Archive for the ‘British Health Care’ Category

5,000 Patients Sent Letters Warning They May Have Contracted Disease at Dentist

From the Daily Mail, June 1, 2009:

Thousands of people have been told they could be at risk of infections such as HIV or hepatitis because of a dentist’s poor hygiene measures.

Patients in Bristol and Bournemouth have been sent letters alerting them to the potential risk of blood-borne infections after a dentist was found to have been operating poor infection control measures.

The concerns surround the possibility that dental instruments were not adequately sterilised.

NHS South Gloucestershire, NHS Bristol and NHS Bournemouth and Poole said the risk to patients was very low but they took the precautionary measure to reassure people.

Patients will be given the opportunity to attend a special clinic and have a blood test if they wish.

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NHS: Theory vs. Reality

From the Daily Mail, May 25, 2009:

THE THEORY: Announced to a fanfare of publicity last year, Choose and Book allows you to select the time and place you have specialist treatment rather than having an appointment allotted to you.

THE REALITY: Around 90 per cent of GP surgeries are connected to the service. However, some experts argue that hospital choice is not as important as consultant choice - and that option is offered by only a few hospitals because of the fear of long waiting lists for certain specialists. The computer system is also prone to glitches.

THE THEORY: Since 2000, you have been able go to one of the 93 walk-in centres in England without a prior appointment. Although these tend to be nurse-led, there are usually doctors on hand, too.

THE REALITY: Around three million people use walk-in centres each year. ‘They provide good local care that is easily accessible,’ says Mr Summers.

However, the centres are often not manned by a doctor and so can offer only minimal treatment. As uncovered by a Daily Mail investigation, three doctors resigned from a centre in London’s Canary Wharf in 2006 after fears that nurses were operating without doctors’ supervision and were not always giving appropriate treatment.

THE THEORY: By the end of this year mothers-to-be will be able to choose to give birth either at home with a midwife, at a midwife-run centre or in hospital, the Government has promised.

THE REALITY: Currently, only a third of women are offered the option of a home birth, and with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) claiming the NHS needs another 5,000 full-time staff to provide safe and good quality care, it seems unlikely pregnant women will get much choice.

THE THEORY: After several well-publicised battles, people who want to fund their own expensive cancer treatments can do so while still being eligible for NHS care.

THE REALITY: It’s still early days, but one concern is that the cost is prohibitive for many patients; Erbitux, for example, costs around £3,700 a month.

‘And even with these new rules people cannot have their drugs administered on an NHS ward — they also have to pay for the tests and scans associated with their treatment,’ says Dr Bill Beeby, chairman of the BMA’s clinical and prescribing sub-committee. ‘So, in effect, they are being denied NHS care.’

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78% of British Nurses Fear Personal Reprisal for Whistleblowing

From the Guardian, May 10, 2009:

A survey of more than 5,000 nurses found 78% feared personal reprisals or a negative effect on their career if they reported concerns to their employers. It also found that 21% had been discouraged or told not to report concerns about what was going on in their workplace.

The confidence of nurses was shaken last month when the Nursing and Midwifery Council, their regulator, struck Margaret Haywood off the professional register for exposing poor care in a film for the BBC programme Panorama. Her attempt to reveal the substandard care experienced by her patients was interpreted as an intrusion into their privacy.

The RCN will respond today by setting up a dedicated line to allow members to talk in confidence about “serious and immediate worries that patient safety is being put at risk in their workplace”.

The union said it would use the information to help the nurses raise concerns and, if needed, to step in swiftly to investigate problems directly with the employers.

The move came as nurses assembled for the RCN’s annual conference in Harrogate. The general secretary, Peter Carter, said the Healthcare Commission last month exposed a scandal of what it described as “appalling” care for patients admitted in an emergency to Stafford hospital.

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British Patients Four Times More Likely to Die that US Patients After Major Surgery

From the Guardian, September 7, 2003:

Patients who have major surgery in Britain are four times more likely to die than those in America, according to a major new study.

The comparison of care, which reveals a sevenfold difference in mortality rates in one set of patients, concludes that hospital waiting lists, a shortage of specialists and competition for intensive care beds are to blame.

Fresh evidence of a stark contrast between the fate of patients on either side of the Atlantic will re-open the debate over whether NHS reforms are having any impact on survival rates.

Mounting evidence suggests that patients who are most at risk of complications after an operation are not being seen by specialists, and are not reaching intensive care units in time to save them.

This week health Ministers will present the latest figures showing another yearly rise in the number of intensive care beds for those who are critically ill. But Britain lags far behind America and most European countries in its critical care facilities. An authoritative study to be published later this year will demonstrate that the chances of survival after undergoing a major operation are far greater in an American hospital.

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“Superbugs” Killing 10,000 Patients a Year

From the Telegraph, March 25, 2008:

Two superbugs are causing the deaths of more than 10,000 hospital patients every year, an expert has disclosed.

The number of deaths from MRSA and clostridium difficile is being underestimated by about 20 per cent, one of the country’s leading authorities on superbugs has said. Official figures put the number of deaths from the two infections at about 8,000 a year.

Mark Enright, a professor of molecular epidemiology at London’s Imperial College, said the number of deaths from MRSA and c.diff was significantly higher.

“I think it is at least 10,000 a year,” he said. “A lot of people are never tested for these infections and their deaths are put down to something else.”

Nearly 10 people are dying every day from c.diff, according to official figures, with even more dying from MRSA. In 2006, c.diff was recorded as the underlying cause of death for 3,490 people - a 69 per cent increase on the previous year.

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Doctors Lie on Death Certificates to Reduce “Superbug” Death Rate

From the Daily Mail, January 3, 2008:

Joan Horne once worked for the National Health Service. In her day the wards were scrubbed with bleach, while nurses washed their hands with soap and water before caring for a patient. If not, a strict matron wanted to know why.

She has never forgotten the golden era of the NHS. So when 78-year-old Joan watched Edwin, her husband of 37 years, die after catching a deadly superbug at her local hospital, she began a fight for justice.

Just before Christmas, a tape recorder in her hand, she marched off to Barnsley Hospital in Yorkshire and forced managers to admit that not only had Edwin contracted a lethal infection called Clostridium difficile (C. diff) as a patient, but that doctors failed to declare the truth on his death certificate.

Joan said: “I fear this kind of cover-up is happening at hospitals all over the country. I miss Edwin terribly, but the way we lost him and dishonesty by the hospital about the real cause of his death has made it all much worse for me and my family. I was desperate to bring Edwin home. The hospital was dirty. I found a used syringe under the bed, soiled cotton wool pads left on his floor and there were human faeces smeared on the door. Looking back, it is no surprise he caught a superbug.”

Edwin died on April 12 last year aged 82. He had been in hospital for just a fortnight after complaining of feeling frail while on holiday.

Although Edwin had suffered from rectal cancer in the past, the disease was in remission and Joan says that he was expected to make a full recovery at the hospital - until he caught C. diff.

His death, and thousands of others, lie at the heart of a growing scandal over NHS superbugs. Yesterday Tory leader David Cameron said hospitals should be fined for every patient who catches an infection on their wards. But would such a crackdown just lead to more secrecy about superbugs?

In 2006 almost 56,000 elderly hospital patients caught C. diff, which is spread by poor hygiene, dirty hands and soiled bedding. Amazingly, we still don’t know how many of these people died because the figures have not yet been released by the NHS.

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Doctor Suspected in Death of 11 Patients

From the Daily Mail, September 7, 2007:

An out-of-hours GP who killed a grandmother with an overdose of drugs could be responsible for the premature deaths of 11 other patients.

Dr Michael Stevenson, 55, is suspected of administering excessive quantities of diamorphine to a string of elderly men and women.

The former GP is already serving a suspended prison term for the manslaughter of Marjorie Wright, 57.

She died in January 2005 after he gave her a 30mg dose of diamorphine instead of 5mg after she complained of a migraine.

Yesterday a hearing at the High Court was told inquiries were continuing into at least 14 other cases linked to Stevenson.

In 11 of these, the court was told, it was “highly likely” or “possible” his actions were responsible for “accelerating the death” of those in his care.

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37,000 Deaths from Infection with Hospital “Superbugs”

From the Guardian, September 28, 2008:

Almost 37,000 NHS patients have died after catching either the MRSA or C-difficile hospital superbugs during Labour’s time in office, official figures show.

The two virulent infections claimed 36,674 lives between 1997 and 2007. Of those, 26,208 were from Clostridium difficile and 10,466 from MRSA. Numbers dying in England and Wales from C-difficile soared from 975 in 1999 to 8,324 last year, a jump of about 850 per cent, while fatalities linked to MRSA grew from 386 in 1997 to 1,593 in 2007.

Conservative shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, who obtained the figures from the Department of Health, said: ‘It’s tragic that so many patients have had their lives cut short because of Labour’s failure to do what it takes to root out hospital infections.’ He said hospitals needed to improve hygiene, introduce better prescribing of antibiotics and create more isolation facilities to stop infections spreading.

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Hospital Finance Director Fired for Refusing to Falsify Records

From the BBC, January 9, 2003:

An NHS “whistleblower”, sacked after speaking out about an alleged “fiddle” of statistics for cancelled operations is taking his case to an employment tribunal.

Ian Perkin was sacked in December from his £100,000 a year post as finance director at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London after working there for 16 years.

A letter of dismissal criticised his “management style”, though he had received a management award six months earlier.

But he had previously supported a junior colleague who had spoken out after being asked to submit inaccurate figures for the number of cancelled operations.

The junior colleague said although the actual figure was 23, she was told to return a figure of zero.

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Doctors Place DNR on Charts Patients Without Consent

From the BBC, June 27, 2000:

Doctors have called for US-style consent forms to be introduced to ensure patients agree before a decision is made not to resuscitate them.

In the US, patients are required to sign a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order when entering hospital if they do not wish to be resuscitated.

In Britain, doctors are recommended to seek the consent of patients before placing a DNR order on their medical notes or deciding not to resuscitate.

But doctors at the BMA annual conference have suggested that the current policy could be strengthened to require doctors to obtain the written consent of patients before placing DNR orders.

The matter has been referred to the BMA’s medical ethics committee for a decision.

While the BMA recommends that doctors discuss the issue with patients, it is understood that many fail to.

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