Monday, March 30, 2009

Bungling NHS hospital overdose leaves girl, 3, fighting for her life

A girl of three is fighting for her life after doctors allegedly gave her a massive overdose by accident. Renee Healey was given double the prescribed dose of drugs by doctors treating her kidney condition at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital in Pendlebury, her family claims.

Renee, from Wythenshawe, in south Manchester, was transferred to the intensive care ward on Wednesday and is now in a critical condition after her kidneys failed and she was put on dialysis. Her parents, Tina and Clive, are staying with her in the hospital, where she is on a life-support machine to help her breathe.

Renee was diagnosed 18 months ago with a condition in which tiny filtering units in the kidneys are damaged. Renee’s grandmother, June McKerrall, said her granddaughter was given an overdose of a drug that helps purify the blood, causing her lungs to fill up with fluid which nearly killed her. She said: ‘We can’t understand how someone could make a mistake like that with a child’s life.’

A spokeswoman for the hospital said that the incident was being investigated.


UK: NHS told to curb staff sickness

The NHS should be doing more to tackle staff sickness and promote workplace health, a think tank says. Reform, a right-of-centre group, said the health service was "shooting itself in the foot" by not making more use of the expertise it has in its workforce. Figures show NHS staff take on average nearly 12 days off sick a year, while the rate is 7.2 in the private sector.

Unions said services could be improved, but there were valid reasons why NHS workers took more time off. A spokeswoman for Unison said: "Occupational health is certainly lacking in places, but the NHS is a unique workplace. "For example, we can't have staff going on the wards after they have had things like vomiting bugs."

But Reform said there was still a lot more the health service could be doing. The group highlighted the work done by private firms such as BT which has introduced 24-hour counselling services, lunchtime exercise classes and workplace health advisers. Over the past four years, sickness rates have fallen by a sixth among its 100,000-strong workforce. The think-tank said if the NHS followed the lead of private firms it could reduce its £3bn annual sickness bill by a third.

Reform's report said as the biggest employer in Europe the NHS should be taking a lead and helping its 1.3m staff get back into work when they are ill. But instead it has one of the worst records in the public sector and has long-term absence rates that were two-thirds higher than the private sector.

The report comes after the annual NHS staff survey found nearly half felt they were overstretched and unable to do their jobs properly. Helen Rainbow, one of the co-authors of the study, said: "Stress is a big factor in NHS sickness. There is a lot more it could be doing to help its staff and this in turn will improve its productivity. "The problem is the culture in the NHS is quite reactive, it is shooting itself in the foot when you think of the kind of people it employs."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The government takes the health of NHS staff seriously. "In January, we announced a review to examine the health of NHS staff and gather evidence to start delivering improvements across the board."


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