Saturday, January 10, 2009

Starved to death in an NHS hospital: Damning inquiry highlights case of patient left without food for 26 days

Nobody gives a stuff when you are in the hands of the government

A vulnerable patient starved to death in an NHS hospital after 26 days without proper nourishment. Martin Ryan, 43, had suffered a stroke which left him unable to swallow. But a 'total breakdown in communication' meant he was never fitted with a feeding tube. It was one of a number of horrific cases where the NHS fatally failed patients with learning difficulties, a health watchdog is expected to rule later this month.

Emma Kemp, 26, was denied cancer treatment that could have saved her life, while 30-year-old Mark Cannon died two months after being admitted to hospital with a broken leg. Three other cases followed similar patterns, with warnings ignored or problems missed until it was too late, often because the patients had difficulty communicating.

Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, is expected to deliver a withering verdict in her report. Sources said the overall picture of neglect that it paints is devastating. Campaigners will seize on the findings as evidence of a wider problem of institutional discrimination in the health service.

The father of one man who died, who was just 20, said: 'People like my son are treated as less than human'. The six cases were first highlighted by the disability charity Mencap in a report entitled Death By Indifference. The charity, which has complained of 'widespread ignorance' in the NHS, says many more cases have emerged since then.

Sources close to the Ombudsman's inquiry said its findings will vindicate Mencap's attack almost totally. One said: 'The Ombudsman will issue a damning verdict in most, though not all, of the cases. 'In some cases the NHS's treatment of vulnerable people was quite shocking - a patient effectively being starved to death is indefensible. 'There will be a lot for NHS trusts and politicians to chew over.'

The report will intensify pressure on ministers to rapidly ensure tighter procedures for the care of such vulnerable patients. Tory spokesman Anne Milton said: 'Unfortunately we are still seeing some pretty shocking cases where people's needs have been neglected and they are not gaining equal access to the NHS. 'Although these might be isolated incidents, every case like this is one too many. 'This is another deeply worrying example of how the Government has yet to get to grips with providing first-class care for everyone, including people with disabilities.'

Mr Ryan, who had Down's syndrome, died in hospital in Kingston-upon-Thames. An internal inquiry by the hospital found that doctors had thought nurses were feeding him through a tube in his nose. By the time they found out this was not happening, he was too weak for an operation to insert a tube into his stomach. He died in agony five days later.

Mr Ryan's distraught family, from Richmond, South-west London, are convinced he could have been saved by the correct treatment. One relative said of him: 'Martin will always be the light of my life. He had a quirky sense of humour and oodles of charm. He was often smiling - he loved to go out, liked the movement of the coach and listening to the music.'

Death by Indifference was published in 2007 as part of Mencap's long-running Treat Me Right! campaign for better healthcare for people with learning disabilities. Mark Goldring, Mencap's chief executive, said: 'Our report exposed the horrific deaths of six people with a learning disability who died unnecessarily in NHS care. 'We have fought and will continue our fight for justice for their families. 'The Ombudsman's reports must condemn the appalling failings of the NHS in these six cases. 'They need to make it impossible for people with a learning disability to continue to die unnecessarily. A failure to do this would be irrational and perverse. 'The reports have a duty to challenge complacency, where it has been shown to exist within the health service, when treating people with a learning disability and must hold individuals to account for their actions.'

The Ombudsman's inquiry, which covers just the six cases, will mirror the findings of a wider investigation into the treatment of vulnerable patients which was ordered by the Government after Mencap's report came out. Chaired by Sir Jonathan Michael, a former chief executive of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, it found that the deaths highlighted by the charity were 'not isolated' incidents. A spokesman for the Ombudsman declined to comment before the report is published.

There are 1.5million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap says most are treated as ' different' and do not have the same control over their own lives as the rest of society.

Earlier this week the Mail revealed the growing scandal of 'avoidable deaths' in the NHS. Figures showed that the number of patients killed by hospital blunders has soared by 60 per cent in two years to a frightening 3,645.


A falling out among British food freaks

Lancet is taking its usual far-Leftist business-hating role

Ministers hope that the push, which includes participation from food companies such as Pepsi and retailers and an œ8 million television campaign, will ease a growing trend which has left one in four Britons obese. But the Lancet medical journal says that the decision to allow producers of fatty and sugary foods, which it accuses of contributing to the obesity crisis, to take part in the campaign "beggared belief". The Government was party to sponsorship arrangements with supermarkets "that display rows upon rows of sugary snacks, cereals, and soft drinks", it warned. It went on: "So what is the subliminal, or perhaps not so subliminal, take-home message when PepsiCo brings us sports personalities who advocate exercise?

"If you do exercise, it is OK to drink Pepsi and eat crisps?" "Ill-judged partnerships with companies that fuel obesity should have been avoided," it added. PepsiCo, the owner of Pepsi and other brands including Tropicana, has said that it will promote the benefits of an active lifestyle using sports stars, as part of its involvement in the Change4Life campaign.

The Lancet also accused the new adverts of being "simplistic". Launched last weekend, they show a cartoon stone-age family chase a mammoth and hit a dinosaur with a club, suggesting how families used to have to catch their food. This is contrasted with the sedentary lifestyle of a modern-day family shown eating a pizza and playing computer games.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health insisted that there was a strict code of conduct to which companies involved in the campaign were expected to adhere. He said: "We recognise that many organisations have influence with and can reach our target audiences in ways that we cannot. By working with these organisations, we can more effectively tackle the obesity epidemic. "This is not about saying which companies are good or bad but every company has to sign up to strict terms of engagement before they join us. Every company must help people to eat more healthily and be more active. "We have a very clear governance structure and will be very tough on companies to comply."


Britain's obsession over "bin sinners"

Overfill your garbage bin and you'll be treated worse than a shoplifter

Families who overfill rubbish bins are to face bigger fines than those imposed on drunks or shoplifters, the government has told local authorities. New guidance instructs councils to impose fixed penalties of "not less than 75 pounds " and up to 110 in what the opposition has attacked as a "new stealth tax". The offences for which householders can be fined include leaving ajar the lid of a wheelie bin, putting out a bin the evening before collection or leaving the bin in the wrong place.

Although the government has previously claimed that it leaves local councils to decide on the level of fines, the Fly-capture Enforcement manual, produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, stipulates that fixed penalties for offencesinvolving "waste receptacles" must range from 75 to 110 pounds. It suggests a standard fixed penalty of 100, adding that "if a notice is not paid, it is essential it is followed up". The penalties are higher than the 80 pounds on-the-spot fines levied by police for offences ranging from being drunk and disorderly to shoplifting.

Local councils have been sharply criticised for taking harsh measures against trivial misdemeanours. Earlier this year, Gareth Corkhill, a Cardiff bus driver, was given a criminal conviction after being taken to court when he refused to hand over a 110 pounds on-the-spot fine by council inspectors who found the lid of his wheelie bin open by 4in.

Eric Pickles MP, the shadow local government secretary, said Labour was creating "an army of municipal bin bullies hitting law-abiding families with massive fines while professional criminals get the soft touch". He added: "It is clear Whitehall bureaucrats are instructing town halls to target householders with fines for minor breaches. "Yet with the slow death of weekly collections and shrinking bins, it is increasingly hard for families to dispose of their rubbish responsibly. It is fundamentally unfair that householders are now getting hammered with larger fines than shoplifters get for stealing."

The environment department, headed by Hilary Benn, said on-the-spot fines were "intended to be an alternative to prosecution". A spokesman said: "Local authorities wanted flexible fines that they can relate to the severity and frequency of the offence and offender. Ultimately the fines are there to act as a deterrent." According to Phil Woolas, the environment minister, local councils face extra costs of 3.2 billion over the next five years to fund recycling measures, which would equate to a 150 pound council tax increase. [If it costs money to recycle stuff, what's the point?]


Why Jack couldn't climb the beanstalk: How health and safety rules even affect British children's pantomine

Once upon a time, preparing for the panto was a lot of fun for the amateur dramatic group. Everyone would muck in and even if the scenery was sometimes a little rough around the edges, all would soon be forgotten amid the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd on opening night. But now health and safety regulations have turned just getting the show on to the stage into such a performance in itself that members of the Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Company in the West Midlands are living in fear of being shut down before the curtain goes up.

A mind-boggling list of 20 conditions not only orders them to ensure all scenery is free from sharp edges, but also warns them to keep records of the interval ice cream to ensure it is stored at -18C. On arrival at the venue, they should also check each day that milk for the cast's tea is being kept at less than 8C.

One year, even 'Jack' was restricted on how far he could scale his beanstalk. The beanstalk was 30ft tall but Jack would only have been allowed to climb 4ft from the ground provided he wore a harness. So the idea was abandoned and he just gazed up at it instead.

Meanwhile, they are called on to marshall the actors in their forthcoming production of Dick Whittington, which is due to open on Saturday, with near military precision. One chaperone must be provided for every 12 children under 16 performing in the show, and they also have to ensure that cast members do not enter the props storage area in case they get tangled up or struck by objects. The directive also states they must escort youth members to and from the stage, in accordance with chaperone procedures, and inform the audience before the performance if pyrotechnics are to be used. All users of curtains and drapes have to be officially listed, and once the performance is over, the am-dram group must board the orchestra pit over as soon as possible to stop people falling in.

Today Graham Smith, the group's chairman, branded the rules as 'health and safety gone bananas'. 'It's an extremely large amount of work for us to handle. It's difficult enough getting the rehearsals, costumes and scenery organised without all this red tape on top,' he said. 'The amount of forms we have to fill in is a nightmare. 'What worries me is that with all this to do, we could forget something and someone will stop us from performing. It's putting everyone on edge. 'We put three shows on a year and it used to be a lot of fun. Now you've almost got to be a lawyer to do it and I've had to stop taking principal parts to cope with it all.'

Mr Smith, 59, a training manager, also claims that Brierley Hill Civic Hall's backstage facilities are 'poorer than Cinderella's kitchen' making it all the more difficult to meet the health and safety requirements. One of them is that separate dressing arrangements for all performers under 16 have to be agreed with venue managers, but he said: 'In order to accommodate the adults and children in a cast, all local groups using the hall have to spend hours creating extra dressing room facilities by putting up tents and curtains. 'When I was in the chorus of our last show, Oliver! in October, I had to get changed in a store room and go into the toilets in the foyer for a wash after the show. That's how ridiculous it is.'

The 100-strong am-dram group, which was first formed 60 years ago, has also bought a freezer because it does not trust the reliability of the venue's, Mr Smith said.


Single father turned away from British swimming pool... because health and safety rules say he can't supervise his two sons

A single father was left stunned after he was turned away from a swimming pool when staff told him he could not provide proper supervision for his two sons. Phillip Smith and sons Jake, aged five, and Aiden, three, were not allowed to enjoy a swim at the leisure centre because under-eights must be accompanied on a one-to-one basis by adults. He was told sessions were available for single parents with more than one child, where there is extra supervision available, but these were early in the morning at weekends or during school hours in the week.

Mr Smith, 37, from Killamarsh in Sheffield, who is separated from his sons' mother, accused the leisure centre of 'discriminating against single parents'. He said: 'As a fireman, I'm highly trained and expected to be able to provide first aid at emergencies. 'To say I cannot cope with looking after my two sons at a swimming pool is just mad.'

After they were turned away from Sheffield's Hillsborough Leisure Centre, Mr Smith took his sons to nearby Ponds Forge instead, where they were both allowed in. Mr Smith said: 'A change of policy is in order. I do feel strongly about discrimination in any form. 'This policy limits the options of single parents to an unacceptable level when they have every right to take their kids swimming whenever any other parents might wish to go. 'I discussed the situation at length with the duty manager explaining that I am a firefighter and well able to supervise my own children. 'The manager refused to do anything but hide behind policy.'

Sheffield International Venues, which runs both venues, said different policies on parental supervision were in place at its pools 'based on facilities present and a risk assessment'. An SIV spokeswoman said: 'All three Sheffield International Venues with swimming pools follow recommendations from the Institute of Sport and Recreational Management (ISRM) regarding guidelines for parental accompaniment of young children. 'Policies do vary from venue to venue and are based on facilities present and a risk assessment following the institute's guidelines. 'The recommendations are designed for the safety of children in swimming pools and are in no way discriminatory to lone or single parents. 'They are there to encourage and facilitate parents and other childcarers, including single parents, to safely bring their children swimming. All venues are committed to ensuring the safety of all customers.

'At Ponds Forge children under the age of 8 years must be accompanied in the water at all times by a responsible person (16 years or older). 'Children under the age of 4 years must be accompanied by a responsible person (16 years or older) on a one-to-one basis unless they are using the baby pool area only. 'In this case Ponds allows one adult to supervise two under 4's. Children aged between 4 & 7 years must be accompanied by a responsible person on a maximum two-to-one basis. 'Hillsborough Leisure Centre operates on a one on one basis for children under the age of eight since there is no separate toddler pool. 'However, special sessions are held in off peak times where this rule is relaxed to make it accessible for lone and single parents/carers.'


Sex clinics 'to open' in EVERY British school so pupils as young as 11 can be tested... without parental consent

Sexual health clinics could soon be open in every secondary school as part of a drive to cut teenage pregnancies.

Sexual health clinics could soon be open in every secondary school and college. All pupils would have easy access to emergency contraception and pregnancy testing without their parents being told. Around a third of secondary schools in England - almost 1,000 - already have clinics. Some are mobile units shared by a number of schools. Now an influential study, commissioned by the Government, has recommended extending the coverage to all state secondaries and colleges in a drive to cut teenage pregnancies. Advocates of the approach say children can be deterred from seeking sexual health services if they have to travel to community centres.

But critics say the policy is a 'social experiment' which risks encouraging under-age sex instead of curbing it. Already, the morning-after pill is available to a million schoolgirls.

The survey of school clinic provisions was carried out by the National Children's Bureau on behalf of the Sex Education Forum. It found that single-sex, faith and independent schools were less likely to have clinics. Just 14 per cent of all-girl schools and 10 per cent of boys' schools had them. Only a fraction of the clinics restrict services to children over 16 - the legal age of consent. Among further education colleges, which teach four in ten 16-year-olds and growing numbers of 14-year-olds, almost three- quarters have on-site sexual health services. Some colleges offer condoms only in emergencies but others provide them in vending machines.

The report admits there is a 'lack of research evidence' about the effectiveness of school-based clinics, accessible by children as young as 11. But it says: 'School (and alternative provision) is the one place that the large majority of children and young people attend. 'Not all young people will need to use a sexual health service at school age, but providing a service in school is the best way of making sure that those young people who need the service can use it.'

Ministers have set a target for all schools to achieve 'healthy' status by next year. This means they must either set up clinics or refer youngsters to similar services in the community. But there is concern about the permissive approach of many clinics. Researchers in Bristol, who studied 16 school-based clinics catering for 11,805 pupils, found that only one in four youngsters who attended were advised to consider delaying sexual activity. A major study in the U.S. found the evidence was 'not strong' that clinics increase contraceptive use or bring down teen pregnancies.

UK rates of teenage pregnancy are the highest in Europe and the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show a shock increase last year, despite a ten-year Government strategy aimed at cutting rates by half. Critics say the increase casts serious doubt on the policy of increasing access to contraception and sex education. Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said: 'Sexual health clinics on school premises send out the message that it is normal for schoolchildren to engage in sexual activity. 'Confidential clinics in schools are part of a mix that is removing the restraints which previously limited underage sexual activity. 'There is no evidence that school clinics result in lower teenage conception rates. Instead, they encourage some teenagers to become sexually active when they would not otherwise have done so. 'The fact that these clinics keep parents in the dark is also a great concern. Confidentiality policies drive a wedge between parents and children and expose young people to the risk of abuse and disease.'

Children's minister Beverley Hughes said: 'The Government supports the provision of on-site services where schools have identified a need and where the scope of the service has been agreed by the school's governing body following consultation with parents. 'On-site services provide young people with swift and easy access to health advice that survey evidence suggests they are reluctant to access through GPs or clinics.


British atheist adverts reported to industry watchdog

We read:
"An atheist advertising campaign with the slogan "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" has been reported to the Advertising Standards Authority. The advert is to be carried on 800 buses in England, Scotland and Wales, and on the London Underground, in a four-week campaign costing 140,000 pounds that has been supported by the British Humanist Association and the atheist scientist Richard Dawkins.

Stephen Green, the national director of Christian Voice, said that the advertisements broke the ASA's codes on substantiation and truthfulness. "It is given as a statement of fact and that means it must be capable of substantiation if it is not to break the rules. There is plenty of evidence for God, from people's personal experience, to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world."

The authority's code states that "marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation".


It seems that the atheists are being asked to prove a negative, which you can't do. I doubt that the ASA will require that.

So cold the sea around Britain freezes

All due to global warming, of course. Global warming is a magic wand for socialists

It is an event as rare as it is spectacular - but yesterday, after a week of sub-zero conditions, the sea around Britain began to freeze. Instead of waves gently lapping the shore, walkers in Sandbanks, Dorset, found swathes of ice stretching up to 20m along the shore. It is highly unusual for Britain's coastline to freeze, but the combination of a sustained cold snap and the protected location of the Dorset peninsula made it possible. At Padstow, in Cornwall, in another sheltered harbour, seagulls skimmed across a layer of ice. And in South Wales, boats were frozen in their moorings on the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal in Pontypool. Because of its salt content, sea water freezes solid at about minus 2C.

Kevin Horsburgh, a scientist at Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory in Liverpool, said: "What generally happens is when the surface freezes, it gets heavier and sinks. The heat in the water needs to be extracted in order for the surface to stay frozen. In order for that to happen you need a long and sustained period of sub-zero temperatures." Mr Horsburgh added that sheltered peninsulas and harbours were more likely to freeze than open coastline. "A harbour has quite a low level of salt content because it has fresh water from rivers running into it," he said. "The saltier the water, the less chance of it freezing."

The cold snap showed no signs of abating yesterday. On Tuesday night temperatures plummeted as low as minus 12C in Benson, Oxfordshire. At Bournemouth Airport it was minus 11C, the coldest January night since 1963. Meanwhile in Farnborough, Hampshire, where the thermometer also recorded minus 11C, it was the coldest January night on record since 1926.

There were signs yesterday that the freezing conditions are affecting Britain badly, with the Local Government Association warning that tens of thousands of pensioners could die as a result of the prolonged cold snap. It is feared the number of deaths caused by the winter chill could exceed last year's figure of 25,000.


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