Friday, 29 February 2008

Ten patients a day killed by C.diff bug

NEARLY 10 people are dying every day from the superbug Clostridium difficile.

Official figures show 6,480 death certificates in 2006 mentioned the bug, compared with 3,757 the year before - a rise of 72 per cent.

The increase comes after the Government told doctors in 2005 to note healthcare-acquired infections on death certificates.

The number which gave C.diff as the underlying cause of death rose from 2,063 in 2005 to 3,490 in 2006 in England and Wales - almost 10 a day.

Prof Brian Duerden, the Government's chief microbiologist, said the rise in death certificates mentioning C.diff was due to better reporting and overall infection rates were falling.

He added: "Since 2006 we have taken significant steps to tackle infections. These include stringent hand-washing guidance for the NHS, a bare-below-the- elbows dress code, putting matrons back in charge of cleanliness on their wards and an ongoing deep clean of every ward."

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Anti-smoking drug linked to suicides given NHS approval

The anti-smoking drug Champix should be offered to smokers who want to kick the habit despite fears that it is linked to suicides, according to the Government's health watchdog.

Veteran wins fight for NHS sight treatment

A war veteran who won his battle for NHS treatment for his failing eyesight yesterday has pledged to continue the fight for other people.

Jack Tagg, 88, who flew Wellington bombers during the Second World War, put his house on the market to fund his treatment because his local health trust said he did not meet the NHS criteria.

Mr Tagg, from Torquay, Devon, suffers from age-related wet macular degeneration in his right eye, which attacks central vision. Last week, he went to Downing Street to present about £1,000 in donated cheques to Gordon Brown - which he wanted the Prime Minister to put towards his treatment.

Mr Tagg paid more than £700 for one injection, and was prepared to sell his home to fund another dozen. But he said yesterday that the trust had offered to pay.

"I am delighted my campaign has succeeded, but I am proceeding to campaign on behalf of others who have not been so fortunate," he said.

He said he wanted people to continue to send £5 cheques - made payable to Gordon Brown - to help make the treatment universal. During his campaign, Mr Tagg described the trust's decision not to fund his treatment as "calculated cruelty".

Peter Colclough, the chief executive of Torbay Care Trust, met Mr Tagg and his wife Gabrielle, 77, to discuss his case and treatment of his condition.

After a review of the case, Mr Colclough said that at the time of Mr Tagg's ophthalmologist consultation, he was not advised of his right to appeal.

"I have personally apologised to Mr Tagg for the flaw within our process," he said. "As a result, we have offered to fund Mr Tagg's treatment on a personal basis. We will continue to assess each patient on a case-by-case basis."

Monday, 25 February 2008

Victim of the NHS postcode lottery

A woman fears she has been sentenced to blindness after NHS managers in Oxfordshire refused to give her a treatment to improve her sight.

Hana Whitton is already blind in her left eye, because of an illness called myopic choroidal neovascular complex.

A year ago doctors discovered her right eye was also under threat, but she has become a the victim of health care "postcode lottery" after Oxfordshire NHS Primary Care Trust refused to pay for a drug that would help her.

Although Lucentis has already helped improve her condition, the PCT said it would not pay the £7,000 needed for a course of three injections.

The 56-year-old then learned she could get the treatment free if she lived in neighbouring Wiltshire.

The trust's decision, which has deprived thousands of county patients of the drug, has been branded "simply unacceptable" by a charity for the blind.

To prevent her eyesight from getting worse, Mrs Whitton, of Hinton Waldrist, near Southmoor, has been forced to pay for treatment privately and has had two of the injections.

But she and her husband Paul are unsure they can afford further care.

She said: "I think their only reason for preventing me from having this drug is economic. It's just appalling that they let people go blind without any two thoughts about it and don't seem to realise it will cost more for the State to look after people who are blind."

Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Face Unofficial Postcode Lottery for Treatment

As some NRAS Members have experienced, people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can face a postcode lottery over whether they have access to a treatment known to improve their condition significantly. New research shows the extent of the problem.
The research which was published on 11 October in the medical journal, Rheumatology, reveals that, despite the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) approving anti-tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF) therapy for RA in 2002, many primary care trusts are refusing to fund it adequately or are putting a cap on the numbers of patients that can be treated.
As a result of these findings, rheumatologists are calling on the Government and primary care trusts to end the unofficial postcode lottery and ensure that every patient who meets the NICE criteria can receive anti-TNF therapy if their consultants consider it appropriate.
Dr Lesley Kay, co-author of the research
Dr Lesley Kay, consultant rheumatologist, member of the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register (BSRBR) management committee and co-author of the research, said: “The BSRBR urges the Government and primary care trusts to put an end to this patently unfair situation, which is in direct contravention of government policy. The postcode lottery continues to operate, even though NICE aims to stop this happening. It's unfair on patients ...”
Questionnaires were sent on behalf of the BSRBR (which monitors the use of anti-TNF therapy) to 509 consultant rheumatologists in the UK: the responses on behalf of 252 consultants revealed a wide disparity in the provision of anti-TNF therapy across the country.
Dr Kay said: “Nearly half of the consultants (46%) indicated that they had some form of limitation in their prescribing of anti-TNF agents for RA according to NICE guidance. Of these, 70% said these limitations were mainly in the form of capped funding or capped numbers of patients; staffing or lack of other facilities was a problem for 21% and 9% respectively.
“The consultants said they faced problems such as a fixed number of patients that they were allowed to treat each month, fixed financial caps, bans on treating any more patients until the next financial year, and the fact that different primary care trusts had different financial limits. Waiting lists were also a means of controlling access to treatment, with some patients waiting as long as 156 weeks.”
“The fact that different funding organisations set different restrictions has led to variation of access for equally affected patients to effective treatment, depending on where they live.”
….. NRAS Can Help You
The impact of so many Trusts being in deficit is being felt all around the UK by people who have been assessed for TNF and meet the NICE guidance criteria, yet are being denied access to the drugs due to lack of funding.
It is very important that we are informed if you are affected in this way. Please write to us, email us or call us if you have been put forward by your consultant for anti-TNF treatment but have been told you cannot have it at the moment due to funding restrictions.
We can write to the Chief Executive of the PCT (Primary Care Trust), your local MP and other key organisations to remind them of their legal obligation to provide treatment in accordance with NICE guidance.
At some point, someone being denied treatment is going to go to judicial review and when that happens they will have the support of NRAS and many frustrated and dedicated rheumatology health professionals who simply want to provide the best care for their patients.

Cancer patients hit by NHS cancer postcode 'lottery'

Cancer patients in Britain are subject to an appalling postcode lottery, damning figures reveal.

Some health trusts spend up to three times as much as others on each patient, with differences as high as £12,000.

The discrepancy means life expectancy for cancer sufferers could vary from region to region.

But in some cases the differences between neighbouring areas are stark, meaning those fighting the illness could get better treatment if they moved just a few streets away.

The figures were revealed by the Conservatives after analysis of official statistics showing the amount of money spent by different Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) on cancer treatment.

Shadow Health Minister Mark Simmonds said: "It's outrageous. The Government's own statistics have revealed a huge postcode lottery in funding for cancer."

According to the figures, Oxfordshire is bottom of the league table with £5,182 per cancer patient per year.

At the top is Nottingham City, where each cancer sufferer gets £17,028 per year.

Postcode lottery misery for cancer sufferer

A VICTIM of a drugs postcode lottery has pleaded with health chiefs to pay for treatment which doctors say would prolong his life.

Cancer patient Jeff Hildreth is battling to stay alive to help his wife who has also suffered an aggressive form of the disease.

Despite appeals by his consultants and GP, Leeds Primary Care Trust (PCT) has refused to fund the drug lenalidomide, also known by its trade name Revlimid.

He knows other patients also treated in Leeds, but who he understands live outside the city, do get the drug. Mr Hildreth said Leeds PCT have told his doctors that the drug – which costs about £4,000 a month – is too expensive.

"It's like being on death row," said Mr Hildreth, of Yeadon. "We feel betrayed and bitter. What energy you have, what resources you can drag out of your body, you are spending fighting for treatment."

Ambulance 'postcode lottery' anger

The Tories have accused the Government of "utter incompetence" after the release of figures they claim show a postcode lottery in the time ambulances take to reach emergencies.

Shadow health minister Stephen O'Brien said that figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the number of ambulances reaching serious emergencies within eight minutes ranges from 51.98% in Mid Essex Primary Care Trust (PCT) to 93.44% in Blackpool PCT.

Under a Government target, 75% of serious emergencies - known as Category A incidents - should be reached within eight minutes.

Mr O'Brien said: "It is a damning indictment of Labour's treatment of our NHS that ambulance provision varies so widely across the country. Alan Johnson has clearly not got a grip on the NHS.

"We know that they have presided over a growing disparity in the provision of drugs and healthcare, but the utter incompetence which gives rise to such patchy emergency care is unforgivable - especially as around this incompetence hangs a nasty whiff of favouring Labour held constituencies."

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Senior nurses to be allowed to decide when you die

Have your say.

Is mass euthanasia of old and unfit on horizon?

"The Labour government, having championed the population control policy in the UK over the past 45 years, now finds itself with an aging population, and can no longer afford to care for the sick and elderly in the health service," says Greg Clovis, Director of Family Life International UK.

Doctors: let us kill disabled babies

If a doctor can decide whether a life is worth living, “it changes medicine into a form of social engineering where the aim is to maximise the benefit for society and minimise those who are perceived as worthless”.

Britain to Doctors: Kill or be Prosecuted

In a statement Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor of England has warned doctors that they may face prison sentences if they refuse to starve and dehydrate patients to death. Criminal charges of assault could be laid against doctors or nurses who refuse to allow patients to die, even by removal of food and hydration tube.

Blunders By Doctors Kill 40,000 people p.a. in UK

MEDICAL error is the third most frequent cause of death in Britain after cancer and heart disease, killing up to 40,000 people a year - about four times more than die from all other types of accident.

Treatment Abroad

Reducing waiting times is the government's key NHS priority, and it has realised that without outside help from the private sector, it does not have the staff or beds to carry out the extra operations needed.

Undue Delay

Richard Stein of Leigh Day & Co.

NHS patients facing undue delay for treatment are entitled to access equivalent services in other EU member states, at NHS expense.

NHS to Fund Operations in Europe

It should be noted that the NHS can pay for treatment anywhere in the world, not just Europe, if you fit the criteria as outlined in the NHS policies and guidelines.

Real Life Stories

Aneurysm Support Group

Man, 33, dying of cancer refused treatment

A 33 year old man dying of cancer has branded NHS managers "mean spirited" after they decided not to give him life-prolonging drugs.

Smokers, drinkers and the obese beware: keep fit or risk losing NHS care

Already around one in ten hospitals refuse to carry out joint replacements for obese patients or orthopaedic surgery on smokers. Patients' groups fear doctors and NHS managers will see the government plans as a go-ahead to withhold more treatment.

OAP dies waiting for ambulance

An investigation has been launched after it emerged an ambulance took 22 minutes to reach a dying war veteran. It emerged the crew could not be called to the emergency any earlier, as they were on a meal break.


War hero, Corporal Chris Skirrow, survived six wounds from a machine gun in Iraq only to catch the deadly MRSA bug in a British hospital.

A DUNDEE war veteran is facing a postcode lottery

Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago, the war veteran was refused the drug on the NHS.

Thousands losing sight in NHS postcode lottery

Thousands of elderly people are losing their sight because of the postcode lottery for drugs to treat the leading cause of blindness.

C.diff death scandal

The fact some people came into the hospital with entirely curable conditions, only to contract C.diff and die is utterly tragic and should never be repeated.

Waits for hearing aid 'too long'

Some people in England are facing waits of nearly two-and-a-half years for an NHS hearing aid, the RNID charity says. Some primary care trusts were not treating people within a year, with the longest wait of 125 weeks in Kingston-upon-Thames, London.

Hospitals 'failing food hygiene standards'

Vermin, cockroaches and mouse droppings, medical waste on food handling equipment and poor personal hygiene among catering staff were all cited as problems. A report said dozens of hospitals were failing to store food at the correct temperature, while 18 had food that was out of date.

Woman,108, told to wait 18 months for hearing aid

A woman aged 108 has been told she must wait 18 months before the Health Service will give her the hearing aid she needs. Former piano teacher Olive Beal, one of the oldest people in Britain, has poor eyesight and uses a wheelchair. The delay could mean she will be unable to communicate and listen to the music she loves.

Did NHS cuts kill Kayleigh Macilwraith-Christie?

"When you call an ambulance there is a Government Target of 8 minutes. As long as they send someone out to you from the Ambulance Service they are meeting their Government Target of 8 minutes. It doesn't matter whether it is an emergency and they send out a technician who cannot help, they've still met their Government Target."

Channel 4 Dispatches: NHS: Operation Delays

Hospitals are being forced to delay operations to balance their books to save Patricia Hewitt's job, who described minimum waiting times (sometimes as much as 26 weeks) as "unfortunate and frustrating, but necessary". In a Dispatches interview, Mrs Hewitt said: "The NHS is on track to get back into financial balance for the current year. That is what we promised to do and that is what will happen as a result of very difficult decisions that have to be made throughout the NHS".

Monday, 18 February 2008

Cancer-drug campaigner who exposed NHS postcode lottery dies aged 47

Published Date: 18 February 2008
By Paul Jeeves

A CANCER patient who was initially denied a vital drug to prolong his life by a financially stricken Yorkshire health trust has died.

John McNamara lost his battle against a bone marrow cancer, multiple myeloma, over the weekend, six months after the Yorkshire Post revealed his plight.The 47-year-old father-of-three, from Pannal, near Harrrogate, was refused a course of the drug, Velcade, while other patients atthe same Yorkshire hospital received the treatment.The decision by the North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust (PCT) not to fund the treatment sparked increasing concerns over the nation's so-called healthcare postcode lottery, where patients throughout the UK are being given significantly different standards of treatment.A close friend, Robert Holmes, of Alwoodley, Leeds, said: "John didn't do self pity. He loved life and remained brave, cheerful and optimistic to the end.

"John always hoped that his campaign to get Velcade would benefit not just himself but other patients who had fallen victim to the absurd postcode lottery within the NHS."Family and friends launched a campaign to overturn the decision of the PCT, which was battling debts of £32m at the time.The drug, which blitzes cancerous cells far more effectively than previous treatments, is known to prolong patients' lives by up to five years.

A 24-week course of Velcade costs about £21,000.The PCT eventually relented and announced Mr McNamara would be given the treatment following a fresh appeal by his doctors at St James's Hospital in Leeds.The National Institute for Clinical Excellence announced a pioneering agreement in October where the NHS pays for the drug if it proves successful, while the manufacturer picks up the costs if it does not. However, until the announcement it had been up to PCTs to decide individually on funding.

Monday, 4 February 2008

66 babies in a year left to die after NHS abortions that go wrong

Botched abortions mean that scores of babies are being born alive and left to die, an official report has revealed.

A total of 66 infants survived NHS termination attempts in one year alone, it emerged. Rather than dying at birth as was intended, they were able to breathe unaided. About half were alive for an hour, while one survived ten hours.

The figures are the first to give a national picture of the number of babies who survive abortion but are left to die. Experts previously believed the phenomenon was limited to a handful of cases a year. The babies were aborted using a drug to soften the cervix and induce labour. Once born no medical help is offered. The statistics are contained in the small print of an official report by the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health, commissioned by the Government.

No data exists on aborted babies who survive into childhood and beyond but in rare cases this is known to have happened. Experts last night revealed that the sheer number of abortion survivors means new guidance for doctors will be drawn up, telling them how to cope. The findings also renewed calls for a lowering of the 24-week limit for "social" abortions, which end healthy pregnancies. The report said the terminations were "predominantly on account of congenital anomalies", which may be life-threatening but which can also include problems such as cleft palate and club feet.

Obstetricians say this raises the possibility that at least some cases were social terminations, legal under the Abortion Act up to 24 weeks. Doctors can also legally terminate a pregnancy up to birth if the baby is suffering serious deformities or the mother's life is at risk. Guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends babies over 22 weeks which survive abortion should have their hearts stopped by lethal injection but this can be a difficult procedure for doctors.

Professor Stuart Campbell, an eminent obstetrician whose 3D scan images of babies "walking in the womb" have fuelled the debate over late abortions, said: "It is a distressing situation when these babies are being born alive. "Medical advances make it increasingly possible for even those born after just 22 weeks in the womb to survive. "There is also concern that babies with problems such as cleft palate or club feet are being terminated because they are not "perfect". "These deformities may be corrected during childhood."

The findings follow evidence to MPs this week that foetuses feel pain before 24 weeks. The figures for the CEMACH 2007 Perinatal Mortality report, gathered from hospitals in England and Wales during 2005, reveal 16 babies who survived abortion were born after 22 weeks in the womb or later in the pregnancy. The remaining 50 were under 22 weeks' gestation.

CEMACH chief executive Richard Congdon said lethal injection had not been given in the 16 abortions over 22 weeks' gestation because death was "inevitable". The 16 survived between one minute and four-and-a-half hours - half lived for just over an hour. The remaining 50 were under 22 weeks' gestation and half survived for longer than 55 minutes, with one breathing unaided for ten hours.

Latest Department of Health figures show that abortion is rising, with 193,700 terminations in 2006, and 2,948 carried out over 20 weeks. The majority of these - 2,036 - were for major abnormalities.

The British Association of Perinatal Medicine said new guidelines were being drawn up to cover babies born alive after abortion. Neonatologist Professor Neil Marlow, president of the association, said: "Parents may be told that the baby will not be viable but may still want to hold it until it dies, and this is probably what we are seeing in these statistics." Julia Millington, of the Pro-Life Alliance, said: "The fact that babies are being aborted so late in pregnancy that they are capable of survival will make many support the notion that the upper time limit should be reduced."

A baby born alive after a botched abortion at 21 weeks is among the worst cases reported in the UK. The little girl, who had Down's Syndrome, lived for three hours after being delivered. Her parents claim they were "coerced" into a termination by staff at Macclesfield District General Hospital. They were later told that their baby had not "really" been alive, even though she was clearly breathing.

The couple, who do not wish to be named, already had a toddler, a teenager and a 12-year-old with learning difficulties and felt unable to cope with another special needs child. The 44-year-old mother said: "If I had been given any idea that the baby would be born alive after an abortion I would never have gone through with it. They coerced me. "I have seen how society treats children with disabilities and it frightened me to bring another special needs child into the world, but somehow we would have coped with it." Two days before the abortion in March 2004, the woman was given tablets which she was told would kill the baby in the womb. But to their distress the baby was still clearly moving. They went back to hospital and were assured that the baby would die during labour.

Soon after birth, however, both parents saw her gasping for air.