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Private Eye

November 29, 2018

Medicine Balls, Private Eye Issue 1480, 5 October 2018
Filed under: #VoteDrPhil,Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 1:06 pm

Goodbye Hunt, Hello Hancock


Ultimately, a health secretary can only be judged by whether the health service and health of the nation was better on leaving office than entering it. On both these counts Jeremy Hunt – in post for nearly six years – does not fare well. Getting access to the NHS, and the times spent waiting for treatment,  deteriorated across the board from emergency departments to cancer care, with over 4 million on a waiting list. The gap in life expectancy, and years lived in good health, between rich and poor is as large as ever, and steady improvements in life expectancy flatlined between 2015-2017, and remain lower than in many other comparable countries.  Most alarming,  the number of babies dying within a year of being born is on the rise, from 2.6 neonatal deaths per 1,000 births in 2015 to 2.7 for every 1,000 births in 2016. The likely causes are smoking among mothers, maternal obesity, poverty, cuts to public health programs and the England-wide shortage of midwives.


Clearly not all of this was Hunt’s fault, but it seems odd such widespread failure was deemed worthy of promotion to foreign secretary. Hunt’s tenure was blighted

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September 23, 2018

Medicine Balls, Private Eye Issue 1479, 21 September 2018
Filed under: #health4all,Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 9:07 am

Suicide Isn’t Painless

September 10, in case you missed it, was World Suicide Prevention Day. Each year 6,000 people in the UK, and 800,000 worldwide, take their lives so there is clearly plenty of prevention to be done. Each suicide has a profound effect on those it leaves behind, with around forty people severely affected, and more following celebrity deaths. A study which examined news reports covering the suicide of Robin Williams identified a 10% increase in people taking their lives in the months following his death. This places a lot of pressure on the media as to how they report suicide.

My father, a wonderful warm and witty academic chemist, took his life when I was seven and my brother was nine. It was not easy or painless. He used a deeply unpleasant and painful method for reasons I can never know. My mother thought he’d had a heart attack and told us that. When the truth emerged at a post-mortem, we were shielded from it for 30 years. As a result, a young ‘MD’ worried a little about his heart but not about his mind. I made it through medical school, the junior doctor years and as far

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September 18, 2018

Medicine Balls, Private Eye Issue 1478, 7 September 2018
Filed under: Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 7:35 am

Court Unawares

One key lesson from the wrongful erasure of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba is that lawyers are even more prone than  doctors to draw wildly contradictory conclusions based on the same evidence. In a rare show on unanimity, the Appeal Court judges Ian Burnett, Terence Etherton and Anne Rafferty, agreed that Lord Justice Ouseley and the GMC legal team lead by Ivan Hare QC had reached entirely the wrong conclusions and hence verdict in the High Court on January 28. The GMC should never have challenged the decision to suspend and retrain Dr Bawa-Garba made by its own Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, as she was a conscientious doctor who was no more a risk to patients than any other conscientious doctor. Why Lord Justic Ouseley wasn’t able to deduce this is something of a mystery.

Since January, the GMC has been busily doing the rounds trying to blame its draconian pursuit of Bawa-Garba on its legal advice. As retiring chair Sir Terence Stephenson put it; ‘If you take external advice from the QC, and they say the tribunal has erred in law, and if you then don’t appeal, you’re setting a precedent. In that sense you have no choice, because

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September 9, 2018

Medicine Balls, Private Eye Issue 1477, 24 August 2018
Filed under: Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 10:00 am

A convenient scapegoat

Was the General Medical Council merely grossly incompetent in pursuing Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba through the courts to strike her off following the death of six-year-old Jack Adcock on 18 February 2011? Or is it complicit in a wider cover-up of where accountability should lie? An internal investigation by Leicester Royal Infirmary admitted “79 domains of systemic failure” in Jack’s death, and made 23 recommendations, including that the consultant on call for emergencies should review all the new admissions in person (something that was already happening in units providing a decent standard of consultant-led care).

Dr Bawa-Garba made a serious error, which she openly admitted, in not recognising the significance of Jack’s very abnormal admission blood test results, which made a diagnosis of sepsis more likely. However, her consultant Stephen O’Riordan made an even more serious error – given his seniority, experience and responsibility – in failing to spot that same risk of sepsis. He was told the abnormal pH of 7.084 and the fact that the blood lactate concentration was high, and wrote them down in his notebook. At that moment, the overriding duty of care for Jack was passed from junior doctor to consultant, and O’Riordan became

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Medicine Balls, Private Eye Issue 1476, 10 August 2018
Filed under: Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 9:58 am

Tiredness and Overwork can be Lethal

MD’s first ever Eye Column (Eye 785 17/1/92) featuredjunior doctor Chris Johnstone ‘who won the right to sue Bloomsbury health authority for subjecting him to a particularly onerous obstetrics job.  Johnstone had taken his decision after falling asleep at the wheel: he used a portable EEG to measure his cerebral activity during a 48 hour shift and found that he was registering sleep waves while sewing women up after labour. Despite his high court victory, the job remained the same and the doctor who followed him spent time in intensive care after a paracetamol overdose.’

Like many junior doctors at the time, MD made catastrophic errors while overworked and sleep deprived, and drove his car off the road after an 81 hour shift. Several colleagues committed suicide during or after such long shifts, and it became clear that poor judgement, exhaustion and mood disturbance caused by sleep deprivation and work related stress was contributing to the deaths of doctors and their patients. 30 years ago, junior doctors were paid just a third of the standard rate for overtime, so it was much cheaper to make one work 120 hours a week than to hire

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