Wednesday 30 March 2011

Foreign doctors work in Britain without speaking English

Foreign doctors whose English is so poor that they need interpreters are being allowed to operate on patients in Britain, the medical regulator has warned.

The General Medical Council said current European rules represent a “serious cause of concern” and risk to patient safety by banning it from testing GPs’ language skills before they can start working here.
The regulator said it has some doctors on its books who "are not able to communicate in English" but could not prevent them seeking work here under European law.

It warned that bogus doctors from other countries may find their way into the NHS by presenting fake certificates or ID, because of a lack of security checks, or could hide the fact that they had been suspended from practising in their homeland.

Even genuine doctors from abroad may have little idea of how to carry out procedures that are standard in Britain, because there is no standard training, education or healthcare system.

The GMC’s strongly worded submission to the European Commission, which is reviewing the laws that allow free movement of medics across the continent, comes after the scandal of Daniel Ubani.

The German doctor, who worked mainly as a cosmetic surgeon, gave a lethal dose of painkillers to a 70 year-old English man on his first shift as a locum GP in Cambridgeshire, but the GMC had been unable to check if he had any experience in general practice.

Diane Abbott, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, said “inherent weaknesses in the vetting system” allowed the Ubani case to happen.

“To suggest that workers can operate in our healthcare system without proper training, assessments or being able to communicate with patients seems to me to be absurd."
Under the current system, doctors from the European Economic Area - the 27 European Union members states, along with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway - are allowed to work in Britain and 23,033 are registered to do so.

Unlike doctors who come to Britain from other parts of the world, the European single market means that the GMC has to accept their qualifications and is not allowed to test their competency or their English language skills. Potential NHS employers are allowed to carry out such assessments, however.
The regulator, which keeps a register of qualified doctors and holds disciplinary hearings that can result in them being struck off, has said that a handful of foreign doctors are on its books even though they cannot speak English.
Its submission to the EC states: “Currently, EEA applicants to the GMC register do not need to pass a language assessment even in cases where there is doubt.
“We have recent examples of EEA doctors seeking recognition and registration with the GMC who are not able to communicate in English and were assisted by an interpreter. This is a serious cause of concern to us.”
In such cases, all the watchdog can do is remind doctors they have a duty to understand the language of the country in which they are seeking to work, but it cannot prevent them from registering.

The GMC said it has already carried out fitness to practise cases in which doctors have been struck off or suspended partly as a result of their poor English.
In one case, a doctor was found “apparently speaking in a foreign language” in an operating theatre, leaving the assistant surgeon “unsure what assistance was required”.
The GMC said: “It remains our view that the ability of the professional to communicate effectively in the language of the host member state should be a prerequisite for registration and that we should be able to assess the knowledge of language where appropriate.”
In an apparent reference to the Ubani case, the GMC told the EC: “Recent events in the UK have highlighted some of the regulatory gaps that have the potential to harm patients and undermine confidence in both the single market in general and healthcare in particular.”
It warned the EC not to simplify the system of mutual recognition of doctors across Europe “at the expense of patient safety”.

The submission raised “serious concerns” about a code of conduct that prevents it from getting hold of translated copies of migrant doctors’ diplomas and proof of their identity, and said that a proposed “professional passport” also brings “significant risks” of fraud and forgery.
The GMC said that it and other regulators across Europe “cannot have full confidence in each other’s medical training and education” because there is so little knowledge about standards in different countries.
In addition, European states operate widely differing healthcare systems so that there is “patient safety risk” when foreign GPs are asked to carry out procedures they were unused to in their home countries.
It said doctors should only be registered to work elsewhere “when they are known to be fit and safe to practise and have no conditions or limitations on their registration”.

The Strange Case Of Abiola Abara

Abiola Apara, 58, was sacked after a string of concerns were raised over her management of the hospital’s Lionel Cosins elderly people’s ward.
But it took a while:
Apara was initially suspended following complaints from staff and patients in spring 2007. Then, in September 2007, the entire ward was re-staffed. The hospital has refused to release details of its probe or comment on any irregular activities, but a source confirmed the investigation into Apara had looked into her recruitment of nurses.
And what was wrong with her recruitment of nurses?
The concerns came to light after Eileen Curry made an official complaint about conditions on the ward. Mrs Curry, 66, of Weathersfield Way, Wickford, complained following the death of her mother Catherine Talbot, 89. She was admitted to the hospital in April 2007 with shingles, and died the following month from blood poisoning caused by an infection she received in hospital. Mrs Talbot also caught superbug Clostridium Difficile while in the hospital. Mrs Curry told the Echo: “I was shocked when the hospital explained to me why conditions on the ward were so bad, partly because of the manager’s involvement in recruitment. “My mother was partially-sighted and deaf. She would have struggled to hear anyway, but the strong accents made it even harder for her to know what was happening. Many of the nurses failed to have any empathy with the patients, and were also rough with my mother. “It is nearly four years since my mother died, and the tribunal is only just happening.”
Ah. There’s a lot of clues here, isn't there?
Alan Whittle, hospital chief executive, wrote to Mrs Curry about her original complaint and stressed staff should look after patients regardless of any cultural differences.
Hmmm, that sounds awfully familiar….

Sunday 27 March 2011

Rationed osteoporosis drug is 17 times more effective

Millions of women are being denied the benefits of an osteoporosis drug that is far more effective than the standard treatment, new research suggests.

An in-depth study found that strontium ranelate is 17 times better at boosting bone formation than the medication usually given to sufferers of the crippling condition.

It is also far easier to take than the recommended drug, which requires patients to stand or sit for half an hour after taking it and can cause stomach pains.

But strontium ranelate, which costs more than six times as much as the standard medication, is strictly rationed in England to older women at high risk of suffering fractures or who cannot take the usual drug, called alendronate.

Professor Roger Frances, from the Institute for Ageing and Health at the University of Newcastle, said: “These results are so important for patients as strontium ranelate is a proven drug that is already available on the NHS. This study clearly suggests that strontium ranelate helps patients to build new bone to a far greater extent than alendronate, the current standard of care.”

Source: Telegraph

Saturday 26 March 2011

"Show us yer dirty knickers, love!"

For the last few years, she has counted on the health service to afford her dignity and security in her old age.

But now a blind 77-year-old widow has been left feeling dehumanised and humiliated by those who were supposed to be looking after her.

Edith Braddow, who was prescribed incontinence pads by a local clinic after being referred by her GP, says she was told to bring in three soiled pads if she wanted to continue to receive them.
This doesn't even make sense. It's not like she couldn't fake it if she wanted to, is it?

And just what do they think she's doing with them if she doesn't need them? Is there a black market in incontinence pads?

Even worse is the fact that she and her son meekly complied with this request:
'I was incensed, but we put three pads in a carrier bag.

When we got there the nurses actually weighed each pad in front of us and referred to some kind of scale...'.
And believe it or not, the health authority actually defended this:
A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Community Health insisted that testing incontinence pads for absorbency was standard practice.

‘A review of the continence service took place during 2010 and changes have been made to ensure patients receive optimum care,’ she said. ‘The aim of the service is always to return patients to continence wherever possible. Pads are only prescribed for those patients with moderate to severe incontinence.

‘All patients are offered a comprehensive clinical assessment, which includes reviewing existing pads to ensure adequate absorbency and comfort to the patient, as defined by National Good Practice, followed by a clear treatment plan.’
I don't know which I'd prefer to believe - that they are so dehumanised themselves that they believe that this is acceptable behaviour, or that they are just secret perverts who are turned on by soiled underwear.

If the latter, I suggest they go to Japan, where such tastes are catered for with vending machines...