Thursday, August 20, 2009

NHS ordered to pay £100,000 to family of Alzheimer’s sufferer Judith Roe

Rather unbelievably, Britain's "caring" government bureaucrats claimed that Alzheimer's was not a health problem!

The family of an Alzheimer’s sufferer have won a legal battle to reclaim more than £100,000 in care home fees that the local NHS trust had refused to pay because it claimed that her condition was not health related. Health authorities had ruled that Judith Roe, who died aged 74 last October, did not qualify for NHS funding because her condition was deemed to be a social rather than a health problem. As a result, she was forced to sell the home that she had lived in for 30 years for £170,000 to pay for her £600-a-week nursing home fees.

Her family began a five-year legal battle to reclaim the money and the Health Service Ombudsman has now ordered NHS Worcestershire to repay them more than £100,000.

Yesterday Mrs Roe’s son, Richard, 40, urged other families in a similar situation to fight for the care they are entitled to. He said: “The way the health trust behaved was scandalous. It has been very stressful. All the time we were told we were wrong while believing we were right. ”They told me I should count myself lucky because there are people that are more ill than my mother, which was an outrageous thing to say. "I want anyone else going through a similar experience to know they may be entitled to care. Even if they’re being told they’re not entitled, they should fight for it. With us, they made a mistake. They did not carry out their duties properly.”

Mrs Roe, a retired church warden and school teacher, was cared for in The Firs care home and then Henwick Grange Nursing Home, both in Worcester. Her care should have been funded by NHS Worcestershire Primary Care Trust. Mrs Roe died at Worcestershire Royal Hospital on October 30 last year from a combination of pneumonia and physical and mental deterioration as a result of Alzheimer's.

Mr Roe, a manager for Homebase in Telford, Shropshire, said: ”We became very angry because the primary care trust was very arrogant and unhelpful. They took a long time to respond to letters and requests for information.”

Under English law, elderly people must pay for their own residential care unless their needs are health related, even though it is provided free in Scotland. The Health Service Ombudsman upheld the family’s appeal and awarded them the costs of Mrs Roe's care on June 23, eight months after her death.

Paul Bates, chief executive of NHS Worcestershire, which has replaced NHS Worcestershire Primary Care Trust, said: “Decisions around eligibility for continuing NHS care are extremely complex and difficult, even though we have national guidance to assist us. ”The line between the need for healthcare and social care is a very thin one indeed, but the impact for the individual is the difference between free care and care which is means tested. “We would not wish to see Mrs Roe’s experience repeated and clearly there lessons for us to learn. "Mr Roe pursued his claim that the NHS should have funded his mother’s care and all the formal procedures put in place to allow families to do so were followed.”


Blunders cost the NHS £807m: Targets blamed as payouts rise by a quarter

The amount paid out by the Health Service for serious medical blunders and other accidents has soared by almost a quarter in just one year. Last year, the NHS paid out £807million - up from £661million the year before - after the number of claims against it rose. Figures obtained by the Conservative Party show that the overall number of claims has risen by 11 per cent to almost 8,900 in 2008/09.

The 22 per cent surge in payouts mirrors a huge rise in the number of patients killed by hospital blunders. Official records show that 3,645 patients died as a result of outbreaks of infections, botched operations and other mistakes in 2007/08. That was up 60 per cent from 2,275 two years before.

Critics say quality of care has suffered in the NHS over the past few years as doctors and nurses come under mounting pressure to meet Government waiting time targets. Experts say the true toll is certain to be far higher, because many hospitals do not record all 'patient safety incidents'.

About a fifth of the total paid out - some £143million - went to lawyers, rather than as compensation to victims and the families of those who died. Experts say increasing numbers of cases are being taken to court by 'no win, no fee' soliciaccidentstors, who even tout for business in A&E waiting rooms. To cover their extra risk, these 'ambulance-chasing' lawyers get more in costs if they win than would be paid in legal aid cases.

The annual report of the National Health Service Litigation Authority said that clinical claims - including claims for botched operations and wrong drugs dosages - rose by more than 11 per cent while nonclinical claims - which cover general such as falls - were up by more than 10 per cent. It added: 'We have not been able to identify any single factor that might have precipitated the rise.'

Of the 8,885 total claims made in 2008/09, less than 4 per cent will go to court, the report said. But it added: 'The costs claimed by claimant lawyers continue to be significantly higher than those incurred on our behalf by our panel defence solicitors. This remains a very significant concern for us.'

Last night, Conservative health spokesman Mark Simmonds said: 'We need a robust and fair way for patients who have received negligent treatment in an NHS hospital to get the compensation they deserve. 'Instead, we have an inefficient system which incurs vast legal costs for NHS Trusts. 'Our proposals would have required an initial "fact-finding" phase, which would then allow more cases to be resolved without costly litigation. 'But the Government missed this opportunity and as a result hospitals will now have less money to spend on patient care.'



Four current articles below. America can look forward to much the same if Obama has his way:

Federal government plan to cut its healthcare spending hits a rock

If the federal coalition wants to sink Labor's plan to cap Medicare payments for IVF treatment they've got a willing partner, with the Australian Greens declaring they'll vote against the change. The Rudd government wants to cap reimbursement for a range of items under the extended Medicare safety net - including IVF and obstetric services - in order to save $258 million over four years.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon argues Labor is cracking down on excessive fees being charged by specialists, and the changes won't affect patients charged $6,000 or less for IVF treatment.

But the Greens says the extended safety net is itself inflationary and they'll oppose Labor's changes in the Senate. "While the Greens understand the intent of the proposed changes is to reduce the costs to the public purse, we are not convinced that the government's approach will be effective," health spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said in a statement. "(Labor's) legislation is a half-way house - it only addresses part of the problem and will introduce another set of inequities."

Senator Siewert said the extended safety net advantaged those who could afford to pay upfront fees, and encouraged specialists to raise their prices. It was an "inflationary measure", she said. "The government's amendments are simply to use patients to pressure specialists to reduce their fees, which is unfair to the patients, and ultimately likely to prove ineffective in reducing the burden of unnecessary costs on the public purse."

Earlier today, the coalition announced it would join forces with Family First's Steve Fielding and independent senator Nick Xenophon to delay a vote on the changes. It will move an amendment in the Senate to stymie debate until the government tables regulations outlining exactly who'll pay what under the new scheme.

The upper house was expected to debate Labor's legislation this week, but with senators still thrashing out changes to renewable energy targets there's now a possibility it will be deferred until September.


Labor Party's attack on private health insurance set for Senate defeat

THE Federal Government is set to add another potential early election trigger to its arsenal, with the Senate likely to vote down its changes to the private health insurance rebate this week. The Opposition vowed to block the move earlier this year because it breaks a Labor election pledge, and key cross-bench senators Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding are now indicating they'll also vote against the measure.

On Tuesday, the Senate defeated Labor's draft laws which would have allowed universities to charge students a compulsory $250 services and amenities fee. Last week, the Rudd Government's emissions trading scheme was also voted down in the upper house. If defeated Bills are reintroduced after three months and again voted down the Government can call an early election.

Under Labor's changes to private health insurance, the 30 per cent rebate will be means-tested for individuals earning more than $75,000 a year and couples earning more than $150,000 a year. In a double whammy, the wealthy will also be hit with a higher Medicare levy surcharge if they opt out of private cover.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon says it would be "fiscally irresponsible'' for the Coalition to sink the changes, which are expected to raise $1.9 billion over four years. "I don't think that people think it's appropriate for secretaries and nurses to be funding the private health insurance of millionaires,'' she told ABC Radio on Wednesday. "Why is that a good use of public money.''

But Family First's Steve Fielding says the changes undermine families, because they don't take account of how many children are in the household. "I won't be supporting the Rudd Government's proposal to means-test the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate because it's unfair to families,'' Senator Fielding said in a statement. "Under the Government's proposal, a couple with no children on $149,000 will be eligible for the full rebate, while a family of five with a household income of $150,000 would have their rebate reduced. This makes no sense and undermines the family.'' Senator Fielding said he was happy to negotiate with the Government "but the health minister is yet to get back to me''.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon insists he can't support the move until the findings of a Productivity Commission report are released later this year. "The Government made an explicit election promise not to change the rebate,'' he said today. "That's something that people relied on at the last election. I think it's a question of trust.''

The Australian Greens support means-testing the private health insurance rebate but not the surcharge hike. "The Medicare levy surcharge unfairly penalises people who have chosen not to take out private health insurance and support the public health system,'' health spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said in a statement. "The Government is targeting conscientious objectors.'' Senator Siewert said the Greens would move to split the bills so the Senate could vote on each measure separately.


Another state-of-the-art government hospital

DOCTORS at one of Sydney's oldest hospitals are demanding the State Government urgently rebuild what they claim is ''a slum'', with possum urine on the walls and dangerous cabling snaking across the floors in the operating theatres. More than 40 senior clinicians at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital have called for a meeting with the Health Minister, John Della Bosca, in a bid to have the hospital renovated before it becomes too unsafe for staff and patients.

Doctors say most of the operating theatres lack emergency arrest buttons, forcing nurses to yell for help; the theatres are too small for modern equipment, which blocks hallways; and wires hang from ceilings and cables run across the floors, putting staff at risk of electrocution. Some ceilings had collapsed from rain damage and possum nests were found near wards.

''It is offensive and medieval,'' the hospital's clinical director of surgery and anaesthetics, Pip Middleton, said yesterday. ''This hospital serves a burgeoning population of young and old with new housing developments everywhere and is on the crossroads of major freeways, yet we have a significant issue with ageing infrastructure.''

Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital admits about 18,000 people a year and has more than 1500 staff, but its physical condition was ''one of the worst in the state'', the chairman of the medical staff council, Richard Harris, said. ''It is really 19th-century stuff. The only thing that keeps this place going is the goodwill and expertise of the staff.''

It was one of the few in NSW without a coronary care unit, despite research 60 years ago that mortality rates from cardiac arrest were halved if patients were treated in a specialist unit rather than a medical ward, Jason Sharp, a cardiologist, said.

The executive clinical director and head of rehabilitation and aged care, Sue Kurrle, said most of the hospital was ''slum-like and primitive with patients living cheek-by-jowl''. ''There is no privacy, there are holes in the floor, possum wee on the walls. Staff have to jostle to look at the one computer on each ward to get blood test and X-ray results. It is simply third-rate.'' The geriatric and rehabilitation wards survived on bequests from former patients, she said. ''We'd be living in a slum like the rest of the hospital if it wasn't for that money.''

A spokeswoman for Mr Della Bosca said staff had been given $1.3 million for maintenance last year and $21 million had gone towards a building to house a new emergency department and maternity ward. The chief executive of the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service, Matthew Daly, will meet doctors today.


The difference one dedicated doctor can make

There should be such a facility in every capital city. If needed, fire a bureaucrat to pay for it. Strokes are very common and it is a scandal if people are left needlessly disabled by them

BRITISH tourist Jean Pollock would be severely paralysed - if not dead - if she had not had her brain "vacuum cleaned" at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Instead of a life of disability, she is looking forward to resuming her holiday after Lotto-sized odds allowed her to shrug off a devastating stroke.

Ms Pollock, 53, flew in from Glasgow planning to surprise relatives by turning up unannounced at her sister-in-law's 50th birthday party in Bendigo this weekend. While visiting friends in Lockleys on Wednesday morning she suddenly slumped, her left arm and leg paralysed, her face droopy and her vision affected. A huge blood clot had blocked an artery in the right side of her brain - a stroke.

Serendipity stepped in. Her friends were aware enough to immediately call an ambulance. Being in Lockleys meant she was in the QEH catchment. The ambulance officers were trained to recognise stroke and called ahead to alert the QEH stroke unit. As seconds played out, the stroke team swung into action, knowing time was as tough an enemy as the clot itself.

On arrival at the QEH, Ms Pollock was quickly assessed with tests including CT scans which confirmed a blood clot in her brain, and that she was clinically eligible for the clot-busting drug tPA. The streamlined stroke management team ensured she had the drug within the mandated three-hour time limit from the onset of stroke. But as one of the 40 per cent of patients on whom the drug doesn't have the desired effect, Ms Pollock faced a future of having her left side paralysed from stroke - or even death.

Serendipity, however, meant she had been brought to one of only two hospitals in Australia with the Penumbra Device, the other being Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital. The QEH has quietly worked to have its stroke unit equipped and trained as an internationally-recognised centre of excellence. Unit head Dr Jim Jannes had seen the Penumbra Device during a conference in Barcelona, and after checking its potential had successfully lobbied to have the $60,000 device installed at the QEH. Since February, two women suffering strokes had been treated by the machine, improving their recovery, although each still faces lengthy rehabilitation.

On Wednesday morning, with the clot-busting drug not working, Ms Pollock was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to allow one more treatment option - the Penumbra Device. Interventional radiologists Steve Chryssidis and Ruben Sebben used the machine to carefully guide a catheter up arteries from Ms Pollock's groin all the way to her brain, while she was conscious. When it reached the clot a probe gently broke up the clot and it was sucked down the tube, clearing the blockage. "There was a big clot blocking her artery and killing her brain - we went in and just vacuumed it out," Dr Chryssidis said.

Dr Jannes said the stroke team weighed up the situation and decided the chance to restore a good quality of life to Ms Pollock outweighed the substantial risks of the procedure. "She went from being paralysed to giving me the thumbs up from the operating table when the procedure was over," Dr Jannes said. "There is nothing more successful than a complete recovery. She would have been left paralysed, possibly dead, if we had not been able to offer her other treatment."

Ms Pollock faces several days of tests but is expected to be released from hospital early this week, fully recovered. "Someone was looking after me - I get goosebumps just thinking about the odds of what might have happened if I had been somewhere else," she said."You have an absolute jewel in the QEH, you should be proud of the work they do."


Democrat rift threatens to doom Barack Obama's healthcare reforms

After weeks of fierce protests against his plans to reform the US healthcare system, President Obama faced revolt inside his own party yesterday amid accusations that he was surrendering to its vociferous opponents. The powerful liberal wing on Capitol Hill threatened to withdraw support for Mr Obama’s healthcare legislation if it did not include a government-run insurance programme — something he has appeared willing to abandon in recent days to try to garner Republican support. However, fiscally conservative Democrats appeared increasingly opposed to the “public option”, leaving Mr Obama with the potential for a dangerous split in the Democratic Party that could doom the legislation.

The eruption of such a fight among Democrats underscored the huge challenge Mr Obama faces in getting legislation passed. It is the centrepiece of his domestic agenda and an issue on which he has spent enormous political capital. Yet despite his efforts, voters are increasingly opposed to the idea of reform amid concerns about its huge cost.

For months Mr Obama has insisted that a government-run programme must be included in his effort to reform the health industry because it was the only way to give private insurance companies the competition needed to reduce soaring costs.

The scheme is opposed fiercely by Republicans, who claim it is too costly and will eventually lead to a solely government-run healthcare system. The conservative “Blue Dog” Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives is also unconvinced by the idea, and without its support the legislation could fail to pass the lower chamber.

In an effort to peel away more Republicans and assuage Blue Dog concerns, Mr Obama appeared to suggest at the weekend that a public option was not essential, describing it as only a “sliver” of his reform plans. His Health Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, also hinted that the White House was open to dropping the idea.

The reaction from liberals was furious, with one Democratic congressman, Anthony Weiner, saying that without the option Mr Obama could lose 100 votes in the lower chamber, a reaction that would kill any Bill. Yesterday 60 House Democrats sent a letter to Ms Sebelius warning that without a government-run option the legislation would fail. “To take the public option off the table would be a grave error; passage in the House of Representatives depends upon inclusion of it,” the letter declared.

A bipartisan group of six senators trying to reach a deal on the troubled legislation has been pushing the idea of healthcare “co-operatives” as an alternative to a government-run programme. The co-ops would be non-profit, consumer-owned providers of healthcare — yet the idea is so ill defined that Republicans remain unimpressed by it, while liberals decry it.

More here

Legal experts and Civil Rights Commission attack Obama health-care plan as unconstitutional

Constitutional law professor Rob Natelson argues that Obama’s health-care plan is unconstitutional in four different ways. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says that the racial preferences and quotas contained in ObamaCare are likely unconstitutional. Professor Natelson says that ObamaCare is unconstitutional because:

“1. It is not based on any enumerated power of Congress, not even on a very expansive reading of the power to regulate interstate commerce.

2. It relies on Excessive Delegation of the type held unconstitutional in Schechter Poultry.

3. It violates Substantive Due Process, and interferes with doctor-patient medical decisions to a vastly greater extent than did the laws declared unconstitutional in Roe v. Wade.

4. It violates the Tenth Amendment by commandeering state governments.”

(However, commenters in response to Professor Natel’s post argue that by the time any challenge to ObamaCare reaches the Supreme Court, Obama will have packed the court with liberal justices who are unsympathetic to such arguments).

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has criticized the racial preferences in the health-care bill backed by Obama, saying that they are likely unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s Adarand decision, which subjected race-based affirmative action to “strict scrutiny” and barred federal racial preferences absent evidence that they are needed to remedy intentional past discrimination by the government. (In cases like Rothe Development Corp. v. Department of Defense and the Western States Paving case, the courts have sometimes struck down federal affirmative-action plans sponsored by liberal lawmakers, citing the Supreme Court’s Adarand decision. ObamaCare goes even further in mandating the use of race than past affirmative action plans.)

Fact checkers say Obama is lying about health care. ObamaCare will cost far more than its predicted trillion-dollar price tag.

One of Obama’s own advisers says the Obama Administration’s health-care plan will harm people with insurance while raising their taxes. Obamacare will take away 5 important freedoms, notes a CNN commentary. It will also destroy many affordable health-care plans while breaking Obama’s campaign promises.



Co-ops: A “public option” by another name : “The real issue has never been the ‘public option’ on its own. The issue is whether the government will take over the U.S. health care system, controlling many of our most important, personal, and private decisions. Even without a public option, the bills in Congress would make Americans pay higher taxes and higher premiums, while government bureaucrats determine what insurance benefits they must have and, ultimately, what care they can receive, says Tanner. ObamaCare was a bad idea with an explicit ‘public option.’ It is still a bad idea without one, explains Tanner.”

When will the health-care debate start? : “I’m waiting for the health-care debate to start. The preliminaries have been spirited and loud, but how about a debate? You may think there’s been a debate, but if you’d been listening carefully, you’d realize it’s a fake, like professional wrestling. To be of value a real debate requires fundamental disagreement. But this pseudo-debate is between one side, led by President Obama, that wants more government control than the large amount we already have, and another, the Republicans, that thinks we already have the right amount.”

A four-step healthcare solution : “It’s true that the US health-care system is a mess, but this demonstrates not market but government failure. To cure the problem requires not different or more government regulations and bureaucracies, as self-serving politicians want us to believe, but the elimination of all existing government controls. It’s time to get serious about health-care reform. Tax credits, vouchers, and privatization will go a long way toward decentralizing the system and removing unnecessary burdens from business.”

Obama kills health competition : “President Obama has repeatedly said that one of his ‘reform’ goals is to increase ‘competition and choice’ in the US health-care system — but the policies he’s pursuing would actually reduce competition and give consumers fewer choices. Meanwhile, he’s ignoring reforms that would bring more choices and competition. The nation now has some 1,300 insurance companies, but most consumers actually have far fewer choices. An American Medical Association survey found that in 299 of 313 largest metro areas, one insurer controls at least 30 percent of the market.”

America’s socialized health care: “Health-care systems in most developed nations are in financial trouble. Health benefits are being cut back because of exploding costs. Degenerative illnesses such as diabetes and cancer are at epidemic levels in spite of new drugs and treatments. While doctors, politicians, and insurers blame each other, they rarely mention the real problem. Skyrocketing costs are due to the structure of health care in all these nations. All are mainly socialized, including America’s.”

Criticising the NHS is not treason : “The deification of this creaking, bloated and massively over-rated money pit has always mystified me. But its reputation as an untouchable and glorious institution is set in stone and, for better or worse, it’s here to stay.”

NHS: No Health Statism : “No system is perfect. But the furthest you can get from perfection is a government controlled monopoly, such as education or healthcare. So it’s no wonder to find the people who are culpable for what passes for healthcare provision defending it to the hilt, as if it was flawless, and claiming that those who criticize it are, ‘un-patriotic’ …. A healthcare system where users don’t have to wait, drugs aren’t rationed, care is not substandard and you’re not more likely to leave with disease rather than a cure is all people request. What we get is the opposite: and to deny that fact (as Cameron et al. have) is to deny us a proper discussion about how our system needs overhauling. The remote political class are trampling over our desire to discuss the problems we face on a daily basis, a fact made even more galling because undoubtedly the majority of them will hold private health insurance.”

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