Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NHS a huge flop at maternity care

One billion pounds in compensation payments!

Errors that caused serious harm to mothers and babies have accounted for nearly half of the 2.1 billion pounds paid out as a result of medical negligence since 1995, The Times has learnt. A total of 947 million has been spent on compensation relating directly to obstetrics, reflecting the increasing cost of lifetime care for children who have suffered brain damage, cerebral palsy or developmental delay. The scale of the cost — enough to hire thousands of consultants or midwives — reveals the growing burden of claims on the health service at a time when maternity wards are short-staffed and the birthrate is rising. Medical colleges say the chances of harm to mother or baby are lower than ever, but they remain concerned that shortages of consultants and midwives leave patients at risk.

Taking into account a backlog of cases from the 1990s, the cost of maternity-related claims has risen from 163million in 2003-04 to 288 million in 2007-08. The figures, revealed by the NHS Litigation Authority in answers to parliamentary questions by Harry Cohen, the Labour MP for Leyton & Wanstead, reflect the cost of settled claims awarded under the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts. But this does not include cases that preceded the authority's creation in 1995, some of which have arisen from health problems diagnosed years after birth.

Medical colleges said that the total bill for litigation put the 330 million pledged by the Government to improve maternity services into sharp relief. As The Times reported in September, trusts have had trouble identifying specific funding promised over three years to help to implement a policy document, Maternity Matters, that promised all women dedicated care from a midwife by the end of next year.

Louise Silverton, the deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said that the cost of claims “underlines what a false economy it is to cut back on maternity care”. “Women keep hearing about these excellent government policy statements such as one-to-one care in labour from a midwife,” she said, “but they are not getting that sort of treatment in many areas such as the East of England, the South West and London. Our members are telling us that they are overworked and overstretched and are running between beds dealing with, in some cases, three women at once.” Overall NHS spending on maternity in England was cut by £55million in 2006-07, while the birthrate has risen by 16 per cent — equivalent to 90,000 extra births — since 2001, Ms Silverton added.

Tristian Blomfield, 8, from Watford, Hertfordshire, received a compensation package of just over 8.26 million after suffering permanent brain damage at birth. He has cerebral palsy in all four limbs and requires constant care. West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which manages Watford General Hospital where Tristian was born, offered his family an unreserved apology and expressed hope that the agreed settlement would provide them with security for the future.

Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said that only six in every 1,000 births resulted in a litigation claim. But at that rate trusts had to set aside 500 pounds for each birth as a form of insurance, he added. “In a busy maternity unit of 5,000 births or more, we believe there needs to be 24-hour consultant cover to deal with emergencies and prevent disasters better. Rather than have more negligence cases and pay out on more claims, we should spend on more consultants, better training and reduce the number of cases,” he said.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “The UK remains one of the safest countries in the world in which to have a baby.” [Compared with Africa, I guess]


British boys' club threatened with funding axe unless it accepts girls and changes name

For 114 years, the Broad Plain Boys' Club has been keeping youngsters occupied and out of trouble. Its leaders run sports sessions for boys aged between seven and 25 to improve self-discipline and confidence - and twice a week girls are welcomed too. But it seems that for officials at the town hall, that's not good enough. So they have told its leaders that they must change it to something more politically correct, such as the Working With Young People Club, and invite more girls in - or face losing the 11,600 pounds-a-year funding.

Dennis Stinchcombe, who has been in charge of the club, in Easton, Bristol, for 33 years, said the decision could force the club to close. 'They want us to drop the name Broad Plain Boys' Club, no matter that we have had that name for more than 100 years', he said. 'It will cost thousands to change the name. We would have to get new letterheads and change all the equipment with the name on it.

Although the council is happy to fund women's groups, they believe a boys' club is just too exclusive.

'It has been made clear that we have to make changes to stand a chance of continued funding. 'The local authority feels we don't give enough club time to girls.' To devote more time to girls, the club would need to take on a female leader as well, said Mr Stinchcombe, who was awarded an MBE for his community work. But he added: 'They will not pay us anything to give more time to girls.'

Bristol City Council provides 30,494 a year to a Chinese women's group and 10,984 to a Pakistani welfare community aimed only at women. However, it insists that the boys' club should cater equally for girls.

The club has helped thousands of youngsters since it was founded in 1894. The council funding pays for two staff to work alongside volunteers. Most of the members are boys - using the club four nights a week for sports including football, basketball and boxing. On a Thursday, there is a mixed evening - and a university's female boxing team also train with the boys on a Tuesday night.

The council said: 'We're having productive discussions with the club about providing a service that will equally benefit girls as well as boys and ensuring that their name reflects the service they offer.' But Richard Eddy, leader of the city's Conservative Party group, said: 'It would be a disgrace if funding for this wonderful group was taken away because of some misplaced sense of political correctness.'


British children's coin throwing tradition to be scrapped over health and safety

Dignitaries such as the town mayor throw the two-pence pieces at the opening of St Ives Michaelmas Fair, which is held every October in Cambridgeshire. But an officer from St Ives Town Council has now recommended in a report that the coins should no longer be thrown and should instead be rolled to children instead.

Town mayor, Cllr Ian Dobson said he hoped common sense would prevail - and the annual pre-war ritual allowed to carry on. Cllr Dobson said: "I believe the risk can be managed quite well if everybody is aware of the problems". Asked if he thought the threat to the historic practice was health and safety gone mad, he replied: "I think the ideas were well-intentioned but I couldn't possibly comment any further than that."

Cllr Dobson said there had been a "well-intentioned" proposal to carry out a risk assessment by a new councillor back in May. The study was initially ordered to consider the danger involved in the mayor wearing his ceremonial robes on the dodgems during the fair's opening ceremony. But the council officer in charge also bizarrely decided there was a huge risk involved to kids in throwing the pennies.

Cllr Dobson said: "The town hall staff have certainly done a comprehensive job. "Concerns were raised about throwing the newly-minted two-pence coins for the children to gather up and the report says we should distribute them a bit more gently." He added: "It was a well-intentioned suggestion that the council should consider carrying out a risk assessment. "Gowns have always been worn on the dodgems but the thought was that the robes could get caught up if they weren't properly tucked in."

The controversial report was to be debated by councillors at a meeting of the full town council tonight. St Ives town clerk Alison Melnyczuk said: "Obviously the council has to be aware of its obligations in terms of everything it does, in particular the need to carry out risk assessments on all of its functions. "With regards to the Michaelmas fair, I think it will carry on as it has done for many years. "One of the hazards that was identified in the risk assessment was "flying objects" and we have reminded our members that it is perhaps best to drop the coins and roll them, rather than throw them."

St Ives Michaelmas fair was started in the 1920s as a response to the neighbouring high-profile Cambridge Midsummer Fair. Bob Burn-Murdoch, curator of the Norris Museum in St Ives, said: "The Michaelmas fair as we know it now began in the 1920s. "St Ives stole the idea from the opening of the Cambridge Midsummer Fair. "St Ives simply wanted to compete, so they copied the charter that was read out in Cambridge. "The tradition of throwing the pennies was taken from Cambridge too. They did it deliberately to make the fair look older than it actually is." He added: "In the 1940s, when the dignitaries were throwing the pennies, they hit someone in their glass eye and smashed it to pieces. . "So perhaps there is good reason for the council's concern."


There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

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