Surrounded by shelves of hospital supplies, 80-year-old Doris McKeown lies in the windowless store cupboard where she spent two days before being operated on
By Jenny Hope Last updated at 8:22 AM on 11th February 2010
Confused and in pain, 80-year-old Doris McKeown is kept in a hospital cupboard while she awaits emergency surgery. The pensioner was stored away for 48 hours in a tiny windowless room, with only shelves of hospital supplies for company. On the door outside was a sign saying 'Dignity in Care'. But inside the store cupboard - called a 'treatment room' by management but a 'broom cupboard' by Mrs McKeown - she suffered the indignity of being overlooked for medication and meals.
She was taken to Norfolk and Norwich Hospital last October needing an urgent operation for compression of the nerves in her spine, which can lead to paralysis. The mother of two said: 'It was a relief to be in hospital as I knew it was a serious condition, but in the middle of the night I was transferred to a storeroom off the main ward because they hadn't got enough beds. It was like a broom cupboard.'
When she was seen by the consultant, he had to squeeze in with two other doctors and Mrs McKeown's daughter Dr Helena McKeown, a GP who is also chairman of the community care committee at the British Medical Association. ' The consultant didn't seem surprised, it seemed to happen regularly,' said Mrs McKeown, whose late husband Joe was a newspaper photographer. 'I had nurses coming in all the time to pick up the supplies and they were very good, but as I wasn't on the proper ward I missed out on some of the rounds for meals and medication.
'I didn't get put on the ward until after the operation two nights later. 'It's extraordinary that patients have to be looked after in a cupboard because the hospital doesn't have enough beds.' Dr McKeown said: 'My mother needed emergency surgery and she ended up in a cupboard. Where's the dignity in care?'
The family is appalled that patients are routinely housed in such rooms as a result of a controversial scheme using private companies to build NHS hospitals for a profit. They claim the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital not only has fewer proper beds than the old building it replaced but that the public will be paying for it for decades. Dr McKeown has raised her concerns with the hospitals' watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, and last week gave evidence to MPs. She said the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme that funded the hospital was undermining the NHS. 'The PFI scheme is being used throughout the NHS, which pays private companies for a period of 25 to 30 years,' she said. 'It's like a mortgage with a very high rate of interest and maintenance costs that my four children will be paying for 30 years - and they can't even build a hospital with sufficient space for local patients.' The £229million Norwich hospital, opened in 2001, pays an annual rent of £40million a year. Figures show the NHS will pay out £63billion for privately financed hospitals - £52billion more than they are worth. The first payments for hospital Private Finance Initiatives began in 1999 and the NHS still owes £58billion on 106 contracts over the next three decades. The BMA will today launch a campaign against the 'commercialisation' of the NHS, which it says is putting profits ahead of patients. Andrew Stronach, of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, said it has 1,010 beds - more than the 952 replaced in two old hospitals. But he admitted that 27 wards had such 'treatment rooms'. He added: 'They are not cupboards, they are treatment rooms. They are normally used for patients who are risk assessed before being discharged.'
By Sam Greenhill Last updated at 12:59 PM on 29th January 2010 ----- "With mass murderer Dr Harold Shipman in mind, police have been quick to investigate complaints about possible rogue doctors." -----
Families erupted in fury today as a doctor who gave lethal drugs to 12 elderly patients was given the green light to carry on prescribing.
Relatives of the dead pensioners sat gobsmacked as GP Jane Barton escaped being struck off the medical register despite being found guilty of serious professional misconduct.
The outraged sons and daughters stormed out of the General Medical Council (GMC) hearing in Central London in disgust, demanding a public inquiry.
In an unprecedented move, even the GMC's chief executive expressed astonishment that his own disciplinary panel had failed to end the doctor's career.
Iain Wilson, whose 74-year-old father Robert Wilson went into hospital with a broken shoulder but died of an overdose of painkillers, yelled at the panel members: 'You should hang your head in shame.'
Another relative shouted: 'You have done nothing at all to protect the public.'
Dr Barton's frail patients had been given cocktails of painkillers six times the recommended dose to 'keep them quiet' and lapsed into drug-induced comas, it was claimed.
She told one patient 'it won't be long now' after giving her a massive dose of painkillers, the GMC heard.
The two wards she ran, at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire, became known as 'the end of the line'.
It has taken the GMC 12 years to decide on the case since questions were first raised about why patients in Dr Barton's care were dying.
At one stage, police examined 92 deaths, although no criminal charges were ever brought. Then an inquest last year into ten of the pensioners' deaths concluded five of them had died after being given excessive doses of morphine.
However, Dr Barton always remained free to practice, subject to certain restrictions on prescribing diamorphine, and has been working at the Forton Medical Centre in Gosport.
The GMC's fitness to practice panel found Dr Barton guilty of 'multiple instances of serious professional misconduct' and said her behaviour was 'inappropriate, potentially hazardous and or not in the best interests' of her patients.
Yet instead of striking her off, the panel decided to allow her to continue practicing, subject to 11 restrictions including banning her from prescribing opiates by injection for three years. She is allowed to prescibe opiates in other forms, provided she keeps a written 'log'.
Panel chairman Andrew Reid said: 'Dr Barton failed to recognise the limits of her professional competence.'
John Moore-Robinson died hours after being discharged from hospital
A senior NHS member of staff believed to have ordered a rewrite of a damning report because she did not want "adverse publicity" has been suspended.
John Moore-Robinson, 20, died after he was discharged from Stafford Hospital with an undiagnosed ruptured spleen.
In a report, senior consultant Ivan Phair said Mr Moore-Robinson's treatment could be called "negligent".
But trust secretary Kate Levy said she did not want the comments "quoted in the press", and demanded their removal.
The memo emerged during an independent inquiry being held into the failures at Stafford Hospital.
Telecommunications worker Mr Moore-Robinson, from Coalville, Leicestershire, was taken to Stafford Hospital's accident and emergency in April 2006 after a mountain biking accident in Cannock Chase, Staffordshire.
An X-ray revealed broken ribs, but no scan was done to check his spleen and he was prescribed painkillers and discharged. He died hours later.
Mr Phair's report, written weeks later, concluded: "The premature death of Mr Moore-Robinson in my opinion was an avoidable situation.
"I feel that an independent expert would criticise the management afforded to him by the staff.
"There is a high probability that the level of care delivered to Mr Moore-Robinson was negligent."
But Ms Levy, who worked as Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust secretary and head of legal services there, did not wish the comments to be reported in open court to a coroner.
She wrote two memos to Mr Phair asking him to delete criticism.
She wrote: "With a view to avoiding further distress to the family and adverse publicity I wish to avoid stressing possible failures on the part of the trust."
In another memo she wrote: "I feel such a concluding statement may add to the family's distress and is not one I wish to see quoted in the press."
In a statement, the hospital's new management said it was "appalled" that anyone would want to hide information to protect the reputation of the organisation.
Antony Sumara, chief executive of Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, said they were in the process of formally suspending Ms Levy, "pending a full investigation into the allegations raised".
Mr Moore-Robinson's father Frank Robinson is now calling for an inquest into his son's death.
A bullied NHS manager from South Wales who suffered a nervous breakdown has been awarded £150,000 in compensation, it has been revealed.
Unison said Nanette Bowen, 55, of Llanelli, suffered panic attacks and stress during three years of harassment.
On one occasion she was so stressed by the ordeal she was rushed to hospital herself with a suspected heart attack, the union said.
Mrs Bowen was employed at Price Phillip Hospital in Llanelli for 28 years, working her way up from porter to information manager, reporting directly to the chief executive.
Swansea County Court found the former Carmarthenshire NHS Trust liable last February and the parties involved have settled on compensation. The trust was taken to court after Unison took up Mrs Bowen's case.
The court heard that in 2000 Eric Lewis became her boss when Llanelli and Dinefwr trusts merged to become Carmarthenshire NHS. The union said in a statement that Mr Lewis made sexual innuendoes towards her and was regularly aggressive when challenged.
The statement added: "Over the next three years her responsibility for hiring staff was removed, she was not allowed to pass on information to staff without his consent and had to fill in a daily form for him to monitor her work.
"The harassment caused Mrs Bowen, who was the main breadwinner in the family, stress and panic attacks. She was signed off sick and, on one occasion, she was rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack."
Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, said: "I am sure that Mrs Bowen would rather have her job and her health."
Mrs Bowen said: "I am relieved that the case has finished, but this is not like winning the lottery, as the money can never make up for my life being ruined."