NHS watchdog under fire over baby deaths
The NHS watchdog is to face fresh criticism next week over its supervision of a hospital where the deaths of at least eight babies are now under investigation by police amid accusations of a cover-up.
The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) board will be told of a catalogue of failings by an independent review into its oversight of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust, in Cumbria.
The report will be a major landmark for the NHS, coming after the damning report into Stafford hospital, which warned of major failings by regulators.
The review was prompted by a campaign by James Titcombe to find the truth about the death of Joshua, his baby son, in October 2008, 10 days after he was born. It is to be followed by a full independent inquiry, in public, into the care of mothers and babies at the trust.
A separate police inquiry into the deaths of eight babies, including Joshua, has also been launched.
This month’s report centres on why in April 2010, 18 months after Joshua’s death, the CQC unconditionally registered the hospital as being safe despite warnings from the watchdog’s regional director of “systematic failures” in maternity services and a likely risk of further tragedies if changes were not made.
The review team has been told that it was not until September 2011, following an inspection by the CQC, that the trust was finally warned that failings were so serious that they would be closed down without major changes.
By then, its hospitals had the highest mortality rates in the country, with data suggesting more than 600 “excess deaths” between 2008 and 2012.
Mr Titcombe, 35, and his wife Hoa, now 36, had Joshua, their second child at Furness General Hospital, run by the trust, in October 2008.
The couple, from Dalton-in-Furness had both been feeling poorly but midwives said there was no cause for alarm, and Mrs Titcombe was sent home, returning two days later when contractions came quickly.
When Joshua was born, the couple were “ecstatic” said Mr Titcombe. “Our son appeared to be a perfect healthy boy.”
But within less than half an hour of the birth, his wife collapsed and was put on antibiotics.
Despite midwives later dealing with a breathing problem with their son, a doctor was not called, and Joshua was eventually transferred to Manchester for intensive treatment from pneumococcus, the same infection as his mother, and died nine days later, effectively bleeding to death.
The couple learned that the child’s extremely low temperature should have indicated to midwives a likely infection but that records were missing.
They eventually secured an inquest, at which midwives were accused by the coroner of a cover-up.
A police investigation was launched which has now widened to cover at least eight deaths.
The month’s report will address allegations that bodies in charge of patient safety including the CQC and the NHS ombudsman collaborated to prevent the case being investigated.
The deaths being investigated include that of Niran Aukhaj, 29, sent home without her blood pressure being checked, and her unborn child, in April 2008; Nittaya Hendrickson, 35, and her son, Chester who died three months later; and Alex Brady, who died after being born with the umbilical cord wrapped round his neck.
Mr Titcombe said: “I need answers, and I want to make a difference so that other families do not have to go through this. It is hard to start grieving when every time you lift a stone, you find something so terrible that you cannot help but push again.”
Jackie Daniel, chief executive of the trust, said the hospitals had “badly let the public down in the past” but that staff were working hard to put things right.
She said the trust had made significant progress in the last 12 months and all warning notices on the organisation were now lifted.
A spokesman for CQC said the organisation would consider the findings of the report when it was given to the board.
The Western diet really IS a killer: People who eat white bread, butter and red meat are most likely to die young (?)
The usual correlational rubbish. No curiosity shown about WHO it might be who ate a “correct” diet. People who take more care of their health generally? Middle class people? More educated people? High IQ people? All those would have better health anyway
The typical Western diet, high in fat and sugar, really does lead to an early grave, new research suggests.
A study of more than 5,000 civil servants found those who ate the most fried and sweet food, processed and red meat, white bread and butter and cream doubled their risk of premature death or ill health in old age.
It adds to evidence that ‘Western style food’ is the reason why heart disease claims about 94,000 lives a year in the UK – more than any other illness.
The findings published in The American Journal of Medicine are based on a survey of British adults and suggest adherence to the diet increases the risk of premature death and disability later in life.
Lead researcher, Dr Tasnime Akbaraly, of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in France, said: ‘The impact of diet on specific age-related diseases has been studied extensively, but few investigations have adopted a more holistic approach to determine the association of diet with overall health at older ages.’
She examined whether diet, assessed in midlife, using dietary patterns and adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), is associated with physical ageing 16 years later.
The AHEI is an index of diet quality, originally designed to provide dietary guidelines with the specific intention to combat major chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
Dr Akbaraly added: ‘We showed that following specific dietary recommendations such as the one provided by the AHEI may be useful in reducing the risk of unhealthy ageing, while avoidance of the “Western-type foods” might actually improve the possibility of achieving older ages free of chronic diseases.’
The researchers analysed data from the British Whitehall II cohort study and found following the AHEI can double the odds of reversing metabolic syndrome, a range of disorders known to cause heart disease and mortality. They followed 3,775 men and 1,575 women from 1985-2009 with a mean age of 51 years.
Using a combination of hospital data, results of screenings conducted every five years, and registry data, investigators identified death rates and chronic diseases among participants.
At the follow up stage, just four per cent had achieved ‘ideal ageing’ – classed as being free of chronic conditions and having high performance in physical, mental and mental agility tests.
About 12 per cent had suffered a non-fatal cardiovascular event such as a stroke or heart attack, while almost three per cent had died from cardiovascular disease.
About three quarters were categorised as going through ‘normal ageing’.
The researchers said participants who hadn’t really stuck to the AHEI increased their risk of death, either from heart disease or another cause.
Those who followed a ‘Western-type diet’ consisting of fried and sweet food, processed food and red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products, lowered their chances for ideal ageing.
Yobbish behaviour is getting worse, say eight in ten Britons: Figures raise concerns over lack of police action to combat problem
More than 80 per cent of the public think anti-social behaviour is on the rise across the country. In an official survey, four-fifths of those questioned said the problem was getting worse in England and Wales, citing drunken loutishness, gangs of yobs loitering on the streets, vandalism, verbal abuse and drugs.
Worryingly, nearly half said they thought the problem had increased significantly in recent years.
Nearly one in three had been a victim of, or had witnessed some form of, anti-social behaviour in the previous 12 months.
The figures, published by the Office for National Statistics, will prompt further concerns over the lack of police action to combat the problem.
Only last week, a survey found more than one in three people who called the police over anti-social behaviour said it made `no difference’.
Officers also stand accused of wasting time `trying to please pressure groups’ after one force, Greater Manchester Police, said it would class incidents involving emo and punk groups as hate crimes.
Max Chambers, head of crime and justice at think-tank Policy Exchange, said it was clear anti-social behaviour was a `serious and widespread problem’. He said: `We’ve got to make it easier for the public to report crime and express concerns about teenagers drinking in the street or threatening our neighbours.
`This means protecting the visibility and availability of uniformed police officers. We also need the police to take complaints of yobbish behaviour seriously.’
The figures come from a new question within the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which surveys around 40,000 people.
For the first time, the public were asked about the `perception of the level of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales over the past few years’.
Only 3 per cent said they thought it had gone down and 15 per cent said it had stayed `about the same’. However, 32 per cent said they thought anti-social behaviour had gone up `a little’, and 49 per cent said they thought it had gone up `a lot’.
More than one in three said they thought the problem had got worse in their local area, and 30 per cent said they had experienced or witnessed an incident in the past 12 months.
The most common problem was with drunken louts or other alcohol-related disorder. People also complained about groups hanging around on the streets, inconsiderate behaviour, loud music, vandalism, verbal abuse, littering and drug dealing. A small proportion also cited begging, dangerous dogs and people having sex in public.
More than one in seven adults said they had experienced high levels of anti-social behaviour in the past year. One in eight business premises experienced problematic behaviour in 2011/12.
Chief Constable Simon Cole, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: `Police take a risk-based approach to dealing with crimes of this type, prioritising those most at harm. ‘As this continues, forces will get better at identifying vulnerable victims and tailoring their response.’
A Home Office spokesman said: `We are turning the current system on its head, empowering people to come forward and the police to respond quickly and effectively.’
Ministers have abolished the Anti-social Behaviour Order, which was often worn as a `badge of honour’ by criminals. New simplified powers will result in stricter punishments if they are breached.