Saturday 28 February 2009

Flu spread by unvaccinated NHS frontline staff

Health workers have been blamed for putting vulnerable patients at risk and worsening the winter’s flu outbreak by refusing to have flu jabs.

Fewer than one in seven frontline NHS staff had a flu jab last year, The Times has learnt, despite a recommendation that they do so. The Royal College of General Practitioners called last night for hospital doctors, GPs, nurses, carers and other staff to have compulsory jabs or be banned from contact with patients other than in exceptional circumstances.

Figures to be published next week by the Department of Health will show that the vast majority of health professionals ignored government advice that everyone in direct contact with patients be immunised.

Of the hundreds of patients seriously affected by staff transmission of flu, some were infected while being treated in high-dependency wards...
It strikes me that either 'flu jabs are a good idea or they aren't. If they are, then surely NHS staff should be following their own guidelines. If they aren't - as evidenced by the fact that NHS staff don't believe in them - then why does it peddle them, spend a fortune on vaccines* and expect the rest of us to have ourselves immunised?

Source: The Times

* Oh, I see ...

Thursday 26 February 2009

Conduct charge for ambulance man

An ambulance worker has been charged with misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice after a man he was called to treat died. Sussex Police said Karl Harris, 44, of Tophill Close, Portslade, will appear before Brighton magistrates on 9 March.

It follows an investigation into the sudden death of Barry Baker, 58, at his home in Braybon Avenue, in Brighton. Mr Baker, who lived alone, had dialled 999 on 29 November last year saying he thought he was having a heart attack.

A statement from the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SECAmb) said Mr Harris remained suspended from duty. A 35-year-old man who was also arrested has been released without charge and will face no further police action. However, he also remains suspended from duty by SECAmb pending an internal investigation.
I'm afraid I've no idea what's behind this either, but there you go.

Source: BBC

NI health fraud was 'preventable'

There's no actual injury or death to patients involved here, but it's £270,000 that could have been better spent elsewhere ...
A fraud which cost the health service in NI more than £270,000 was preventable, according to the Public Accounts Committee. Over eight years, solicitor George Brangam siphoned off money mostly while settling medical negligence cases. A number of recommendations have been put forward by the PAC including more fraud awareness training.

Mr Brangam would invoice health bodies for more money than the case had actually been settled for, then keep the extra cash, ranging from £1,250 up to £75,000. Paul Maskey, PAC chair, said the mistakes must not be repeated. "This is one of the worst examples of procurement practice that this committee has ever seen," he said.
Don't worry, Paul! This is the NHS, there'll be an even worse example along in a few minutes.

Source: BBC

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Thousands of babies injected with contaminated vaccine

This isn't going to help confidence in the wake of the MMR debacle, is it?

Thousands of babies may have been injected with a vaccine contaminated with a potentially lethal blood-poisoning bacterium, it emerged last night.

Health officials withdrew 21,000 doses of the meningitis C vaccine from GP clinics around the country that were sent out about a week ago. It is not known how many babies may have received the jab in that time. More than 60,000 doses of the vaccine, which is offered to all four-month-old babies, could be contaminated with the hospital-acquired infection – the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium – but a third of these had already been sent to vaccination clinics before officials became aware of the problem.

Officials within the Department of Health and the vaccine's manufacturers are believed to have known of the problem since Tuesday but only issued an emergency recall of the vaccine last night after being contacted with details of the potential contamination by The Independent.

Last night the Tory health team demanded answers about why it had taken so long to withdraw the vaccine and said there may need to be an inquiry.

It is possible that many hundreds or even thousands of children could have received at least one dose. One official said that there have as yet been no reports of any adverse reactions to the meningitis C injection.

The revelation comes at a critical time given that many parents are still suspicious about childhood vaccinations, largely as a result of the unfounded scare over the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine which was incorrectly linked to childhood autism in a study published more than 10 years ago that has now been retracted.

Source: The Independent

Monday 23 February 2009

Thousands given contaminated blood

It's an old story, but not to be overlooked:
An independent inquiry condemned the "procrastination" that led to thousands of patients becoming infected with HIV and Hepatitis C from contaminated blood. The inquiry, led by Labour Peer Lord Archer of Sandwell, said the infection of so many people was a "horrific human tragedy."

The authors of the report said they were "dismayed" at the time taken by the Government and scientific agencies to respond to the dangers of Hepatitis C and HIV infections.

The report noted there was "lethargic" progress towards national self-sufficiency in blood products in England and Wales, where it took 13 years compared to just five years in Ireland.

As a result the NHS bought blood from US suppliers who used what became known as "skid row" donors, such as prison inmates, who were more likely to have HIV and Hepatitis C.

The report said: "It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that commercial interests took precedence over public health concerns."

It added: "Whether the lack of urgency over much of this period arose from over-hesitant scientific advice or from a sluggish response by Government is now difficult to assess."

Nearly 2,000 haemophiliacs have died as a result of exposure to the contaminated blood in what leading medical expert Lord Winston called "the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS". Some 4,670 patients who received blood transfusions in the 1970s and 1980s were infected with Hepatitis C, of whom 1,243 were also infected with HIV.

Lord Archer's two-year privately-funded inquiry was set up after decades of campaigning from victims and their families. The report noted: "The haemophilia community feels that their plight has never been fully acknowledged or addressed."

The authors said a full public inquiry into the scandal should have been held much earlier to address the concerns of haemophiliacs. In conclusion they said: "Commercial priorities should never again override the interests of public health."
Source: The Metro

Wednesday 18 February 2009

On-the-run killer hit by train

Convicted killer Paul Caesar died after he was hit by a train while on the run from a secure mental hospital, sources said today. The 37-year-old is believed to have committed suicide at Balham railway station, in south-west London, at about 1pm yesterday.

He went on the run from nearby Springfield Hospital, Tooting, two hours earlier after he was allowed to spend time in the grounds unescorted... His death will come as a massive embarrassment for bungling hospital officials who have overseen a steady stream of escapes.

Last November a suspected murderer and an alleged violent burglar escaped from the mental institution. Both men were on remand ahead of criminal proceedings and were being assessed for mental health conditions while at the hospital. After one of the men was recaptured he was charged with three robberies committed while on the run.

Springfield Hospital was condemned after one of its patients, John Barrett, killed a cyclist in Richmond Park in September 2004. The paranoid schizophrenic stabbed retired banker Denis Finnegan, 50, to death after walking out of the hospital's grounds. An inquiry, headed by mental health solicitor Robert Robinson, found carers placed too much emphasis on Barrett's wishes and did not properly assess the risk he posed.

In December 2006, two patients fled more than 400 miles after escaping from the secure mental health unit. The two, one of whom was rapist Anthony Rowley, were arrested in Edinburgh after being on the loose for about six hours. The men left the secure Shaftesbury Clinic at the hospital and jumped on a train to the Scottish capital. A member of staff was suspended and the unit was closed to new admissions as a result of the escape.

In 2004, Broadmoor patient Mark Ricketts, a schizophrenic with a history of serious violence, absconded during a day trip to Springfield. The criminal spent six days on the run and an inquiry later found staff forgot about his visit.

In 2000, the South West London and St George's Mental Health Trust, which runs the hospital, was criticised in an independent report. It found serious failures after patient Anthony Joseph was set free and went on to kill his social worker Jenny Morrison.
Ms Morrison was not told by hospital authorities that Joseph, a paranoid schizophrenic who believed he was the son of God, was a danger.

A spokeswoman for South West London and St George's NHS Trust declined to comment.
Source: The Independent

Monday 16 February 2009

Call to improve complaints response

One in five NHS complaints sent for independent review are about treatment or a wrong diagnosis, a report has revealed. People who complain to an NHS trust about care but who are unhappy with the response can ask for a review by the Healthcare Commission.

In 2007/08, the Commission reviewed 7,827 of these complaints plus 1,112 unresolved from the previous year...

Of the total number of complaints, the Commission said almost 50% were upheld or were sent back to the trust for further work because the initial response was not good enough.

"This shows that the NHS still has much room for improvement in how it deals with complaints locally," the Commission said in its report, which focused on the NHS in England.
Right, that'll fix it. Let's set up a commission to investigate whether complaints are being handled correctly. Trying to fix the underlying system that gives rise to so many complaints is probably a bit too much to ask.

Source: The Metro

Saturday 14 February 2009

Hospital let man walk home to his death

Hospital let 80-year-old man walk home to his death - because payphone was broken.

Musgrove Park Hospital, in Taunton, Somerset,

Source the Mail

Confidential Hospital records dumped in unsecure boiler room

What a surprise!

Confidential and sensitive medical records have been left in an unlocked boiler room at a local hospital, a Sutton Guardian investigation can reveal.

Medical records at Sutton Hospital are easily accessible to members of the public as many are being kept in an unsecure boiler room located outside the main buildings.

The leaky boiler room is housing thousands of patient records, including names, addresses and full medical histories of individuals treated at the 19th century hospital.

A local reporter just walked in.

With a simple turn of the handle I was confronted by a huge pile of documents and boxes of highly sensitive medical records, and not a person in sight.

In two hours there, only one member of staff entered the building, and she did not seem too concerned by a stranger’s presence.

Two hours? Good grief.

Source: Sutton Guardian

Baby bled to death after circumcision, inquest told

A nine-week-old baby boy bled to death hours after being circumcised, an inquest was told. Celian Noumbiwe was operated on in 2007 at a doctor’s surgery in Reading but later his parents opened his nappy and found a “huge amount” of blood.

Recording a narrative verdict, the Berkshire Coroner criticised the lack of advice given to the couple on postoperative care, noting that the emergency number given to them did not work. After the surgery, Carole Youmby and her partner, Monthe Bautrel, originally from France, were encouraged to leave the surgery with the baby within ten minutes when he should have been observed for longer, the court was told.

Ms Youmby said that she had been told that the child’s nappy should not be changed for four hours. After calling the emergency number several times, the couple decided to call their GP in the morning. The next day, February 22, 2007, the child was taken from his home in Slough to the nearby Wexham Park Hospital where he died in his mother’s arms.
Heck knows why parents have their boys circumcised in the first place...
Source: The Times

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Royal Bolton Hospital 'Lose' A&E Patients' Personal Details

More than 1,000 patients of the Royal Bolton Hospital have been contacted after their personal details were lost near the hospital grounds.

The hospital said the documents fell from a waste container which was taking them to be destroyed on 30 January.

The documents contained the names, addresses and dates of birth of patients who had recently attended A&E and other departments.

The hospital has assured patients their care will not have been affected.

Great. It may well lead to an identity theft though.

It's amazing how little information a criminal needs to steal your identity. These are some of the most commonly-used items:

    Your full name, date of birth and address – data you are likely to carry in your wallet every day on items such as your driving licence

Or just might be picked up off the ground from a Bolton hospital. Why did they not simply shred them?

Source: BBC Manchester

Children kept on dirty wards at Ormond St

Sick children at high risk of infection were kept on dirty wards at Great Ormond Street hospital and medical equipment was not cleaned properly, a report has revealed.

The leading children's hospital has been criticised for breaching hygiene rules designed to stop the spread of superbugs. Inspectors from the Healthcare Commission visited the hospital twice in December and found that staff were not properly sterilising medical instruments used for internal examinations. It also found that dust had built up in wards for vulnerable children.

The commission's report said: "We saw reusable equipment used [which] had not been cleaned properly and found that staff members were unclear about who was responsible for cleaning this equipment." The room used to clean flexible endoscopes, which are long tubes used to look inside a patient's body, was also criticised for being cluttered, with unsuitable sinks and outdated decontamination equipment.

It also warned about the cleanliness of wards. The report said: "We visited three wards where children who may be particularly vulnerable to infection are cared for and found that the levels of cleanliness and maintenance on the wards varied. We found light dust, which indicated that the published cleaning frequencies were not being adhered to."

The commission has given the hospital six months to improve
"Six months"? Not "by next week" or "by tomorrow"?

Source: Evening Standard

Monday 9 February 2009

BBC: Girl starved to death after op

An eight-year-old girl starved to death at home because she refused to open her mouth after a dental operation, an inquest heard.

Sophie Waller, from St Dennis, Cornwall, was so afraid of dentists she was sent to the Royal Cornwall Hospital to have her milk teeth taken out.

Afterwards, she would not open her mouth and was given a feeding tube.

The inquest heard that she died at home about three weeks later from acute renal failure.


Despite attempts to feed her and contact with a psychologist, Sophie's health deteriorated and eventually she could hardly walk.

She was found dead in her bed at home on 2 December.

Her parents said that four days before Sophie's death they rang the hospital to say they were bringing her back in but were told they could not.

A pathologist, Dr Marion Brundell, told the inquest that Sophie had died of acute renal failure from dehydration and starvation.

The hearing continues.

Where lessons will be learned...

Women turned away in labour

Women were turned away from maternity units because of more than 550 closures last year. Almost half shut their doors at some point because they were full or short-staffed.

'Every one of these figures tells an awful story of mothers being turned away at a hugely emotional time,' said shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley.
Source: The Metro

Sunday 8 February 2009

I sat for 14hrs in my nightie before ambulance took me home from the hospital

A 98-YEAR-OLD woman was left sitting in her night clothes for 14 hours in a hospital while waiting for an ambulance to take her home. Great-grandmother Catherine Anderson was treated at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow, for fluid in her lungs, before being transported to Gartnavel Hospital for further treatment.

After a two-week stay, Mrs Anderson was cleared to be discharged and told she would be sent home. Nurses got her out of bed at 6am and she was put in a chair to wait for an ambulance to arrive. But patient transport staff did not arrive to take her home until 8.15pm.
Source: Evening Times, Scotland.

Friday 6 February 2009

Prayer-row nurse can return to work

New guidelines on NHS workers discussing religion with patients and other staff were criticised as a nurse suspended for offering to pray for a patient was asked to return to work.

Caroline Petrie, 45, of Weston-super-Mare, was accused of failing to show a commitment to equality and diversity after the incident. But NHS North Somerset Primary Care Trust (PCT) said she was now welcome to return to work.

Campaigners say they fear more staff may find themselves in trouble if their religious beliefs come into conflict with the guidelines set out in a document called Religion or Belief: A Practical Guide for the NHS.
Can somebody explain this obsession with "equality and diversity", and why religious beliefs don't contribute thereto? Prayer is a form of complementary medicine, and while I'm not religious, it is well documented that a positive attitude and relaxed surroundings can contribute significantly to a quicker recovery.

Source: The Metro

NHS negligence costs 'will double'

The NHS is expected to pay out more than £700 million in clinical negligence payments next year, the Conservative Party said.
The rise to £713 million is almost double this year's bill of £396 million and will take up almost a third of the additional funding hospitals will receive.

Shadow Health Minister Mark Simmonds said the current "inefficient system" incurred "vast legal costs" for NHS Trusts.
Source: The Metro

Doctor guilty of adrenaline shot death

Indian-born Priya Ramnath was given a suspended six-month jail sentence after being found guilty of killing Patricia Leighton in 1998 following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court...

Mrs Justice Rafferty added that the hospital registrar's defining error was that she had chosen not to listen to a sister working alongside her... Ramnath, whose sentence was suspended for two years, administered the adrenaline against the advice of three colleagues, the trial was told.

The doctor, who came back to the UK last February after being threatened with extradition, also failed to speak to a consultant anaesthetist at Stafford District General before injecting the drug into Mrs Leighton.
Source: The Metro.

Sorry, "six months suspended"? Did I read that correctly?

Hospital boss steps down after trolley wait mistakes

The chief executive of an award-winning NHS hospital has resigned after taking responsibility for mistakes that left eight patients waiting for more than 12 hours on trolleys before being admitted for treatment.

Tara Donnelly stepped down from the top job at West Middlesex University hospital in Isleworth, west London, on Tuesday, the trust said today. Donnelly accepted that the hospital provided an unacceptable standard of service during a period of heavy pressure on the A&E department two weeks ago. A&E staff in England are required by the Department of Health to decide within four hours whether a patient needs admission to hospital. The trust then has up to 12 hours to find a free bed and admit the patient to a ward.
At least she resigned, although one does wonder what sort of 'severance package' she's expecting.

Source: The Guardian.

Thursday 5 February 2009

NHS outside smoking ban signalled

NHS Grampian has taken a step towards banning smoking in all its grounds with the launch of a consultation.

Smoking has already been prohibited inside hospital buildings. The consultation on extending the ban to all grounds will include staff, patients, visitors and local community groups.

Tobacco control co-ordinator Derek Petrie said: "NHS Grampian's aim is to improve the health of everyone in the north east."

Source: BBC

No doubt Dick P will give this the response it deserves ..?

See also points 6 and 7 on this earlier post as to the real cost.

Wednesday 4 February 2009

'People think I deserve to die,' says cancer-stricken Jade Goody

The 27-year-old has stage three cancer. It was misdiagnosed four times, but Jade says she won't seek compensation from the hospital, as she thinks taking money from the NHS is wrong.

She said her focus was instead on surviving.
Source: The Mail, via Haddock, via DK.

Thousands given fake drugs by NHS

Thousands of people suffering from life-threatening illnesses could have taken fake drugs handed over pharmacy counters. They were the unwitting victims of a counterfeiting ring which managed to get 70,000 packs of medicine distributed within the NHS.

Although 45,000 packs of drugs were recovered, the remaining 25,000 were handed out to patients. It has proved impossible to trace who was given the drugs, taken for prostate cancer, heart and stroke conditions as well as schizophrenia, and the scandal has led to calls for tighter controls on sale of medicines.

It is thought the drugs were linked to Chinese businessman Kevin Xu, who was jailed last month for six-and-a-half years for his part in an international counterfeiting racket. The drugs were probably bought by British wholesalers from France, where they are often cheaper, before being repackaged in new boxes or given new labelling here.

The problem came to light when one wholesaler noticed discrepancies in the labelling. The counterfeit drugs were thought to contain between 50 and 80 per cent of the correct dosage and could have cut chances of successful treatment.
Source: The Metro

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Great Ormond Street staff grilled by police after baby dies of glucose overdose

The story has taken its inevitable sad end.
Staff at Great Ormond Street children's hospital have been questioned by police after a premature baby died from a suspected overdose of glucose. Poppy Davies died on Sunday evening aged five weeks when doctors switched her life support machine off.

Her devastated parents were told that she had been injected with glucose as part of a routine operation, but that the level in her bloodstream had become 'dangerously high'. Doctors explained that it was highly unlikely baby Poppy - who was born five weeks early - would ever recover.
What are the chances that there will be a serious internal review into procedures leading to the implementation of new guidelines (continued page 94).

Source; Daily Mail.

Monday 2 February 2009

The PCT List: New Labour's NHS legacy Part 2

The Ferret Fancier has updated the list of apparent non-jobs in a particular Primary Care Trust. It kicks off with
* Acting Purchasing Team Leader
* Acting Supplies Manager
* Acting Supplies Support Team Leader/Trainee Buyer
* Action On Smoking Coordinator
* Active Lifestyles Development Officer
* Admin Assistant
* Admin Support Officer (Commissioning)
* Administration Officer – Supplies
* Administrator – Health Promotion
* [etc]

and the full list runs to over four hundred job titles, and in many cases there is more then one person with that job description.

Source: The Ferret Fancier

£12.7bn spent on NHS computer system that doesn't work

An investigation by The Times and Computer Weekly shows that the overrun of the largest IT projects totals £18.6 billion. Those include a controversial plan to computerise all NHS patients’ records, originally estimated to cost £2.3 billion over three years but the cost of which has grown to £12.7 billion.

Nigel Edwards, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, which represents 90 per cent of NHS organisations and which welcomed the review, said: “You can’t do modern healthcare without a computer system. But the Care Records system at the heart of the programme isn’t working. The software isn’t functioning. There is a growing pessimism among the people I represent that it can actually deliver.”

This works out at just under half a mill per doctor in the NHS ... for a system that doesn't work, and may never be likely to. Our money, of course.

I would ask in exasperation, who pays the idiots who make monumental cock-ups like this? But that's us too, isn't it. Good grief.

Source: The Times

Sunday 1 February 2009

Doctors 'can work longer than 48 hour week'

Some doctors will be able to work more than 48 hours a week despite new European regulations on working times, following fears over their training and patient safety.
Phew! That's all right then. Or is it?
But doctors' groups said that the move did not go far enough and that the limit could reduce standards and cut patient care. The Royal College of Surgeons has warned that the change could also affect staff handovers, making them rushed and endangering patient safety... The opt-out will apply to between 20 and 30 units at trusts across the country, including services providing 24-hour care, extremely specialist teams and remote and rural units... The European Commission will respond to the request by the start of May.
What? Between twenty and thirty units out of hundreds or thousands? The European Commission might or might nod give the nod to this in a few months' time?

Source: The Telegraph

'More dangerous' strain of superbug found in Scottish hospitals

Superbugs are becoming even more 'super' in Scotland.

A "POTENTIALLY more dangerous" form of the C diff bug has been discovered in Scottish hospitals.

Health chiefs have revealed that the strain of Clostridium difficile, known as Type 078, has been reported more than a dozen times in the past two years. The news has sparked calls for more action to combat hospital-acquired infections.

Figures obtained by Labour MSP Jackie Baillie showed there has been 16 cases of Type 078 reported since 2007.

The Dumbarton MSP said evidence indicates it can cause a more serious illness than other strains of the bug.

Worry not, however, as Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon is on the case, because ...

"It is vital that everyone has confidence in their NHS and the standard of care they will receive in hospital."

Feeling confident, anyone?

Source: The Scotsman