so the CQC decided to call potentially dangerous institutions safe as part of a cover-up.
‘The Mid Staffs public inquiry was underway and it had been said by Department of Health that Mid Staffs was a one-off and there was a real sense that finding another Mid-Staffs had to be avoided at all costs, she told Radio 4’s Today Programme.
‘There were a number of hospitals where the problems were well-known and yet they were registered as fully compliant and subsequently inspected as fully compliant.’
Among trusts concerned, she said, was the University Hospitals and Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust which is under police investigation following the deaths of a number of babies.
A total of 30 families are reported to be taking legal action against the trust over mother and baby deaths and cases of cerebral palsy.
Managers have been accused of covering up patient deaths as they chased the prize of foundation trust status.
Morecambe Bay became a foundation trust in 2010 despite warnings from the regional director of the NHS regulator that patients’ lives were in danger. In 2011 it had the highest mortality rate of any trust in England.
Ms Sheldon said the CQC was aware of serious problems at the trust in late 2009 and the beginning of 2010 but in April 2010 it was registered as fully compliant.
‘It just doesn’t make sense. There is no way that the trust could have turned itself round in two or three months,’ she said. ‘It seems to me that CQC gave assurance about the trust that wasn’t actually accurate.
‘It was a very shocking thing to find thinking that an organisation that’s there to protect patients had effectively given what amounted to false assurance and that meant that problems in the trust carried on unacknowledged and unaddressed.’
She claims a total of 15 hospitals were being investigated over high mortality rates time, yet they were give a clean bill of health.
‘It does raise the question as to why those Trusts were registered as fully compliant. It seems that the CQC knew about the concerns, they knew about the high mortality rates – that is something that I’ve only just become aware of – and it concerns me greatly that CQC had that info and yet registered these trusts as fully compliant at the time,’ she said.
Mrs Sheldon’s was the Mental Health Act commissioner for 11 years and a trustee of charity Mind.
CQC Chief executive David Behan, who took over last year, said an independent review was under way into what happened at Morecambe Bay. ‘The allegations that have been made are very serious,’ he told the Today programme. ‘I am absolutely committed that CQC will be an open and transparent organisation. We will publish this report and we will be accountable for the work that we do.’
A CQC spokesman added: ‘We are changing the way we inspect hospitals and making other changes to the way we work. These include strengthening the board and senior management team, for example by recruiting a chief inspector of hospitals, a chief inspector of social care and a chief inspector of primary care to lead our inspections.
‘The matters Kay Sheldon have raised are not new and have been reported and discussed internally and externally. CQC is committed to being an open and transparent organisation, focussed on making sure health and social care services provide people with high quality care that they have a right to expect of health and care services.’
£286 green tax on average British energy bills: But ministers insist ‘efficient appliances’ will SAVE us money
Families will be paying almost £300 a year in green energy taxes by 2020. The levy will more than double until a quarter of each power bill goes on wind, solar, nuclear or home insulation schemes.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey insisted last night that households will be better off thanks to the benefits of electricity-saving initiatives. But families will be able to claw the money back only if they buy more efficient domestic appliances and boilers.
The average power bill is now £1,267 – with £112 of that going on green taxes, including an £18 wind farm subsidy. By 2020, green taxes will have risen by more than 150 per cent, ensuring each family contributes £286, according to the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
It reckons that by then households will be saving £452 a year by taking up schemes to lower energy use and by switching to more efficient kettles, fridges and TVs.
The ministry also hopes smart meters, which track energy consumption, will alter consumer behaviour and lower consumption.
But John Constable, of the charity Renewable Energy Foundation, said: ‘DECC is clearly embarrassed by the terrifying costs of its ever-growing range of green policies, and is covering up with a whitewash of wildly optimistic assumptions about energy efficiency.
‘If electricity prices increase by a third, as DECC admits they will, it is vanishingly unlikely that better dishwashers, kettles, and fridges, even assuming households can afford them, can cancel out the increases and deliver lower bills.’
Mr Davey said his projected savings would mean that households would end up paying £166 less than if the green policies had not been introduced in the first place.
‘Global gas price hikes are squeezing households,’ he added. ‘We are doing all we can to offset these global energy price rises and, while we have more to do, this new study shows that our policies are putting a cushion between global prices and the bills we all pay.
‘The analysis shows our strategy of shifting to alternatives like renewables, and of being smarter with how we use energy, is helping those that need it most save money on their bills.
‘The poorest who take advantage of the help that is available through the initiatives we have on offer stand to make the highest savings, from the warm home discount to our new regulation on energy firms to force them to improve the energy efficiency of fuel poor households.’
DECC claims ‘the large majority of households’ will benefit and even those that do not add insulation or take advantage of energy rebates will be £15 better off.
Caroline Flint, Labour’s energy spokesman, said last night: ‘The Government’s underhand attempt to mask the real impact of its policies on families’ energy bills is shameful.
‘At a time when hard-pressed families and pensioners are seeing their incomes squeezed, only this out-of-touch Government could expect people to fork out thousands of pounds on new TVs, fridge freezers and washing machines just to save a few pounds every few months on their energy bill.’
DECC admitted green policies had added £22 to household bills over the past two years.
Household energy consumption has fallen since 2005, with gas usage dropping by a fifth and electricity demand down by 11 per cent.
The drop is partly attributed to energy efficiency measures, but is also a result of belt-tightening, both of which the Government expects to continue.
By 2020, DECC estimates that householders will have replaced 12million boilers with more efficient models.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: ‘The Government must ensure that the savings to consumers they have estimated will flow from their energy policies, become a reality. That will require more transparency and scrutiny of their plans and more practical help for people to make their homes energy efficient.
‘Effective competition in both the wholesale and retail energy markets will also help keep prices in check, but the Government’s plans for reform don’t yet go far enough to give people confidence that the price they are paying for their energy is a fair one.’
Under European climate change targets, around a third of our electricity will have to be generated by renewable energy sources by 2020.
Mr Davey said: ‘The analysis underlines the importance of pressing ahead with the range of steps we’re taking to decarbonise and insulate our economy from excessive reliance on imported gas.’
Meanwhile, green taxes on business will double, the Treasury admitted last night.
Total green taxes – including only those mainly designed to change behaviour – will rise from £2.5billion to £5.6billion by the time of the 2015 election.
They are then forecast to carry on rising to £5.9billion by 2017/8.
The figures released to Parliament include the cost of the climate change levy, the aggregates levy, the landfill tax and the EU’s environmental trading scheme.
They also include the new carbon price floor – a price per ton of carbon emitted. Analysts warn that because it only applies in the UK it will force energy intensive firms to move abroad.
The combined cost of the measure and the climate change levy is due to rocket from £600million this year to £2.4billion in 2015/6.
But the figures do not include other ‘revenue raising’ measures, which are sometimes credited with having a ‘green’ effect, such as fuel duty.
The Treasury said green taxes would rise as a proportion of total taxation from 0.5 per cent to 0.8 per cent.
Economic Secretary Sajid Javid said the Coalition was ‘on track’ to meet a commitment to increase the proportion of revenue from green taxes.
120,000 Romanians and Bulgarians have already moved to Britain: Census shows in some parts of the country one in ten are Eastern European
Nearly 120,000 Romanians and Bulgarians have already moved to Britain despite not yet being allowed to work freely in this country, official figures showed yesterday.
The data from the 2011 census showed that migration to Britain – at a rate equivalent to 30,000 a year – began as soon as the two countries joined the EU.
The disclosure is fresh evidence that a major movement of Romanian and Bulgarian citizens is likely when restrictions are lifted at the end of the year.
The 119,101 Romanians and Bulgarians are among just under 1 million Eastern European citizens now living in Britain, almost all of whom arrived under open-border rules after their countries joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, the census showed.
It found that in some parts of the country almost one in 10 of the population are citizens of Eastern European countries.
In Boston, Lincolnshire – the town that sparked a fierce argument over the impact of immigration on BBC TV’s Question Time – 10.7 per cent of the population are Eastern European passport-holders.
The figures were released at a time of increased political tension over immigration, amid fears of a large-scale influx of Bulgarians and Romanians next year.
Earlier this week David Cameron tried to reassure voters with promises to make it harder for migrants from outside Europe to get NHS treatment and social housing, and for those from inside the EU to claim state benefits.
Detailed breakdowns published yesterday showed numbers of foreign citizens living in Britain, counted by those who gave their passport nationality on census forms, and of those who declared on the census form the country of their birth.
The real totals may be higher because some – in particular immigrants – have in the past proved reluctant to fill in census forms or provide the full details they demand.
Yesterday’s figures showed there were 73,208 Romanian passport holders in England and Wales on the day the census was taken – 27 March 2011.
No details of Bulgarian passport holders were made public, but the figures showed there were 45,893 who said they were born in Bulgaria.
The census was taken just over four years after the two countries joined the EU, under an agreement that while their citizens would be allowed to travel to and live in Britain, they would not be able to work here as employees.
Those rules have now been lifted and Romanians and Bulgarians get free access to the labour market from 1 January next year.
Sir Andrew Green, of the MigrationWatch think-tank, said: ‘These figures validate our projection that 50,000 people a year will come when citizens of the two countries get free access to the labour market in the New Year.’
The figure does not include 22,000 workers who come as seasonal fruit pickers under a summer work-permit scheme, and then return home.
Census figures gave an official figure of 988,123 Eastern European citizens present in the country in March 2011 – including 588,082 Poles, 104,676 Lithuanians, and 73,208 Romanians.
Around one and a half million people from the eight Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 are thought to have lived and worked in Britain at some stage.
The census showed the highest concentration of Eastern European citizens in any town in Britain was in Boston, with 10.7 per cent of the population.
The town was at the centre of controversy in January after Cambridge academic Mary Beard told BBC Question Time that local fears over immigration were a ‘myth’ and that ‘public services can cope’.
She was rebuked by businesswoman Rachel Bull, who said services were at ‘breaking point’.
Life is harder today than 40 years ago … and it’s not just the twenty-somethings saying that, their parents agree
The are too many knees under government desks now — instead of being out doing something productive and useful
Raised on rationing and under the spectre of a nuclear war, older generations have loved to grumble about the easy ride enjoyed by youngsters today at one point or another.
But it would seem that despite the improved working conditions, freedom and vast array of ways to splash the cash, life for young people has never been tougher.
A surprising study of 4,000 people across two generations found that not only does the current younger generation think their parents had it easy, the over-50’s agree.
The study, which was commissioned by health retailer Holland & Barrett, also revealed 68 per cent of those questioned believe today’s generation are forced to endure more hardship than young people 40 years ago.
Despite the consumer revolution in personal technology, comparatively bigger salaries and better working conditions, those in their twenties say they face a more significant range of threats to happiness and contentment.
Better job security, comfortable pensions and a clockon, clock off approach to the world of work made life easier 40 years ago, as did a better housing market and the absence of high interest loans and credit cards.
‘The results are surprising, and reveal that young men and women in their twenties are planning for the future, investing time and effort in maintaining health and fitness, and fretting over their finances – rather than hedonists living for the day,’ said the LSE sociologist, Dr Catherine Hakim.
‘Perhaps this is a response to the current tough economic climate.’
Stress is a huge problem for today’s twenty-somethings, with 41 per cent saying they experience regular or constant stress. Just 15 per cent said the same 40 years ago, with half saying they never got stressed at all.
Money worries, being overworked and concerns about their body image were the most prevalent concerns for those in their twenties, but didn’t chime with older respondents, who, in general, were far more content with their body shape and image in their youth.
As a result, the average twenty-something is also twice as likely to want to ‘make a lot of money quickly’ than the older generation did when they were that age.
Hakim added: ‘Young men and women are also vastly more materialistic than were their parents’ generation.
‘Having money has become a life goal in itself, as a high standard of living becomes taken for granted.’
‘Overall, it’s clear the route to happiness and contentment has changed over a generation to become more aspirational and more individualistic.’
There were some similarities between those in their twenties and those in their fifties however. Both generations aspired to finding a partner and having a long term relationship in their twenties.
Paired off or not, having children has been pushed back by those in their twenties, with most agreeing that the ideal time to have a baby is at 29, compared with 27 in 1970.
Marriage too has declined with less than half of today’s youth considering it important compared to the 54 per cent of over 50’s who placed faith in it when in their twenties.
People had better relationships with the neighbours also in years gone by – one in four over fifties as fond memories of visiting a neighbour’s home and being on very good terms with the people next door while just 7 per cent of today’s twenty-somethings can claim the same thing.
Surprisingly, alcohol consumption remains fairly similar but naturally people were far heavier smokers in the older generation – just a fifth of the modern generation smoked compared to over half of people forty years ago. The average smoker back then smoked 15 a day, while those today get through nine.
‘We commissioned the Good Life Report to better understand what the challenges and pressures really are for today’s younger generation,’ said Lysa Hardy, Chief Marketing Officer for Holland and Barrett.
‘In a world where we’re constantly rushing around and connected 24/4, we found people now have to make more of a concerted effort to keep fit and healthy, often fitting it around their busy lifestyle at the expense of having fun and seeing friends and family.
‘The idea of what makes up a good life has also changed over a generation, and we’ve noticed a trend for many younger people to take an interest in health and looking after themselves.
‘The common view is young people live for today – yet the report shows quite the opposite.
‘Today’s younger generation are looking ahead, investing in their health, saving, and making smart choices about healthy eating and exercise.’
New penalties to punish British press are illegal, says peer: Lord Black warns ‘exemplary damages’ plan will fail
Plans to push newspapers into joining a new press regulator under threat of punitive damages are ‘almost certainly illegal’ and will ultimately collapse, a Tory peer warned last night.
Lord Black of Brentwood, a senior executive with Telegraph Media Group, delivered an outspoken attack on the proposals thrashed out by the three political parties last week.
He described them as a menace to free speech that will have ‘a chilling effect on investigative journalism’.
He spoke out as peers discussed legislation drawn up to implement the recommendations of the inquiry into press standards by Lord Justice Leveson. Under the plans, media organisations that refuse to join an approved regulator could be hit with ‘exemplary’ damages if they lose court cases for libel or invasion of privacy.
But Lord Black denounced that as ‘alien to English law’, where exemplary damages are only used in extreme circumstances.
He said the plans are ‘wrong in principle and fundamentally flawed’.
‘I’m sure they are almost certainly contrary to European law and so will collapse or be struck down,’ he added. ‘I think they are a constitutional nightmare.’
Lord Black quoted from a legal opinion drawn up by Lord Pannick, Desmond Brown QC and Anthony White QC, which warned that the proposals will fall foul of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The legal experts said that punishing newspapers is ‘particularly objectionable’ under European law.
‘To punish the Press for what others may do without punishment is inconsistent with the importance that both domestic and Strasbourg jurisprudence attaches to the freedom of the press.’
Criticising the way the reforms have been rammed through ‘at breakneck speed’, Lord Black said it was ‘very dangerous’ that fundamental issues of freedom of speech were pushed through the Commons after just two hours of debate and intense lobbying from the Hacked Off pressure group.
Lord Black pointed out that the Government’s legislation seeks to use exemplary damages as a stick to encourage newspapers to sign up to the new body.
But loopholes mean that publishers could be hit with exemplary damages in ‘strikingly wide circumstances’ even if they do sign up.
The Government last night tabled an amendment which would prevent those who publish a ‘small scale blog’ from being among those who could be fined.
It was nodded through by peers without a vote. Lord Black’s intervention is significant since he has been a leading player in the industry in drawing up plans for a new regulator.