Tag Archives: Sussex

Sussex health trust apologises for failings before death of student

A health trust has apologised “unreservedly” for failings in the case of a 21-year-old student whose body was found in a burnt-out car after she absconded from a mental health ward.

How Janet Müller, a German national in her final year at Brighton University, ended up in the boot of a torched Volkswagen Jetta is a mystery. She died from inhalation of fire fumes within hours of going missing. Christopher Jeffrey-Shaw, 27, was convicted of manslaughter and imprisoned for 17 years.

Speaking publicly about the young woman’s death for the first time, her mother, Ramona Müller, 47, said she blamed Sussex Partnership NHS foundation trust for errors that led to her “bright, intelligent and beautiful” twin daughter being able to abscond from Mill View hospital in Hove, twice in one day before her death.

It was not the first time a patient had climbed over an 8ft garden wall and it was a known awol risk, her mother said. “It’s just the first time it ended that badly,” said Müller, who raised Janet and twin sister, Selina, in Berlin.

She had allowed her daughters to come to the UK “because I thought it was safe there. They wanted to do it for their education. So, I tried my best to make it possible for them. I raised them on my own. And then, finally, someone just comes along and takes her life.”

Müller, who was studying international event management, had no previous mental illness but became unwell ahead of her final exams in March 2015, and was admitted to the hospital 10 days before her death.

Her twin, who was studying at Kent University, visited her there and reported her to be agitated and desperate to leave. Her mother said she begged staff to allow Janet home to Germany, or allow her to visit or speak to her. “I tried to call a million times, I tried to speak to Janet.” But, she says she was always reassured: “Janet is fine, she is safe, don’t worry,” and was told her daughter could soon be transferred to a hospital near home in Germany. She never managed to speak to her before her death.

Janet first absconded from the female-only ward on the morning of 12 March 2015, and was found by a farmer in a field and returned by police.

She absconded again later that night and is thought to have gone over the wall, the inquest heard. CCTV footage showed her walking in the early hours of 13 March in Brighton. Her body was found in the car near Ifield golf club near Horsham in West Sussex.

When she learned her daughter was missing, Müller, a paramedic and teacher at a school in Berlin, flew to the UK to search for her. She was met at Eastbourne station by Selina. “I told her: ‘Don’t worry. We will find her.’ And she said to me: ‘Mama. They’ve found her. She’s dead.’”

The family have no idea how she came to be in the car. She had been severely beaten before being burned alive. An inquest found she died from fire fumes inhalation. She had no known connections to Jeffrey-Shaw. “There are so many unanswered questions. Why did she end up with him, not knowing him at all?” said her mother.

Jeffrey-Shaw, who has previous convictions for blackmail and harassment, was charged and convicted of manslaughter at Guildford crown court, but his trial yielded no answers. He admitted setting the car alight, but claimed he did not know the student was in the boot. He told the court he had been involved with drug dealers who borrowed his hire car for a robbery which went wrong and who ordered him to torch it.

The judge, rejecting his account, said the only reason he was not guilty of murder, “is because you did not have the human decency to check if the person in the boot of your car was dead or alive”.

An inquest jury, which agreed a verdict of unlawful killing, found lack of communication between healthcare staff, insufficient records and inadequate risk assessment were contributory, with no extra measures taken after she first absconded, and staff shortages and building works also factors.

Janet’s mother and sister have settled with the trust after issuing a civil claim under the Human Rights Act.

Sam Allen, the trust’s chief executive, admitted: “We failed in our duty of care to Janet, for which I am truly sorry.”

In a public apology, she said: “I want to give my personal assurance that we have worked hard to address the shortcomings identified following Janet’s tragic, untimely death.

“Words of apology from me cannot bring Janet back. The awful events that happened after she absconded from our care will forever be borne by her family.”

Janet’s mother said it had been “a long, hard fight” to get the trust to admit its mistakes, but she had been determined “to get justice for Janet, to force them to make changes, to speak out. Janet’s voice has to be heard, and things should not and must not happen again.”

The family had been devastated by Janet’s death, her mother said. Janet’s sister had abandoned her studies in UK. Once part of a close threesome, both feel responsible for not having done enough to save Janet, she said.

She hoped now the same mistakes could not be repeated. “For us it is too late. Nothing can change what happened to us. Janet will not come back. No apology, nothing, can do that. It’s all too late,” she said.

Revealed: NHS cuts could target heart attack patients in Surrey and Sussex

Patients at risk of a heart attack could be denied vital tests and potentially life-saving operations under NHS plans to make £55m of budget cuts in Surrey and Sussex, the Guardian can reveal.

NHS organisations in Surrey and Sussex are considering restricting the number of patients who have an angiogram or an angioplasty – the insertion of stents to tackle blocked arteries – despite the evidence that both procedures reduce the risk of patients dying.

The disclosure came as senior Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, the chair of the Commons health select committee, urged ministers to scrap the “capped expenditure process” – the secretive cost-cutting regime which the NHS is imposing on 14 areas of England in a bid to save £500m – because it involves “draconian” cuts to services that will hit patient care.

“I don’t think that these extra cuts are reasonable. You can’t justify £500m to the DUP while taking another £500m out of the English NHS,” she told the Guardian.

“The kind of issues that are being discussed [in the 14 areas subject to the CEP] would involve draconian measures that would have an impact on public health and services. [And] I do have concerns about ultimately patient safety.”

Hospitals routinely use an angiogram to assess the health of a patient’s heart. The number of people in the UK undergoing angioplasty has risen eightfold since the early 1990s to almost 100,000 a year, reflecting its growing popularity as a non-invasive alternative to a heart bypass.

Cutting the number of people who have either is one of a range of options which NHS bosses in Surrey and Sussex are considering in order to save £55m more under the CEP by March 2018 than the £106m of “efficiency savings” already agreed.

NHS bodies in Surrey and Sussex privately admit that fewer people will have those procedures as part of their plan to save the £55m by reducing “huge variation” in patients’ chances of having one, depending on which hospital they are treated at and which cardiologist they see. “We have to rationalise cardiac investigations and treatments. There’s variation of 60% to 70% between hospitals. We’re looking into why that is. Who in future won’t get an angiogram? That’ll be up to cardiologists,” said one senior doctor.

In future an unknown number of patients at risk of a heart attack will be monitored by “watchful waiting” rather than given an angiogram or angioplasty, the doctor explained.

Senior NHS sources in the area have disclosed that they are also being forced to consider proposals to:

  • Ration knee arthroscopy operations, cataract removals and tonsillectomies
  • Introduce “lifestyle rationing” so that patients who are obese and smoke will have to lose weight and stop smoking before they can have, for example, a knee replacement to treat their arthritis
  • Shut beds or even whole wards in community hospitals
  • Restrict patients’ access to hearing aids and IVF treatment

“We have been told to leave no stone unturned and think the unthinkable [in the quest to save the £55m],” one local senior NHS figure said, speaking anonymously.

“It’s quite delusional to think we can take out the £106m already planned and now this extra £55m so quickly. But NHS England have told us to do this. The trouble is that, after making lots of efficiency savings in recent years, there is very little fat to take out,” the official added.

NHS organisations in Surrey and Sussex tasked with pursuing the savings drive confirmed that access could be reduced to many different types of care. “We have been looking at all treatments and procedures provided across our area,” they said in a joint statement.

“There is considerable variation in the thresholds and criteria applied before patients are referred for treatment. We want to ensure that referral decisions are based on the latest clinical evidence of what works and are applied consistently, delivering the best value for money for the public and fairness for patients.”

The bodies made clear that they have to contemplate such controversial measures because NHSE and NHSI have told them to save the £55m. Despite already having “ambitious financial plans for 2017-18 … collectively, the plans would overspend by £55m against the financial ‘control total’ that has been set by NHS England and NHS Improvement,” they added.

Heart specialists warned that patients’ health could suffer if decisions about who had either procedure was made on anything other than purely medical grounds. “Any restriction on angiography or angioplasties should be based on clinical criteria and guidelines to ensure no adverse effect on patient care and health,” said Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, the medical director of the British Heart Foundation.

The British Cardiology Society, which represents heart specialists, underlined the importance of both procedures as measures to help save lives. A spokeswoman said: “Cardiovascular disease remains a significant burden to the UK and requires appropriate investigation and management to reduce mortality and morbidity. Despite significant reductions in mortality through medical and invasive treatments both primary and secondary preventive strategies remain important.”

The Royal College of Surgeons said introducing “lifestyle rationing” was “wrong”. A spokesman said: “There is no clinical guidance from NICE, the Royal College of Surgeons and other surgical associations to support restrictions for routine surgery on the basis of whether patients smoke or are overweight.

Saving the £55m this year will prove to be a false economy that costs the NHS more money in the long term, warned Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust health thinktank.

“Many of these cutbacks in procedures will only save money in the short term. If they go ahead, this will mean putting off treating patients whose hip and eye conditions will worsen and must be treated eventually. Getting savings out will also require cutting staff,” he said.

This story was amended to correct the statement that a number of cabinet ministers’ seats are in the affected area.

Revealed: NHS cuts could target heart attack patients in Surrey and Sussex

Patients at risk of a heart attack could be denied vital tests and potentially life-saving operations under NHS plans to make £55m of budget cuts in an area in which four cabinet ministers are local MPs, the Guardian can reveal.

NHS organisations in Surrey and Sussex are considering restricting the number of patients who have an angiogram or an angioplasty – the insertion of stents to tackle blocked arteries – despite the evidence that both procedures reduce the risk of patients dying.

The disclosure came as senior Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, the chair of the Commons health select committee, urged ministers to scrap the “capped expenditure process” – the secretive cost-cutting regime which the NHS is imposing on 14 areas of England in a bid to save £500m – because it involves “draconian” cuts to services that will hit patient care.

“I don’t think that these extra cuts are reasonable. You can’t justify £500m to the DUP while taking another £500m out of the English NHS,” she told the Guardian.

“The kind of issues that are being discussed [in the 14 areas subject to the CEP] would involve draconian measures that would have an impact on public health and services. [And] I do have concerns about ultimately patient safety.”

Hospitals routinely use an angiogram to assess the health of a patient’s heart. The number of people in the UK undergoing angioplasty has risen eightfold since the early 1990s to almost 100,000 a year, reflecting its growing popularity as a non-invasive alternative to a heart bypass.

Cutting the number of people who have either is one of a range of options which NHS bosses in Surrey and Sussex are considering in order to save £55m more under the CEP by March 2018 than the £106m of “efficiency savings” already agreed.

NHS bodies in Surrey and Sussex privately admit that fewer people will have those procedures as part of their plan to save the £55m by reducing “huge variation” in patients’ chances of having one, depending on which hospital they are treated at and which cardiologist they see. “We have to rationalise cardiac investigations and treatments. There’s variation of 60% to 70% between hospitals. We’re looking into why that is. Who in future won’t get an angiogram? That’ll be up to cardiologists,” said one senior doctor.

In future an unknown number of patients at risk of a heart attack will be monitored by “watchful waiting” rather than given an angiogram or angioplasty, the doctor explained.

Senior NHS sources in the area have disclosed that they are also being forced to consider proposals to:

  • Ration knee arthroscopy operations, cataract removals and tonsillectomies
  • Introduce “lifestyle rationing” so that patients who are obese and smoke will have to lose weight and stop smoking before they can have, for example, a knee replacement to treat their arthritis
  • Shut beds or even whole wards in community hospitals
  • Restrict patients’ access to hearing aids and IVF treatment

“We have been told to leave no stone unturned and think the unthinkable [in the quest to save the £55m],” one local senior NHS figure said, speaking anonymously.

“It’s quite delusional to think we can take out the £106m already planned and now this extra £55m so quickly. But NHS England have told us to do this. The trouble is that, after making lots of efficiency savings in recent years, there is very little fat to take out,” the official added.

The chancellor, Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge), and the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey), both represent Surrey in parliament, as do Michael Gove (Surrey Heath), the environment secretary, and Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell), the transport secretary. When the Guardian asked all four to comment, all declined to offer a view on the £55m cuts plan, the existence of which had been kept secret

NHS organisations in Surrey and Sussex tasked with pursuing the savings drive confirmed that access could be reduced to many different types of care. “We have been looking at all treatments and procedures provided across our area,” they said in a joint statement.

“There is considerable variation in the thresholds and criteria applied before patients are referred for treatment. We want to ensure that referral decisions are based on the latest clinical evidence of what works and are applied consistently, delivering the best value for money for the public and fairness for patients.”

The bodies made clear that they have to contemplate such controversial measures because NHSE and NHSI have told them to save the £55m. Despite already having “ambitious financial plans for 2017-18 … collectively, the plans would overspend by £55m against the financial ‘control total’ that has been set by NHS England and NHS Improvement,” they added.

Heart specialists warned that patients’ health could suffer if decisions about who had either procedure was made on anything other than purely medical grounds. “Any restriction on angiography or angioplasties should be based on clinical criteria and guidelines to ensure no adverse effect on patient care and health,” said Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, the medical director of the British Heart Foundation.

The British Cardiology Society, which represents heart specialists, underlined the importance of both procedures as measures to help save lives. A spokeswoman said: “Cardiovascular disease remains a significant burden to the UK and requires appropriate investigation and management to reduce mortality and morbidity. Despite significant reductions in mortality through medical and invasive treatments both primary and secondary preventive strategies remain important.”

The Royal College of Surgeons said introducing “lifestyle rationing” was “wrong”. A spokesman said: “There is no clinical guidance from NICE, the Royal College of Surgeons and other surgical associations to support restrictions for routine surgery on the basis of whether patients smoke or are overweight.

Saving the £55m this year will prove to be a false economy that costs the NHS more money in the long term, warned Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust health thinktank.

“Many of these cutbacks in procedures will only save money in the short term. If they go ahead, this will mean putting off treating patients whose hip and eye conditions will worsen and must be treated eventually. Getting savings out will also require cutting staff,” he said.