Monday, 31 August 2009

Prisoners eat 'better' than NHS patients

Researchers have claimed the food provided in prisons is better than in NHS hospitals.

Experts from Bournemouth University examined the quality of food offered to prisoners and NHS patients.

They say people in hospital are losing out on nutrition because they are not being helped with eating or having their diet monitored.

A Department of Health spokesman said most patients were "satisfied with the food they receive in hospitals".

Professor John Edwards said about 40% of patients entering hospital were already malnourished, and this did not tend to improve during their stay.

"If you are in prison then the diet you get is extremely good in terms of nutritional content," he said.

"The food that is provided is actually better than most civilians have.

Full article: BBC News
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Thursday, 27 August 2009

'Cruel and neglectful' care of one million NHS patients exposed

Elderly patients must have proper care, Claire Rayner says

One million NHS patients have been the victims of appalling care in hospitals across Britain, according to a major report released today.

By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor
Published: 12:01AM BST 27 Aug 2009

In the last six years, the Patients Association claims hundreds of thousands have suffered from poor standards of nursing, often with 'neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel' treatment.

The charity has disclosed a horrifying catalogue of elderly people left in pain, in soiled bed clothes, denied adequate food and drink, and suffering from repeatedly cancelled operations, missed diagnoses and dismissive staff.

The Patients Association said the dossier proves that while the scale of the scandal at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust - where up to 1,200 people died through failings in urgent care - was a one off, there are repeated examples they have uncovered of the same appalling standards throughout the NHS.

While the criticisms cover all aspects of hospital care, the treatment and attitude of nurses stands out as a repeated theme across almost all of the cases.

They have called on Government and the Care Quality Commission to conduct an urgent review of standards of basic hospital care and to enforce stricter supervision and regulation.

Claire Rayner, President of the Patients Association and a former nurse, said:“For far too long now, the Patients Association has been receiving calls on our helpline from people wanting to talk about the dreadful, neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel treatment their elderly relatives had experienced at the hands of NHS nurses.

“I am sickened by what has happened to some part of my profession of which I was so proud.

"These bad, cruel nurses may be - probably are - a tiny proportion of the nursing work force, but even if they are only one or two percent of the whole they should be identified and struck off the Register.”

Full article in Telegraph
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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Man collapses with ruptured appendix... three weeks after NHS doctors 'took it out'

By Daniel Bates
Last updated at 12:15 AM on 26th August 2009

After weeks of excruciating pain, Mark Wattson was understandably relieved to have his appendix taken out.

Doctors told him the operation was a success and he was sent home.

But only a month later the 35-year-old collapsed in agony and had to be taken back to Great Western Hospital in Swindon by ambulance.

To his shock, surgeons from the same team told him that not only was his appendix still inside him, but it had ruptured - a potentially fatal complication.

In a second operation it was finally removed, leaving Mr Wattson fearing another organ might have been taken out during the first procedure.

The blunder has left Mr Wattson jobless, as bosses at the shop where he worked did not believe his story and sacked him.

Mr Wattson told of the moment he realised there had been a serious mistake.

'I was lying on a stretcher in terrible pain and a doctor came up to me and said that my appendix had burst,' he said.

'I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I told these people I had my appendix out just four weeks earlier but there it was on the scanner screen for all to see.

'I thought, "What the hell did they slice me open for in the first place?"

A spokesman for Great Western Hospital confirmed that a representative had met Mr Wattson and that an investigation had been started.

He was unable to confirm what, if anything, was removed in the first operation.
Paul Gearing, deputy general manager for general surgery at Great Western Hospital NHS Trust, said: 'We are unable to comment on individual cases.

'However, we would like to apologise if Mr Wattson felt dissatisfied with the care he received at Great Western Hospital.'

Compensation payments to NHS patients have risen by 20 per cent in the past year to a record high of £769million. At this rate more than £2million a day is being paid over claims against the Health Service.

Full article in Mail Online

Monday, 24 August 2009

Mother dies a year after being denied her daughter's kidney

By Chris Brooke
Last updated at 1:11 AM on 24th August 2009

A mother who was denied a kidney transplant from her dying daughter because of rules banning donor requests has died. Rachel Leake, 41, had been in hospital for three months with septicemia.

Her 21-year-old daughter Laura Ashworth had wanted to give her a kidney, but died in April last year before starting the process of becoming a 'living donor'.

Doctors then insisted her organs go to strangers at the top of the waiting list.

Full article in Daily Mail

Sunday, 23 August 2009

NHS staff paid overtime when off sick

NHS workers who take sick leave are claiming tens of millions of pounds a year in overtime and anti-social hours allowances while off work, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor
Published: 10:00PM BST 21 Aug 2009

More than one million NHS staff are paid well above their basic salary when they are ill under a contract which guarantees them a far better deal than those working in the private sector.

The generous terms mean that when they are on sick leave they receive full pay, plus a selection of benefits. These include supplements for unsocial hours and overtime for six months, with half pay for a further six.

The deal means when an NHS worker - such as an ambulance worker, nurse, porter, or midwife - goes off sick they are paid according to an average of their total pay for the previous three months, rather than just their basic salary.

In many cases, workers have boosted their income by working nights or extra hours, or are paid a ‘recruitment and retention’ bonus, which can add tens of thousands of pounds to the basic salary of a middle grade worker living in London.

The NHS has higher sickness rates than the rest of the public sector and enjoys the most generous terms and conditions while off work. The service loses 10.3 million working days annually due to sickness absence alone, costing £1.7 billion per year.

Critics have said the scheme is "morally and ethically wrong" and should be reviewed.

However, supporters said NHS workers are exposed to unique pressures, with 56,000 physically attacked each year, and they deserve to be looked after.

The news comes after a report this week found that, of the 1.4 million workers in the NHS, 4.5 per cent or 45,000 call in sick per day.

Stephen Alambritis, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the sick pay terms should be reviewed, especially in light of the recession when all workers are being asked to make sacrifices.

He said the organisation has been 'caught out': "To have sick pay going for six months and include overtime and extra payments does seem to be overly generous; an employee in the private sector would not expect that.

“NHS staff do a sterling job and there is huge stress involved in the work but the pensions are good, the sick leave is good, it is not brilliantly paid, but there is security of tenure.

"In the private sector the stress comes with the fact the job may not be there the next day."

The average NHS worker takes 10.7 days off sick a year, compared with 9.7 days for the public sector as a whole and 6.4 days in the private sector.

The Telegraph has received allegations of NHS workers asking managers when their six months on full pay expires so they know when to return to work, people booking holidays and then taking sick leave to cover the time off, and posting photographs on Facebook of themselves out with their children while off sick.

The terms and conditions on sickness absence are included in the Agenda for Change contract which covers nurses, midwives, hospital porters, paramedics, ambulance workers and administration staff, but not doctors. The wage bill for the contract in England was more than £28bn in 2007/8, according to the National Audit Office.

Under the contract, full pay is paid for the first six months off sick and then a further six months at half pay after five years’ service. Before then, the length of paid time off is on a sliding scale.

Overtime, over the standard 37.5 hours a week, and unsocial hours, for working nights or weekends, is payable at time and a half with public holidays paid at double time, or lieu time can be requested instead.

Staff can also receive around £3,205 in 'recruitment and retention premia' where employers find it difficult to fill posts, while those in inner London are paid a 'high cost area supplement' worth 20 per cent of basic salary, to a maximum of £6,080.

In the private sector, standard sick leave normally includes a short period on full pay, around one month or six weeks, followed by statutory sick pay paid at £79.15 per week for people earning £95 or more. In many cases employees are automatically put on statutory sick pay, once they qualify - which is when they have been off sick for four days.

Dr John O'Sullivan, an occupational health consultant in the private sector, said the NHS terms were 'morally and ethically wrong' and there was little incentive for staff to return to work.

"This is taxpayers’ money. The NHS has the expertise to get people back to work but they just do not use it on their own staff."

The Health Service terms and conditions also eclipse other areas of the public sector: police receive full pay for six months and then half pay for a further six, but do not receive any overtime. Teachers get full pay for 25 days off sick then half pay for 75 days in their first year, rising to 20 weeks’ full pay and 20 weeks on half pay after four years working.

Neil Carberry, Head of Employment Policy at employers’ group, the Confederation of British Industry, said: “The inclusion of overtime and other extras makes this a more generous scheme than the private sector norm, and the overall approach in the NHS to the management of absence and long-term sickness is a real concern.

“Firms use occupational health provision to ensure all absence is genuine, and innovative rehabilitation policies that get people back to work sooner. The NHS should do the same.”

However, Sian Thomas, director of NHS Employers, said: “There is no evidence that withholding pay leads to increased efficiency and improved staff morale. In fact, it can be counter productive because it leads to feelings of resentment and de-motivation among all staff.

“In order to successfully tackle sickness employers need to address the long-term problem. In the NHS this includes preventing injury from lifting and handling, helping staff build up their emotional resilience and reducing physical and mental abuse from patients.”

A spokesman for Unison, the union, said overtime was “very much a thing of the past” : "We have to look after our NHS staff. If they are not fit and safe they cannot look after patients. If you go to any A&E department at night at weekends you can see the levels of violence and abuse staff face. Paramedics in particular are at risk of attack."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "Agenda for Change provides a fair pay system that recognises the dedicated work that over 1.1 million NHS staff do every day to help us deliver high quality patient care to all.

"We take the health of NHS staff seriously. The ongoing NHS Health and Wellbeing review is crucial to achieving our ambition to develop world class health and wellbeing services for all NHS staff.”

Britain's NHS: Fulfilling Targets Rather than Treating Patients

By Doug Bandow on 8.22.09 @ 5:29AM

We can all agree that America's health care is an inefficient amalgam of private and public with at times anomalous and unfair results. But where the government provides almost half of the funding and drives the rest of the system through the tax system, such problems are inevitable. The question is whether increasing political control would improve the treatment of patients--which is, after all, the purpose of the health care system The answer to that question is no.

Unfortunately, increased governmental control almost certainly would put political before patient priorities. We certainly see that in Great Britain. Consider this astonishing story from the Daily Telegraph (it's a couple months old, but I just came across it):

People arriving at Accident and Emergency departments with symptoms which could indicate the aggressive spread of the disease are waiting weeks for diagnosis and treatment while "routine" cases are prioritised.

Hospital managers told researchers that treating desperately sick patients more quickly would "reflect badly" on their performance against Government cancer targets which only cover those referred to specialists by GPs.

Doctors, patients groups and politicians were appalled by what one described as a "breathtaking admission" which confirmed their "very worst fears" about how far the NHS target culture has gone in distorting clinical priorities.

The point is not to demonize the British system. But obviously the NHS has to fulfill political targets and respond to bureaucratic priorities, which often have nothing to do with, or even actively subvert the objective of, providing quality patient care. And it is far harder for British patients to escape the system when it miscarries so badly.

We can't afford to make a similar mistake here.
Source: The American Spectator

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Suspended Baby P doctor allowed to work in Ireland

Saturday August 15 2009

The doctor who has been suspended from practising in the UK after failing to spot Baby P's broken back two days before he died is still entitled to work in Ireland.

Dr Sabah Al-Zayyat was the last medic to see tragic toddler Baby P and failed to notice his injuries – inflicted after horrendous abuse by his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger.

Dr Al-Zayyat (53) was suspended from practising by the General Medical Council in the UK last November while an investigation takes place.

In August 2007, Dr Sabah Al- Zayyat was the last medic to see tragic toddler Baby P and failed to notice he had fractured ribs and a broken back.

She said she was unable to conduct a full medical examination of the 17-month old because the child was “miserable and cranky”.

However the toddler had a snapped spine and eight fractured ribs, the victim of horrendous abuse by his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger.

A spokesperson for the Irish Medical Council told the Herald: “Dr Sabah Al-Zayyat’s name is entered on the General Division of the Register of Medical Practitioners and as such she is entitled to work in Ireland.

“The Medical Council is aware of matters under consideration by the General Medical Council that are in the public domain.”

Meanwhile, it is understood that Dr Al-Zayyat is suing Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, for unfair dismissal following the decision not to renew her fixed term contract.

She is expected to claim that she was never shown the child’s medical history and so was not given an opportunity to realise he was the long-term victim of abuse.

Her case may also focus on a shortage of doctors at St Ann’s Hospital in Tottenham, which is run by the Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Trust.

Lawyers are also likely to argue that she is a scapegoat for wider failings in the child’s care. Last year she issued a statement saying: “Like everyone involved in this case, I have been deeply affected by the shocking and tragic circumstances of this young child’s death.”

She added that her professional career had been devoted to the care of children. Baby P, whose name has recently been revealed as Peter, died after months of sadistic torture in one of the worst cases of child abuse the UK has ever seen.

This week, the identities of his mother and her sadistic lover, who were jailed for the death of Baby P, were finally revealed.

Tracey Connelly (28) and her boyfriend Steven Barker (33) were jailed for causing or allowing the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly in his bloodspattered room in Haringey, North London.


He had suffered dozens of injuries after months of abuse at the time of his death, including a broken back and fractured ribs.

The media had been prevented from naming the couple since last year when they were convicted of causing or allowing the death of Peter.

The lifting of the ban on identification, a week after the second anniversary of the death of Baby P, also meant that Jason Owen, the third defendant, who was a lodger in the house, could be identified as the brother of Barker.

Owen was also convicted over Baby P’s death, but there was no ban on naming him. Dr Al-Zayyat has previously worked in a number of hospitals in Ireland between 1999 and 2006.

They HSE told the Herald that it has no records of complaints against her.

Friday, 21 August 2009

List of hospitals with high death rates published by NHS regulator

David Rose, Health Correspondent

A list of hospitals that have sparked safety alerts after unusually high numbers of patients died has been published by the NHS regulator.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed details of all trusts where mortality rates were high enough to require a formal investigation in the past two years.

Overall, there were 85 alerts that required investigations among trusts in England, but of those only seven were required to produce action plans to improve their care.

These included Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, where an official report published in March found that appalling emergency care had led to between 400 and 1,200 patients dying needlessly.

The alerts, based on information from the Dr Foster Unit at Imperial College London and the CQC, are triggered if numbers of deaths among hospital patients admitted for particular conditions or procedures are significantly higher than expected.

The Department of Health said that it welcomed the publication of the data, which will be updated every three months. But Richard Lilford, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Birmingham, said that the data revealed little about the quality of care.

“We’re saying that these hospitals are bad apples. I don’t think the methodology is capable of doing that,” he told the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

The other trusts that required action plans were investigated in connection with their death rates in a range of patient groups, from newborn babies at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust to adults with broken hips at Basingstoke and North Hampshire NHS Trust and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust.

Death rates also triggered warnings among heart attack patients at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, those who suffered aneurysms at Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust and septicaemia (blood poisoning) at Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust.

Out of 45 alerts followed up with trusts, in 29 cases quality of care was not a concern, the HSJ reported.

Source: Times Online

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Woman gives birth on pavement 'after being refused ambulance'

A young mother gave birth on a pavement outside a hospital after she was told to make her own way there.

Mother-of-three Carmen Blake called her midwife to ask for an ambulance when she went into labour unexpectedly with her fourth child.

But the 27-year-old claims she was refused an ambulance and told to walk the 100m from her house in Leicester to the city's nearby Royal Infirmary.

Her daughter Mariah was delivered on a pavement outside the hospital by a passer-by, just before ambulance crews arrived.

Today the Trust that runs the hospital said it would look into any complaint made about the advice and care the 27-year-old received.

Ms Blake said she started going into labour at about 7.15am on Sunday, August 2. She said: "I phoned up the Royal Infirmary, it's just across the road, and they said to go into a hot bath, and then to make my way over there.

"I went into the bath and realised she was going to come quickly. I didn't think I'd be able to make it out of the bath, so I phoned the maternity ward back and told them to get an ambulance out.

'They said they were not sending an ambulance and told me I had had nine months to sort out a lift.'

Full article in Daily Mail

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Sarah Brown joins Twitter war on U.S. over attack on 'evil and Orwellian' NHS

Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah have joined a Twitter campaign defending the NHS from withering U.S. attacks.

Mrs Brown backed the online fightback by tweeting: '#welovetheNHS - more than we can say' after the service was derided by American critics as an 'evil and Orwellian' system that puts a financial cap on the value of human life and refuses to treat the elderly.

The Prime Minister threw his weight behind the campaign amid a bitter debate over U.S. president Barack Obama's health care reforms.

Republicans and other campaigners in America have warned against the dangers of 'socialised' health care and claim the NHS proves the pitfalls of the Obama plan.

Full article in Daily Mail

Make it work then - for everyone!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

NHS patients denied op that helped celebrity Fern Britton

HUNDREDS of dangerously overweight patients are being denied obesity ­surgery on the NHS … because they are not fat enough.

In direct contravention of official guidelines, up to half the ­primary care trusts in England are denying seriously obese patients surgery.

The National ­Institute for Clinical Excellence has said all patients with a body mass index of 40, a figure gained by measuring weight and height, are ­eligible for weight-reducing ­surgery, such as gastric bands.

This was the procedure that helped former This Morning host Fern ­Britton lose over 5st. In the wake of her success there has been a 40 per cent increase in patients seeking the ­surgery over the past three years.

Now, in a bid to curtail numbers, many primary care trusts are demanding that patients have a BMI of at least 45 or 50 before they will be ­considered for surgery. Many doctors in the ­obesity field say this is ­short-sighted, with some ­warning it could ­condemn many patients to death.

Professor John Baxter of the British Obesity Surgery Society said: “This is outrageous. The Nice guidance had defined for everyone who should be getting this surgery.

“Patients with a BMI of 30-40 are considered seriously obese so Nice chose the upper limit of 40. Anyone with a BMI of 40 would definitely ­benefit from surgery.

“To make the new target 50 is quite unreasonable.

“Patients’ lives will inevitably be at risk if they don’t get surgery.”

Full article at Sunday Express