Showing posts tagged with: 'health secretary'


Headed paper

Sat 10th May 2008 by Ben Palmer.

I had a letter from my MP yesterday. I'd had a meeting with her a while ago, and we've exchanged several letters and emails. She, along with other parliamentarians, is committed to helping Jessica's Trust, and wrote to Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary to ask for a meeting. His reply was attached to the letter.

Although he didn't say yes or no to the meeting, his letter was encouraging: pointing out that I had already met with the National Clinical Lead for Maternal Health and Maternity Services, had had a productive meeting and have an open line of dialogue.

What was really encouraging to hear, on headed paper, was that "We value highly the work of Jessica's Trust" and that he hopes that the Trust will "play an even greater role in reducing the number of deaths from [childbed fever]" based on the existing relationship with the Department of Health.

I'm encouraged as this is a much more positive governmental acceptance of the need to do something about childbed fever than I have had to date. I believe that there is the desire for change, even if it is taking Jessica's name to achieve.

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Power to you, Mums

Tue 19th Feb 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Never under estimate the power of the Internet, or of mums.

My sister in law very kindly posted a request for help with our awareness survey on a very busy Mums website earlier this afternoon.

The response has been absolutely fantastic: in seven hours well over 100 people have filled in the survey form and the website has been busier than in ages.

The information so far is:

a) extremely useful
b) very interesting
c) anonymous (so please add your honest response as well)

What really touch me are the comments added on the response forms. They're under wraps, but let me just say that I feel encouraged, supported and useful.

There's no official end to the survey as yet, but at some point I will be showing the overall results to some big decision makers, to illustrate the need for a change of attitude, so please, add your voice and help us make changes - we don't want any more unnecessary tragedies.

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Dying to be a mother

Sun 2nd Dec 2007 by Ben Palmer.

CEMACH's latest triennial report, now called 'Saving Mothers' Lives' is due to be launched on Tuesday. As I heard on Friday, the Independent on Sunday has seen an advance copy of its findings.

The bottom line is that, overall, maternal deaths are up 13% from 261 (2000-02) to 295, and deaths from genital tract sepsis are up by a staggering 38%, from 13 to 18. The full Independent on Sunday article, Mothers at risk: Britain's real labour crisis, is on their website to read.

There seems to be some confusion within the government about the true picture - the Health minister, Ann Keen, seems to think that this means we have a death rate of 7 per 100,000 pregnancies, but the real figure is 13.95 per 100,000. How much longer can they keep burying their heads in the sand?

We need to take control, as parents, and show the NHS and government that we are not prepared to slide further into this third world state, and that no more unnecessary maternal deaths are acceptable.

I encourage you to write to your MP and let your feelings be known.

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The petition's response

Wed 14th Nov 2007 by Ben Palmer.

At long last the Government has posted its response to the petition I started seven months ago.

I never expected there to be any sort of substance to it, but even so it is still alarmingly arrogant:

"Maternal deaths in the UK are extremely rare. Each is a tragedy, which is why the Government takes any maternal deaths seriously and funds the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths (CEMD). Each avoidable maternal death is one too many."

Funding the CEMD is not actually taking action. The CEMD only produces a report of recommendations. With regard to sepsis, it has been making the same recommendations in report after report, to little or no effect. The incidence of sepsis/childbed fever/puerperal fever/whatever you care to call it has been rising since 1984, and a worrying number of healthcare professionals are ignorant of its cause, symptoms and devastating outcome.

"In the last published report of the CEMD for 2000-02, only five of the 13 women who died from infection, out of more than the 2million who delivered safely, died from what is known as puerperal fever (sometimes also known as child bed fever) after a normal delivery."

The other eight women died of the same disease, with the same symptoms, their deaths are just labelled differently because they had a caesarian. Their lives are just as important, which is why I prefer to include them and talk about 13 deaths (which accounts for 12% of all deaths that were a direct result of pregnancy/delivery during 2000-2002.)

These deaths are avoidable, so saying that it is a small proportion of the safe deliveries is arrogant, insulting and misleading. None of those women should be dead. It is not an acceptable percentage of risk. When talking about a life, one is too many. This point was made in the first paragraph of the response, but obviously not meant as it was countered by this statistic. It sounds pretty much like Ivan Lewis' response to a parliamentary question my MP tabled.

"The CEMD's next report, Saving Mothers' Lives, due to be published on December 4, will update healthcare professionals on clinical guidelines for the management of serious illnesses affecting pregnant or recently delivered mothers. The recommendations of the report are circulated to all maternity professionals and, in future, their implementation will be audited by the Healthcare Commission. Since the last report was published, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has also published clinical guidelines for both birth and post-natal care."

The CEMD's next report will again report on the mothers whose lives were not saved, including Jessica. The title of the report is again misleading and insulting spin. I have written about it before, here. The bottom line though, is that it will be another report full of statistics that won't actually address the issue or achieve anything. See above for comment on the perpetual lack of attention to these reports.

All I wanted was the Government's recognition of the unnecessary waste of life and a positive determination to drag us out of the dark ages and protect our mothers. Tonight I feel stupid for even bothering to hope for that. Tomorrow I'll do something myself.

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The train has left

Wed 27th Jun 2007 by Ben Palmer.

So Tony hopped on the Sedgefield train and Patricia has resigned, according to the 10 o'clock news. Not exactly a surprise, given the mess she's made of the NHS.

Alan Johnson is the commentator's expected successor in Gordon Brown's cabinet. He hasn't got a hard act to follow, but I wonder whether he'll take mothers seriously - and answer my invitation as well.

There will be people who are thinking that a new day is dawning, but I suspect that the sunset is just changing its colour (or Tone).

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Retraining the NHS

Mon 25th Jun 2007 by Ben Palmer.

So Gordon's going to be driving the train in a few days, and the popular buzz seems to be that he'll be re-shuffling his conductors in a major way.

I wonder what Patricia Hewitt's prospects are? Her First Aid carriage is in pretty bad array, so she may be waiting on the platform. Few will be waving out of the windows as the train steams out of the station, but who will take up her post?

Whoever it is will have their work cut out, but my original invitation to Patsy still stands, in the event she is replaced. As reported back in March, my invitation to the incumbent Health Secretary is:

"I would like the Health Secretary to explain to my two children why Jessica isn’t going to tuck them up in bed tonight."

I've waited three months already, and I'll wait for as long as it takes for somebody to take responsibility.

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One’s only a number

Wed 16th May 2007 by Ben Palmer.

I wrote to my MP a while back, and she tabled a written question in Parliament, addressed to the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the death rate per million maternities from puerperal sepsis and other forms of septicaemia was in each year since 1999-2000; and if she will make a statement.”

The answer came from Ivan Lewis MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Dept of Health.

“Deaths from puerperal sepsis are very rare. The Department-sponsored confidential enquiry into maternal deaths 'Why Mothers Die' report for 2000-02 only identified five women who died of puerperal sepsis in the United Kingdom for the three years 2000 to 2002. This gives a maternal death rate of 2.5 per million maternities. The next report is due to be published later this year and will contain the figures for the three year period 2003-05.”

Well: if you discount the eight further deaths from sepsis before term or after caesarian, yes it's five. Wait, he didn't say that, he said “only...five women who died.” Oh silly me, getting all worked up about dead mothers – it's OK really after all, it's only five.

If you look at the years since 1984 - the last time no deaths from sepsis were recorded - 30 women have died from this easily treatable illness. If you look at pre-term and post-caesarians as well, add another 59.

But it doesn't matter, does it Mr Lewis? It's only 89 families without a mother; don't trouble Patsy with it, because each family has only lost one mother, and any statistician will say that it doesn't get much better than that.

The full answer to the original question, according to 'Why Mothers Die?', for the period 2000-02 is 13 deaths making a rate of 6.5 per million maternities.

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What is childbed fever?

Childbed fever is an infection of the womb in new mothers which can lead to septicaemia. If left untreated infection will cause organ failure and death - even in young, fit mothers.
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What are the symptoms? »
Childbed fever: the facts »

What's the aim?

We would like every parent and every midwife and doctor to know that childbed fever is still a very real threat to a mother's life.
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Can I help? »

Who is Jessica?

Jessica Palmer was a Mum. She died in June 2004, at 34 years old, of childbed fever caused by Group A streptococcus.
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This website contains general information about childbed fever. The information is not complete or comprehensive. You should not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about childbed fever (or any other medical condition) you should consult your doctor or other healthcare provider; and if you think you may be suffering from childbed fever (or any other medical condition) you should seek immediately medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.
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