Monday, June 01, 2009

Patients forced to wait hours in ambulances parked outside British hospital emergency departments

Ambulance chiefs have warned that lives are being put at risk "on a daily basis" by long delays allowing patients into Accident and Emergency units

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has found that thousands of 999 [emergency] patients are being left to wait in ambulances in car parks and holding bays, or in hospital corridors – in some cases for more than five hours – before they can even join the queue for urgent treatment. Experts warn that hospitals are deliberately delaying when they accept patients – or are diverting them to different sites – in order to meet Government targets to treat people within fours hours of admitting them.

The extent of the problems have been revealed in correspondence between senior health officials, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, which also show their serious concerns about the dangers the delays pose to patients. A letter by Sir Graham Meldrum, chairman of West Midlands Ambulance Service, sent to hospital chief executives last November warns that patients are "being put at risk on a daily basis", with 7,600 patients a month facing delays of more than 30 minutes – a situation which has since deteriorated, with more than 8,000 such delays in March.

The documents also reveal an investigation into the death of a patient who waited three hours to be seen by A&E staff after being taken by ambulance to The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals Trust.

On two occasions in January, ambulances took more than five hours to unload patients at Queen's Hospital in Romford, Essex. In the same month, journeys to Weston-super-Mare hospital in Somerset were repeatedly held up, with more than a dozen waits of two hours, including delays of four and five hours.

Dozens of A&E units refused all 999 arrivals for periods of several hours, on hundreds of occasions, forcing crews to take desperately sick patients on lengthy journeys, and shifting pressures to other hospitals, the documents show. In the course of six months, hospitals in the West Midlands ordered a "divert" on more than 450 occasions, closing A&E units to all 999 arrivals for hours at a time. During a six-week period last autumn, hospital chiefs in the north east of England closed casualty units to 999 arrivals on 34 occasions, for up to 19 hours at a time.

Internal documents from the London Ambulance Service reports of extensive delays throughout December: "Ambulances have queued in large numbers for up to five hours to unload, and two hour delays were relatively common," it says.

The briefing note, written in January, says hospitals were so short-staffed that ambulance staff were regularly forced to look after multiple patients simultaneously, so that colleagues could respond to 999 calls.

Delays to patients arriving to A&E by ambulance are increasing in many parts of the country as hospitals struggle to cope with a massive increase in the number of emergency hospital admissions since family doctors stopped providing routine out-of-hours care. Since the changes were made five years ago, the number of emergency hospital admissions has risen by 30 per cent, while the number of beds fell by more than 20,000. More than 100,000 ambulance journeys were delayed at casualty units by more than 30 minutes in the month of March alone – an increase of 18 per cent in 12 months.

Mike Penning, the shadow health minister, said: "Labour's tick box culture is forcing staff to prioritise the four hour target ahead of ensuring patient get the treatment they need. "It is madness that all of this has happened at a time when the number of people being admitted to A&E units is soaring."

Ambulance staff and patients groups said hospitals were routinely ignoring NHS guidance which says the "clock" for the A&E four hour wait should start 15 minutes after an ambulance arrives on site. Katherine Murphy, from the Patients Association, said: "We are hearing increasing numbers of stories of seriously-ill patients lying in pain in ambulances, worried out of their mind, while others are taken on long journeys because casualty units have been closed. "The guidance may say they should not be delayed, but the A&E target is the one that comes with financial penalties attached, and it is the one hospitals care about."

Most ambulance trusts measure delays by "turnaround time" – the time between the ambulance's arrival at A&E and its availability for the next call. It includes any time cleaning or restocking the vehicle, which should take no more than a few minutes. Research by one ambulance trust found three quarters of delays occurred before the patient was handed over to staff, and that 84 per cent of those cases were connected to bed shortages.

Sam Oestricher, ambulance representative for trade union Unison, said ambulances were being treated "as mobile waiting rooms". He said: "Our members are spending hours effectively babysitting patients, who have been rushed to A&E departments because they need to be seen urgently. "It leaves patients and crews in a terribly anxious, frustrating situation, and it greatly increases the risks."

Jim Wardrope, A&E consultant at Sheffield Northern Hospital and past president of the College of Emergency Medicine said: "The whole system is running hot, so that when the pressure comes, it backs up quickly and we end up desperately searching for trolleys."

Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said "severe action" would be taken against any hospitals found to be keeping patients in ambulances in an attempt to cheat on the A&E targets. He added: "The vast majority of hospitals up and down the country are meeting the four hour target without keeping people waiting in ambulances."

More than 4,800 people have backed The Sunday Telegraph's Heal Our Hospitals campaign, which is calling for a review of hospital targets to make sure they work to improve quality of care.


Evil British social workers again

They really are the spawn of Satan. Their contempt for ordinary people knows no bounds

A MOTHER is taking her fight to the European Court of Human Rights after she was forbidden from seeing her three-year-old daughter because she is not “clever enough” to look after her. The woman, who for legal reasons can be identified only by her first name, Rachel, has been told by a family court that her daughter will be placed with adoptive parents within the next three months, and she will then be barred from further contact.

The adoption is going ahead despite the declaration by a psychiatrist that Rachel, 24, has no learning difficulties and “good literacy and numeracy and [that] her general intellectual abilities appear to be within the normal range”.

Her daughter, K, was born prematurely and officials felt Rachel lacked the intelligence to cope with her complex medical needs Baby K was released from hospital into care and is currently with a foster family. Her health has now improved to the point where she needs little or no day-to-day medical care.

Rachel said last night: “I have been totally let down by the system. All I want is to care for my daughter but the council and the court are determined not to let me. “The court here has now ordered that my contact with my daughter must be reduced from every fortnight until in three months’ time it will all be over and I will never see her again.”

Rachel has now lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights, which has the power to stop the child being given to another family. She has also applied for a judicial review of the adoption order.

Her attempts to fight Nottingham city council’s adoption of her daughter have been hampered because her case was taken over by the official solicitor, the government-funded lawyer who acts for those unable to represent themselves. He was brought in to represent Rachel’s interests because she was judged to be intellectually incapable of instructing her own solicitor. He declined to contest the council’s adoption application, despite her wish to do so.

After the psychiatrist’s assessment of Rachel, the court has now acknowledged that she does have the mental capacity to keep up with the legal aspects of her situation. It has nevertheless refused her attempts to halt the adoption process.

John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, who is campaigning on Rachel’s behalf, said: “The way Rachel has been treated is appalling. She has been swept aside by a system that seems more interested in securing a child for adoption than preserving a natural family unit.”


Michael Savage sues brainless British Leftist politician

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith faces a claim for £100,000 damages by the American radio ‘shock jock’ she banned from entering Britain. Broadcaster Michael Savage has employed top UK law firm Olswang to sue Ms Smith for libel after she put him on the Home Office’s 16 ‘least wanted’ list.

Mr Savage said he was ‘outraged’ the Government had put him in the same category as Islamic hate preachers and terrorists.

The letter from Olswang, due to land on Ms Smith’s desk tomorrow, accuses her of making ‘serious and damaging defamatory allegations’ against him. It says Mr Savage, whose show The Savage Nation has eight million listeners in America, has asked for ‘substantial damages’. The Mail on Sunday has been told he is demanding £100,000.

Mr Savage says ‘lunatic’ Ms Smith had no right to put him on the same list as a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, a skinhead gang leader and a Hezbollah militant who served 30 years in prison.

The lawyers’ letter states: ‘Our client requires the payment of a substantial sum in damages to be agreed and retraction of the allegations. He also requires a personal apology from you and an acknowledgement that the Home Office has agreed to pay a substantial sum in libel damages.’ The letter says Ms Smith must also provide a ‘written undertaking from you and the Home Office not to repeat the allegations complained of and the payment of our client’s legal costs’. It continues: ‘This matter is extremely urgent as the false and defamatory material concerning our client has had enormous circulation both inside and outside the UK.’

Mr Savage said last night he will not give up his battle to make Ms Smith pay damages and say sorry. ‘I am living in fear and have had to employ security guards after being outrageously named on this list of terrorists and killers. ‘The first I knew about it was when it was issued as a Press release and I was absolutely shocked. ‘Why me? I’m not a terrorist. I’m one of America’s most popular radio hosts and a happily married father of two. ‘Maybe Jacqui Smith just plucked my name out of the hat because I’m controversial and white – to counter-balance all the Arabs named on her list. ‘It is totally preposterous but it’s deadly serious because she has made me a target. ‘My lawyers have told me I have a very strong case for defamation.’


Christians risk rejection and discrimination for their faith, a study claims

Christians are facing discrimination at work, and ridicule and rejection at home, according to new research. The first poll of Britain's churchgoers, carried out for The Sunday Telegraph, found that thousands of them believe they are being turned down for promotion because of their faith. One in five said that they had faced opposition at work because of their beliefs. More than half of them revealed that they had suffered some form of persecution for being a Christian.

The findings suggest a growing hostility towards religion in this country, which has been highlighted by a series of clashes between churchgoers and their employers. Church leaders, including the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, have urged Christians to "wake up" and defend their beliefs after the suspension of Caroline Petrie, a community nurse, for offering to pray for a patient.

Churchgoers are likely to be further concerned by new guidelines that warn that employees face dismissal if they share their faith with colleagues at work. Employers have been given new advice in a campaign, funded by the Government's equality watchdog, that says people who evangelise in the workplace are "highly likely" to be accused of harassment. The guidelines have been drawn up by the British Humanist Association (BHA), an atheist group, with the help of a £35,000 grant from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), a taxpayer-funded body.

Andrew Copson, director of education at the BHA, claimed that attempts to convert colleagues could amount to harassment under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. He said: "The law specifically protects people from being intimidated or confronted with a hostile environment in the workplace. "Systematically undermining someone's beliefs or persistently attempting to convert someone would lead to the creation of a hostile environment." However, legal experts have attacked the guidelines as "nonsense" and Christian groups have condemned them as "propaganda".

Churchgoers interviewed in the ComRes poll said that they are already facing discrimination at work and one in 10 churchgoers said they have been rejected by family members because of their religious beliefs. As many as 44 per cent said they had been mocked by friends, neighbours or colleagues for being a Christian, and 19 per cent said they had been ignored or excluded for the same reason.

They also claimed that they are being discriminated against at work, with five per cent saying they had been turned down for promotion due to their faith. The same number said they had been reprimanded or cautioned at work for sharing their faith.

There has been a series of cases over recent months featuring Christians who have been suspended after expressing their religious views, including a teacher who complained that a staff training day was used to promote gay rights. Churchgoers believe that these incidents reflect growing intolerance towards Christianity in Britain. Nearly three out of four of those questioned said that there is less religious freedom in the UK now than 20 years ago, and one in five said persecution of Christians is worse in this country compared to other European nations.

Although the EHRC declined to comment on the content of the BHA guidelines, a spokesman said: "The commission's funding programme supports a wide range of organisations, both faith and non-faith groups, in keeping with its aim of promoting good relations and a better understanding between those from different religions and beliefs. "This is one of many such projects to that end. This isn't about supporting a particular belief or lack of belief over another, but encouraging debate." [Threatening Christians who talk about their faith is a great way to encourage debate, of course]

ComRes asked 512 worshippers between April 21 and May 1. The respondents were selected through different Christian media, from liberal publications through to evangelical websites. The results are weighted to the exact denomination and churchmanship profile as defined by the 2005 Church Census.


There is British blog here for those who are concerned at the increasing authoritarianism of the British State

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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