Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Filipino whose wife died after blunder by British hospital to be deported

Governments justify their asylum policies for refugees on the grounds of compassion but there seems to be no compassion here

A man whose wife died as a result of an NHS blunder has lost his right to remain in Britain, in what a coroner described yesterday as an "extraordinary" decision.

Arnel Cabrera, 39, came to Britain from the Philippines in 2003 to join his wife, Mayra, a theatre nurse, who worked at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon. But a year later, Mrs Cabrera died at the same hospital after she was given an epidural during the birth of the couple's child which was mistakenly injected into her arm. The baby survived. An inquest returned a verdict of unlawful killing and found the NHS trust had been guilty of gross negligence. Now the Home Office has told Mr Cabrera he has failed in his bid to remain in the UK.

David Masters, the Wiltshire coroner who presided over the inquest, said yesterday: "This is extraordinary. In view of the verdict reached at the inquest I find it difficult to appreciate how the Home Office has reached this decision." In its letter of refusal, the Home Office said Mr Cabrera had "not established a family life with his son in the United Kingdom". It added: "As his son remains in the Philippines there are no insurmountable obstacles to his family life being continued overseas."

Alex Rook, the solicitor who handled Mr Cabrera's immigration case, said: "This is an absolutely dreadful decision. If Arnel's wife had not been killed, the family would be living happily here. I will be writing to the relevant Home Office ministers asking them to reconsider their decision." He added: "His wife is killed by one part of the Government [the NHS], then Arnel is told by another part of the Government that he has to leave." Mr Rook said Mr Cabrera had taken his son, Zac, to the Philippines to be looked after by family until the inquest and related legal proceedings had concluded in the UK, but it was always his intention to build a future in Britain.

Mr Cabrera's personal injury lawyer, Seamus Edney, also reacted with disgust. "I am staggered by this decision and embarrassed on behalf of our government," he said. "Arnel was permitted to reside in Britain on the basis that his wife was working - but when she is unlawfully killed by gross negligence by the NHS, he is told he is no longer welcome." In a statement issued before Mr Cabrera lost his right to remain in the UK, he said he hoped the Government would show him "compassion". He added: "I have been unable to return to the Philippines during this difficult period and I desperately miss my young son, Zachary." A spokesman for the Home Office said: "All applications for leave to enter or remain in the UK are carefully considered on their individual merits."


Up to 5,000 beds facing axe in NHS cancer shake-up

The government plans to close up to 5,000 beds on cancer wards in a reorganisation of the way patients are treated, according to a report by experts in the disease. Government figures show the National Health Service aims to save up to 500m pounds a year from an “inpatient management programme” that it describes as preventing unnecessary hospital admissions and reducing the length of time patients spend in hospital. Cancer doctors and health economists say the changes could make better use of money for cancer treatment but accuse the government of hiding the extent of the bed closures from the public.

The report by Nick Bosanquet, professor of health policy at Imperial College School of Medicine, London, and Professor Karol Sikora, medical director of CancerPartnersUK, a private cancer treatment company, comes as a shake-up of NHS hospitals, led by Lord Darzi, the health minister, is expected to include widespread closures of maternity hospitals and accident and emergency units.

Bosanquet and Sikora have analysed figures published by the government as part of its Cancer Reform Strategy in December. They reveal the efficiency savings the NHS will need to make in order to pay for better radiotherapy and screening programmes. “My worry,” said Sikora, “is that the only way the Cancer Reform Strategy adds up financially is by massive bed closures to produce the funding for the huge deficits in both radiotherapy and cancer drugs. “Up to 5,000 beds will need to disappear in England to make the spreadsheet balance. How else will the money be saved? Interestingly, the financials are not in the strategy document but hidden in an obscure corner of the Department of Health website.”

The government said cancer services must change so that patients can receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy during day trips to local clinics without going to hospital. It is also centralising specialist cancer care in larger hospitals where there is the expertise to get the best results. The government has been forced to review NHS cancer treatment after studies showed that, despite spending comparable amounts on the disease as other European countries, Britain still has some of the worst survival rates.

Bosanquet, who was chairman of the Cancer Reform Strategy value for money group, said cutting beds could make better use of NHS funds but added the government should be more open about its plans. “The Department of Health has put forward aspirations that must inevitably be to lower bed use in cancer services by around 5,000,” he said. “To save 500m, which is urgently needed to build up these community centres, they will need to reduce bed use in cancer services and the best estimate is that it would be by about 5,000 beds. I would urge the Department of Health to be a lot more open about it.”

Sikora maintained that while cancer patients can receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy during daytime visits to local cancer clinics some patients will be so sick they will need to stay in hospital. He said these patients did not need high-tech beds in large hospitals, which cost about 400 pounds a day, but could be cared for by nurses in cottage hospitals.

The Department of Health denied beds on cancer wards will be closed. A spokeswoman said: “We are not planning to close beds, rather we are identifying efficiency gains by using new models of care and streamlining existing inpatient care.”


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