Saturday, March 15, 2008

Huge damage to children at NHS hospital

The surgeons just didn't care that their patients were dying or damaged -- and none of the many "administrators" stopped them

Families of patients with severe brain damage after heart surgery as children are preparing to sue the NHS after a profoundly disabled woman won her case for compensation in the wake of the Bristol heart babies scandal. The NHS has abandoned attempts to appeal against a landmark ruling in favour of Marianna Telles, who suffered brain damage after undergoing surgery as a newborn baby more than twenty years ago. Ms Telles, 22, is now set to receive at least a seven-figure sum in compensation. Her family solicitor said that the ruling was highly significant as there were at least seven more cases “waiting in the wings” of adults who were brain-damaged as children.

The cases all relate to the Bristol Royal Infirmary and associated hospitals from 1984 to 1995, where surgeons carried out complex heart procedures despite warnings that death and brain-damage rates of children who underwent such surgery were twice the national average.

The scandal resulted in the largest public inquiry in the history of the NHS, which in 2001 identified at least 300 families whose children died or had suffered severe injury as a result of the incompetence of surgeons at Bristol. Up to 80 families who lost a child after surgery at Bristol have previously settled legal cases out of court, in return for about 20,000 pounds compensation plus costs. Ms Telles, who suffers from severe mobility and psychiatric problems which require 24-hour care, is the first of those who survived operations to go to trial.

In 1998 the General Medical Council found two surgeons, James Wisheart and Janardan Dhasmana, guilty of serious professional misconduct. Mr Wisheart was struck off and Mr Dhasmana was banned from operating on children for four years. Both surgeons had operated on Ms Telles. Her family took the South West Strategic Health Authority to the High Court last month, claiming that doctors at the hospital were clinically negligent when treating her. After a seven-day trial, the judge ruled in Ms Telles’s favour and refused permission for the NHS Litigation Agency (NHSLA), acting for the health authority, to appeal. For two weeks the NHSLA considered applying directly to the Court of Appeal but on Wednesday confirmed it has abandoned this plan. A hearing next month will now determine an initial payment to the family to cover immediate costs of Ms Telles’s care, and set a timetable for reaching a decision on final damages.

Laurence Vick, who acted for the family and first served papers for the case in 2005, said: “We have a young woman with severe brain damage whose mother has supported her with only limited help from the NHS and local authority. We’ve attempted to negotiate for a very long time, but without success. You can only imagine what this family has gone through. “At last Marianna and her family know they will get the financial support she needs. I am confident we’ll be able to negotiate a settlement.”

Ms Telles’s mother, Anna Redman, previously gave evidence to the Bristol inquiry, which was highly critical of the clinical standards of the hospital’s paediatric heart surgery. Many more patients continue to live with severe brain injuries more than a decade after the botched surgery, Mr Vick, of the law firm Michelmores, said. He added: “We’ve settled several cases out of court and there are still seven more waiting in the wings.”

A leaked memo suggested in September that the NHS as a whole was facing 4.5 billion pounds of compensation claims over alleged blunders by midwives and doctors that have left babies suffering severe brain damage. The Corporate Manslaughter Act, due to come into force next month, is also likely to enable more compensation cases by making it easier to prosecute companies or public bodies. In a statement, the NHSLA said that it was committed to dealing with claims relating to the Bristol scandal on their individual merits.


Britain wants Indian cooks to have academic qualifications

More bureaucratic rigidity. It just encourages illegality

The curry industry will die if action is not taken to address tough new immigration laws, restaurant bosses have warned the Scottish Parliament. They claim food quality will deteriorate and up to half of the Indian restaurants currently in business could shut. The comments came as 100 restaurateurs staged a protest at Holyrood over the changes to immigration rules. They claim a shortage of kitchen staff has been created as a result.

Restaurant owners said legislation which came in at the end of February makes it harder for them to bring in staff from outside the European Union. Foysol Choudhury, general secretary of the Bangladesh Samity Association in Edinburgh, criticised new rules requiring immigrants to speak English and have an academic qualification. "Our chefs don't need to speak English. Their curry talks," he said. [And most Brits like what they hear!]

"Whoever comes into my restaurant for a job will have to start as a kitchen porter and then he will have to climb the ladder. "A kitchen porter gets a minimum wage. Somebody with academic qualifications is not going to accept that. "The Indian restaurant industry contributes 3.2 billion pounds to the British economy. What is the British Government doing to save this industry?"

Asked about the consequences if action was not taken to tackle the issue, he said: "Half of the restaurants will close and we'll lose the food quality. "Eventually this industry will die." Edinburgh entrepreneur Tommy Miah, who is involved in the International Indian Chef of the Year Competition, added: "We're going to suffer big time. You guys won't be able to have chicken tikka masala anymore. "I've been offered a couple of other restaurants to take but I've said I can't do it because I'm struggling with one restaurant."

Immigration laws are reserved to Westminster, but Thursday's protest was about urging MSPs to lobby politicians in London on the issue. First Minister Alex Salmond, a well-known curry fan, said the issue was "really serious". Speaking as he met demonstrators, he said he would continue to draw the UK Government's attention to the matter. He said: "If people can't get the skilled staff then they can't operate their restaurants, and if they can't operate their restaurants then that's damaging for the economy and the social life of Scotland. It's something we feel very strongly about. "Ideally, the new system shouldn't have discriminated and prevented people coming in with key skills."


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