Bill's Archived Comments

Week beginning Monday, 15th January 2001


Social Services Fail a Little Girl - But 'Suspension' is the Only Sanction so Far

Haringey (a suburb of London) social services face justified public opprobrium for the callous indifference with which they monitored the conditions under which seven year old Anna Climbie lived and, little more than a year after her arrival here from the Ivory Coast to fulfil her parents' wish that she should have a better life, died. On the two occasions it is reported she was taken to a hospital, prior to her death, the first was by a carer employed by the aunt who was concerned about the child's condition, but this was diagnosed as self-inflicted scratching (to relieve the itching of scabies) and she was sent home. The second was shortly after, by the aunt, and her explanation for the child's condition (self-inflicted scalding) was accepted, despite the misgivings of some staff members. On the final occasion she was taken to hospital, it was by a cab driver who, ignoring the wishes of her aunt and the aunt's boyfriend, took them directly to an ambulance station. He had picked them up after leaving the church she had been taken to so that 'evil spirits' could be exorcised, but they had said she should be taken to a hospital.

It is reported that the social worker has been suspended. Why has she not been arrested? Until social services employees are forced to take responsibility for their actions (inactions in this case) I doubt very much that scandals such as this will not recur.

On past occasions when children have been killed by abuse in Britain, public inquiries and internal reviews have asserted: "This must never happen again."

The cases of Maria Colwell (killed in 1973), Jasmine Beckford (killed in 1984), Tyra Henry (killed in 1984), Heidi Koseda (1985), Kimberley Carlile (1986), Lauren Creed (1997), Philip Martin (1997), the many others not named and now Anna Climbie (2000) deserve some action - NOW!!!!!

(You can read an update on this story, written in early October 2001, by clicking here. There is a further update in January 2003, to coincide with the publication of the Lamy Inquiry report on the affair.)

NHS Waiting Lists are Down (so we are told), But Horror Stories Abound

Richard Neal was told at the beginning of October 2000 that whilst he had cancer of the oesophagus his condition was treatable and the prognosis was good. He waited five weeks for an ultrasound, though he was known by october 4 already to have had difficulty in swallowing for at least three months. This was delayed for two weeks because of lack of holiday cover. His treatment was to begin on 12 December, but by that time the cancer had spread to his right lung. Instead of having been treated at once, he was then admitted, but died four days later. His brother Joe said: "Naturally we have grown up to trust the NHS. It is unbelievable that such a delay took place when cancer of the oesophagus was involved - one that spreads so quickly." It is unbelievable, but it is happening in Britain today.

In another case 52-year old Brenda Marshall, who had Down's Syndrome, died of pneumonia after nine hours on a hospital trolley. Her stepfather, Mr Bernard Lamicher, from the Isle of Sheppey, said: "We have no faith in the NHS here. Mr Blair has let us down. He wants to come our here into the country and see for himself how it is."

A leading cancer specialist says: "We struggle every day in the NHS. I have patients sent to me seven, eight, nine months on, when I should have seen them in six weeks at the most. I saw one patient recently with a rare cancer that affects maybe 40 people a year - yet I couldn't get the hospital to pay for the drugs she needed."

In its 1997 manifesto, the Labour Party pledged to reduce hospital waiting lists by 100,000. On the face of it, it has achieved its goal. On March 31, 1997, 1,158,000 people were on the waiting lists; the latest figure just released was 1,021,000. However, an analysis by Maurice Fitzpatrick, the head of economics at Chantrey Velacott DFK, a City accountancy firm, shows that a superficial reading belies the facts. During the past four years, the number of people on the waiting list was on average 10 per cent higher than over the last five years of the Conservative government (1,135,000 versus 1,045,000). The cost has been a 75% increase in the average numbers on the waiting lists to see a consultant. Under the Tories, this was 238,000 at any one time. Under Labour, the average has been 420,000 .

Last week, Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary, announced an extra £87 million over four years for certain types of cancer care, including oesophageal cancer. All of which is little comfort to Joe Neal, who has lost a brother. Or to all the others whom the NHS has let down. Mr Neal said: "The situation in the NHS is desperate when patients are obliged to suffer in this way ..... It's just going to get worse and worse and more people are going to die."


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