Monday, July 02, 2007

British medical bureaucrats defeated

Individualist doctor too successful -- and hounded because of it. My post of Jan. 23rd. details just how evil this witchhunt was

The head of the Government's fertility watchdog was under pressure last night to resign after raids on the clinics of Britain's most successful IVF doctor were ruled unlawful, leaving the regulator facing a legal bill that could exceed 1 million pounds. Warrants authorising the search of Mohammed Taranissi's two London premises in January were quashed yesterday by the High Court, after the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) admitted that it had presented insufficient evidence to justify them. It had been investigating claims that the doctor had practised illegally without a licence.

The authority has agreed to pay most of Mr Taranissi's costs, which his lawyers estimate at 1.2 million - more than a tenth of the regulator's annual expenditure of 11.3 million - and its own costs are also thought to be substantial. As the HFEA is funded by the Department of Health and fees from clinics, the bill will be passed on ultimately to taxpayers and private infertility patients.

The HFEA's humiliation led senior doctors, MPs and patient groups to question the position of Angela McNab, the chief executive who ordered the raids and applied for the warrants. Lord Winston, the prominent fertility expert, said: "This is further evidence of the complete incompetence of the HFEA and the need for the workings of this organisation to be radically reviewed. With the loss of this amount of public money, the chief executive . . . will presumably need to consider [her] position." Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP, said: "There is a real question as to whether the admitted inadequacy in her evidence when obtaining the warrants and the error of judgment in failing to settle the case until now means that the chief executive's position is untenable."

Mark Hamilton, chairman of the British Fertility Society, which represents IVF professionals, asked the Department of Health to conduct a formal inquiry. "The regulator needs to be accountable, and it needs to maintain the trust and confidence of the sector," he said. "In this case, this has not happened. It is a matter of grave concern that so much money has been spent on something that has ultimately come to nothing."

The High Court ruling may also influence an HFEA hearing on July 13 that will consider the original allegations against Mr Taranissi and that could withdraw his licence to treat patients. His lawyers said yesterday that they would be applying for the return of all the documents that were seized illegally. The HFEA applied to search Mr Taranissi's clinics in January on the same day that a BBC Panorama documentary alleged that he had treated patients without a licence, a criminal offence. The authority was widely criticised by doctors for appearing to co-operate with the programme.

In March Mr Taranissi was granted permission to seek judicial review of the warrants, which he argued were "unjustified, disproportionate and unlawful". The High Court rejected a further claim that the HFEA had acted out of improper purpose.

Mr Taranissi said yesterday: "The events in January of this year were hugely distressing for those of our patients and staff who witnessed them. "I am obviously very pleased about the outcome, but continue to be dismayed that our regulatory body saw fit to present to the magistrates on the day of the raids information described by a judge at an earlier hearing as seriously defective and highly misleading. "The cost to the taxpayer of this exercise must be enormous. It grieves me that money, estimated to be in excess of 1 million, which could have been spent on research or genuine issues of patient safety has instead ended up in the pockets of the lawyers. "The whole episode raises serious public interest questions about the way the HFEA acted in this case."

The authority insisted the ruling would not affect its licence committee hearing on Mr Taranissi. "We would wish to stress that the HFEA acted in good faith, and on advice," a spokeswoman said. "Our aim is to protect patient safety and ensure patient choice and we regret any distress that may have been caused to Mr Taranissi's patients." Ms McNab was not available for comment.


Diagnostic testing of children in trouble because an Australian State government is too mean to pay public hospital staff properly

A LEADING radiographer has revealed how severe staff shortages are putting public hospital patients at risk. Ben Kennedy resigned from the Royal Brisbane Children's Hospital last month because working for Queensland Health left him "burnt out" and unable to work safely. Speaking for the first time since resigning, the 35-year-old said patients were waiting too long for scans, and radiographers were suffering from working long hours with constant on-call commitments.

He said he was forced to work on-call for up to eight weeks at a time, sometimes finishing at 2am and starting again at 7am. "It's the equivalent of being drunk at work," said Mr Kennedy, who starts a new job tomorrow at a private radiology clinic. "You're dealing with critically ill patients, like babies with tumours, and if I had made a mistake because of tiredness, I would be the one who would be burned for it. "I had no choice but to work because there was no one else, but in the end I had to let my feet do the talking."

Mr Kennedy was one of two radiographers qualified to use the state's only pediatric MRI scanner. He set up the service two years ago, enabling thousands of children to receive diagnoses. His departure has left hospital bosses desperately trying to find a replacement. Mr Kennedy said Queensland Health had failed to provide other staff to undertake the three-month training program because of shortages. Queensland Health is suffering from a severe shortage of radiographers. At the Royal Brisbane Hospital there is a shortfall of about 17 staff. Radiographers warned more than a year ago they would walk out unless wages were increased by 40 per cent, in line with other states.

Mr Kennedy said more staff would follow him by the end of the year unless an agreement was met. "The work we do is taken for granted," he said. "Nothing in the hospital can happen without imaging, but the Government doesn't realise this. "A high percentage of children end up going for lifesaving surgery because of what our scans detect. Instead of recognising this, the Government goes around telling everyone we are just on a big money-grab, and if we blow the whistle and speak to the press then they can sack us."

Mr Kennedy started his career at Queensland Health in 1993, and has also worked at a public hospital in London. "In the UK, they went out on a limb to keep radiographers," he said. "They sent me on courses to further my education and did a great job trying to retain their staff. "Queensland Health does not adequately acknowledge the specialised skills that many radiographers have, or the years of postgraduate study required to do this work. "It is just all about crisis management and throwing a heap of money at something when it goes really wrong."

Queensland Health is in wage negotiations with unions representing radiographers. A Government spokesman denied radiographers were overworked or that there was a staff shortage. "Radiography staffing levels are determined on the basis of patient demand and the need to deliver safe, timely services," he said.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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