Blog

Blog

Sepsis campaigner takes son's ashes to Buckingham Palace

A health campaigner whose son died of sepsis carried his ashes in a teddy bear as she visited Buckingham Palace to collect an honour.

Melissa Mead’s son William died of blood poisoning following a chest infection in 2014.

She was presented with an MBE by the Prince of Wales for services to raising awareness of the disease.

Ms Mead, from Penryn, Cornwall, said her family, who also attended, were “really, really proud” of the honour.

She said: “It is very bittersweet for everyone because we wouldn’t be here if William hadn’t died, but I know that he lives on in the thousands of lives that he has saved and that is the best that anyone can do.

“I wouldn’t have been here and done any of this if it hadn’t been for him giving his life.

“It is only fair and right that he is here with me because he is with me for everything that I do.”

William died at 12 months old in December 2014 of blood poisoning following a chest infection, which could have been treated with antibiotics.

He had been ill for six to eight weeks before he died and had been seen by GPs six times before his death.

About 44,000 people die from sepsis every year in the UK.

Speaking after the ceremony, Ms Mead said: “This is a wonderful way to be honoured, but the best way to be honoured is to be his mum.

“I am more proud of that than I am anything else.

“We are in the western world and people shouldn’t die of preventable diseases like sepsis, so if we can change that then that is the best thing we can do.”

Nephew, 5, inspires hairdresser's Spargoland 'sensory' salon

A hairdresser has told how his five-year-old nephew, who was born with cerebral palsy, inspired him to create a salon in Essex for people with different disabilities.

Oscar, from Wickford, suffered brain damage at birth and needs full-time support and care.

His uncle Ian Marshall, from Brentwood, Essex, decided to start Spargoland, a salon for people with autism, learning and physical disabilities, which has since won an award.

Oscar’s mum, Caroline Inches, said it is a “nice and relaxed” environment.

You can see more on Inside Out, on BBC One in the east of England at 19:30.

Asthma: Young people in the UK 'more likely to die'

Young people in the UK are more likely to die from asthma than those in other wealthy countries, a report has found.

Death rates for asthma in 10 to 24-year-olds was highest in the UK among all 14 European nations included in an analysis of 19 high-income countries.

The UK also had the highest obesity rates for 15 to 19-year-olds among the European nations.

The government said it had “world-leading plans” to safeguard child health.

Overall, the report found the UK to be lagging behind other nations across a number of health indicators.

The study, from the Nuffield Trust think tank and and the Association for Young People’s Health, analysed 17 measures of health and wellbeing for 10 to 24-year-olds in countries that included Germany, France and Italy, as well as Japan, the US and Australia.

It found that while young people in the UK are making some healthier choices, such as drinking less alcohol and smoking less, more are entering adulthood with long-term health conditions.

Nearly one in five young people in the UK is estimated to be living with a longstanding health condition, such as type 2 diabetes, the report finds. In England, the figure has gone from 13.5% in 2008 to 18% in 2016.

‘Appalling’

The UK was also found to be one of the worst countries for young people to suffer from years lost to ill-health and the burden of their diseases, with only Australia, the US and New Zealand being worse.

Children and young people in the UK are also far more likely to be obese if they are poor, with the UK having some of the highest inequalities between the richest and poorest when it comes to the proportion that are obese, the study found.

On poverty among older age groups, the report said: “Despite living in the world’s fifth largest economy, young people aged 20 to 24 in the UK are experiencing one of the highest rates of severe material deprivation among the countries in our international comparison.

“Reducing poverty among young people is key to improving their health outcomes in the UK.”

Overall, the UK sits in the bottom third of countries in nine out of 17 indicators, and in the top third in three.

In four of the 17 measures, trends have been getting worse, while in five areas previous improvements have stalled.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said the study suggested health services in the UK were “getting something badly wrong”.

He said: “I worry this reflects a dangerous complacency.

“Young people in the UK are entering adulthood with more long-term health conditions and, as a result a poorer quality of life, storing up problems further down the line.

“If we don’t take action now, the next generation will be entering adulthood sicker than the one before it.”

Asthma UK said it was “appalling” that people were more likely to die from asthma in the UK than in other European countries.

‘Greater understanding’

The charity said its research has previously found that millennials – typically those born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s – get the worse asthma care of any age group.

Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said: “We are now urging the NHS to move with the times and put technology at the heart of asthma management, helping to engage this tech-savvy generation.”

Emma Rigby, chief executive at the Association for Young People’s Health, said there needed to be a greater understanding of young people’s health needs.

Researchers analysed data from the mid-1990s to the last year for which data was comparable with other countries, 2016.

The 19 countries were: The UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Germany, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Japan, US, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We have world-leading plans in place to safeguard child health by combating obesity, improving mental health and vaccinating against some of the world’s deadliest diseases.

“Prevention is at the heart of the NHS Long Term Plan, and as part of this we are increasing funding by an average 3.4% per year, meaning that by 2023-24 it will receive £20.5bn a year more than it currently does.”

Shark DNA could help cure cancer and age-related illnesses in humans

Great white sharks may hold the secrets to curing cancer and other age-related diseases, experts believe.

The first map of great whites sharks’ DNA has revealed “mutations” that protect the animals against cancer and other illnesses.

Scientists hope more research could help apply the findings to treating age-related illnesses in humans.

The great white’s ability to repair its own DNA has evolved in ways ours hasn’t.

The research was carried out by a team of scientists at the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Centre at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

What are sharks packing in those genes?

Unstable genes in humans are what make us vulnerable to aged-related diseases such as cancer.

Because sharks have been around and at the top of their game for so long, they have evolved so their DNA can repair itself and is more tolerant to damage.

“Genome instability is a very important issue in many serious human diseases,” says study co-leader Dr Mahmood Shivji.

“Now we find that nature has developed clever strategies to maintain the stability of genomes in these large-bodied, long-lived sharks.

“There’s still tonnes to be learned from these evolutionary marvels, including information that will potentially be useful to fight cancer and age-related diseases, and improve wound-healing treatments in humans, as we uncover how these animals do it.”

Great white sharks have been patrolling the seas for at least 16 million years and at their biggest, can grow up up to 20 feet long and weigh as much as three tonnes.

Shark DNA is one-and-a-half times bigger than human DNA, meaning there are things coded into the animals that, at the moment, humans can’t do.

And scientists hope to unlock those secrets and use them to treat the problems that DNA is already solving in sharks.

They believe sharks could also help wound-healing and blood-clotting, because of their ability to recover quickly from serious injuries.

Sharks: More than just Jaws

This research could be a step towards a more positive reputation for one of the most feared animals in nature.

Photographer Kimberly Jeffries recently told Radio 1 Newsbeat she felt “no danger whatsoever” when she swam with one of the biggest great whites in the world, who’s named Deep Blue.

“It’s an incredibly humbling experience,” she said.

Although she wasn’t recommending that anyone hop in the water with some sharks.

“These are apex predators so they are to be respected,” Kimberly said.

And through hunting fish and other animals in the sea, they can also help their prey flourish by targeting slower and weaker creatures.

Studies also show that sharks are even important in the fight against global warming, as their hunting keeps the numbers of smaller creatures, who produce more carbon dioxide, in check.

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 every weekday on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra – if you miss us you can listen back here.

Send patients email not letters, GPs told

GPs in England must start routinely using email instead of sending letters to communicate with patients, the health secretary says.

Matt Hancock wants email to become the default option by 2021.

He said there was no reason why doctors could not email a test result or prescription – although people who did not use email would still be able to request letters were sent.

It comes after he ordered fax machines to be phased out by next year.

Research shows there are still more than 8,000 fax machines being used by the NHS.

Mr Hancock said: “Having to deal with outdated technology is hugely frustrating for staff and patients alike – and in many cases downright dangerous.

“A letter lost in the post could be the difference between life and death.

“There is no reason why a doctor cannot email a patient confidentially, for example with their test results or prescription, rather than make them wait days for a letter or ask them to come in to the surgery.

“The rest of the world runs on email – and the NHS should too.”

He said that NHS organisations could use any secure email provider – not just NHSMail – if it met the required security settings, in a bid to support innovation and open up the market.

Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, who chairs Royal College of GPs, said: “Aspirations to use less paper and more modern communication techniques to improve the way we work with colleagues and improve patients’ experience of the health service are good.

“But the practicalities of how we do it need to be thought through carefully – current IT systems in the NHS are often clunky and frustrating.

“But there isn’t an easy fix and it is difficult to see how the wholesale changes being advocated can be done safely in the timescales being spoken about.”

How will Brits in Spain cope with no-deal Brexit?

British nationals who have retired to EU countries may no longer have their healthcare costs covered by the NHS in the event of a no-deal Brexit and many are considering returning home, reports Vishala Sri-Pathma.

The British love affair with Spain dates back to the 1970s when package holidays first became popular. Since then they’ve visited in their millions, with many even taking the leap to move from Britain to make Spain their home.

There are 300,000 British-born migrants living in the country. For many of them the appeal is clear. During the years when the pound fared well against the euro, their money went a lot further in Europe than it did in the UK.

Along with the 300 days of sunshine in large parts of the Spain, the decision to move has been an easy one for many Brits.

“We love the Spanish way of life, bowls in the morning followed by a long lunch,” Sue Davis tells me after playing a match at the Benavista Bowls Club in Estepona on Spain’s Costa del Sol. Originally from Kent, she moved out to Marbella to retire 13 years ago and voted remain in 2016.

Sue is not alone in her pursuit of the Spanish retirement dream. There are about 70,000 British pensioners in Spain, many of them living on this part of the coast. They enjoy a sun-filled lifestyle in seaside towns, with breakfast menus featuring fry-ups instead of tortillas – and no Spanish required.

But uncertainty over what Brexit will mean for them now threatens their way of life and many are concerned they might have to return to cold, damp Britain.

Their main worry is healthcare payments. Currently pensioners can get treatment reimbursed by the National Health Service in Britain under an EU-wide set of reciprocal arrangements.

Pensioners who have paid in to the UK’s national insurance system for the qualifying number of years benefit from the S1 reciprocal healthcare rules if they retire in EU/EEA countries or Switzerland.

A S1 certificate is available to anyone in receipt of a state pension, and to some workers who are sent overseas on a temporary basis by their UK employers.

The system currently saves the NHS about £450m a year. In 2017, a senior health department official told a parliamentary select committee that Spain charges an average of £2,300 for every pensioner it treats, compared with £4,500 charged by the NHS.

Yet there are no guarantees that this arrangement will continue under the Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposals to protect the rights of EU citizens, including the 1.2 million Britons living elsewhere in the EU.

London has said the S1 certificate may no longer be valid after 29 March 2019 – depending on what other countries decide to do in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The UK government is currently advising expat Brits in the EU to register for access to healthcare in the EU/EEA country they live in, as some residents may need to be a long-term resident or to pay social security contributions to access free or discounted healthcare.

If you are in the process of applying for residency in an EU/EEA country, the UK advice is to take out separate health insurance.

Malcolm Buckley, originally from Halifax in Yorkshire, worries he might not be able to make ends meet if his healthcare payments are not covered. “I will have to return to Britain, the healthcare payments are important, without them I can’t afford to live here,” he tells me.

“We have no idea about what is going on. I feel like I’ve been disenfranchised for 30 years from the UK, the time I’ve lived away.

“I wasn’t even allowed to vote in the referendum. If we don’t get that healthcare payment lots of us will have to go home.”

Another blow to the British in Spain has been the falling value of the pound. “It’s (Brexit) costing me great amounts of money in my pocket,” one bowler says as he lines up the balls for the next game. “I’d like to sees the exchange rate to go back to what it was six years ago – but that’s wishful thinking.”

There are some fears about pension payments as well. Under Spanish law, citizens cannot hold dual citizenship. Some pensioners worry this might mean they’ll lose their right to a British pension and subsequently not see the benefits of decades of national insurance contributions.

Yvonne Stone, 62, is one of the younger members of the club and tells me she voted for Brexit: “I’ve been here for three years and have no plans to go back to the UK – but it will depend on what happens.

“When I voted to leave I didn’t think it would change anything for my rights to live here. We like it here and we don’t want to go back but if I don’t get my pension we might not have a choice.”

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said he wants to secure all rights for British citizens in Spain regardless of what happens. London and Madrid have already signed a deal ensuring voting and working rights for respective migrants – but healthcare is not mentioned in this agreement.

Until further agreements are reached between the UK and individual EU member states, the UK is advising people to follow this latest guidance to ensure they are fully prepared for any unexpected healthcare requirements in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

'Dr Evil': Wolverhampton modification artist admits GBH

Media playback is unsupported on your device

A body modification artist has admitted three counts of grievous bodily harm, by carrying out tongue splitting and ear and nipple removal procedures.

Brendan McCarthy, also known as Dr Evil, carried out consensual procedures without using anaesthetic.

In his defence, the 50-year-old argued that consent was given but the judge ruled the procedures could not be compared to tattoos and piercings.

He will be sentenced on 21 March at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

McCarthy, of Bushbury, Wolverhampton, ran a modification emporium in Princess Alley before he was charged with six counts of wounding in 2017.

Warning: This article contains graphic imagery.

He was arrested in December 2015 following a complaint to City of Wolverhampton Council’s environmental health team.

A petition in support of McCarthy amassed more than 13,400 signatures and his lawyer challenged the charges on the basis that his customers consented.

His supporters argued “for the right to express ourselves in whatever modified manner we wish in a safe environment”.

The council said its issue was with McCarthy’s lack of licence to carry out the modification procedures and the need for more regulation in the industry which delivers results “akin to cosmetic surgery”.

Dr Samantha Pegg, a law lecturer at Nottingham Trent University and expert on the legality of body modification procedures, said: “Practitioners have assumed that extreme body modifications, as forms of body adornment, were lawful when consent was given.

“Although the law has long accepted that tattooing and piercing are lawful activities there has not – until this case – been any consideration of other forms of body modification such as tongue splitting.”

Passing verdict, Judge Amjad Nawaz ruled that written consent from his customers was not sufficient defence.

The tattooist has spent two years arguing his case, contending at the Court of Appeal that the procedures should be regarded as lawful to protect the “personal autonomy” of his customers.

Judge Nawaz drew the distinction between body modification and tattoos and piercings, saying there is “no proper analogy”.

“What the defendant undertook for reward in this case was a series of medical procedures for no medical reason,” he said.

‘Grey area’

Dr Pegg said the case has “partially clarified what was previously a grey area of the law”.

Although consensual, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said these were “significant surgical procedures” but McCarthy has no medical qualifications, nor is he registered with the General Medical Council (GMC).

“Surgical procedures must be carried out by properly trained, qualified and regulated surgeons or healthcare professionals,” senior prosecutor Rhiannon Jones said.

GMC guidance says doctors must be appropriately trained and experienced before practising cosmetic procedures.

It adds doctors must consider their patients’ psychological needs and follow protocols for safe interventions.

Speaking before Tuesday’s hearing, McCarthy told the BBC the situation was “crushing”.

“It’s crushed me completely, I’m a shadow of my former self,” he said. “I don’t feel I’ve done anything wrong.”

Nick Pinch went to McCarthy to have his nipple removed after previous piercings caused a build-up of scar tissue.

The procedures carried out on Mr Pinch formed part of the prosecution’s case.

Mr Pinch said: “[McCarthy] wanted to know why I wanted this procedure, he wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing, he took complete duty of care. I’m really happy with what I’ve had done.”

West Midlands Police said McCarthy conducted the procedures without knowing his clients’ medical histories or psychiatric backgrounds. He also did not have any life-saving equipment if the surgeries went wrong.

Officers discovered out-of-date pre-injection swabs, anaesthetic gel, stitching thread and needles, the force added.

You may also be interested in:

Body Art, whose full name is King of Ink Land King Body Art The Extreme Ink-Ite but who was born Matthew Whelan, has devoted his life to body modification.

He said: “Under current laws, we are classed as effectively consenting abuse victims.

“These are private procedures and agreements between me as the client and the business person.

“But I do think there needs to be regulation. There are people in the industry that aren’t protected.”

McCarthy was refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and has been bailed ahead of sentencing.

Follow BBC West Midlands on Facebook, on Twitter, and sign up for local news updates direct to your phone.

Fear wrong metal plates used to fix fractures

The wrong metal plates may have been inserted into patients who have broken bones, the NHS has admitted.

Hospitals have been asked to review the X-rays of patients treated with metal plates for the fracture of long bones, such as arms and legs, in the past year.

Patients at one trust had a flexible plate meant for reconstruction inserted instead of a rigid one for fractures.

NHS Improvement fears the same mistake could have been made elsewhere.

There was nothing at the moment to suggest that had happened, the regulator said.

But as the mistake came about because the design of the flexible reconstruction plate was changed, meaning it looked like the more rigid plates, there is a fear it could have been repeated at other hospitals.

Seven patients affected so far

The unnamed trust where it has happened has identified seven cases.

One of the patients had fallen and the plate had buckled. They had to undergo further surgery to correct the problem.

Another patient needed more surgery after their plate failed when they were having post-op physiotherapy.

National Director for Patient Safety, Dr Aidan Fowler, said: “Patients should not be alarmed and do not need to take any action themselves. The risk of harm is low and their local hospital will contact them if there is a chance that they have been affected.”

NHS Improvement is now asking hospitals to review cases going back to February 2018.

The redesign of the plates happened before that, but any cases longer than a year ago would have fully healed by now.

That is likely to mean about 5,500 cases being checked.

Anyone affected will be notified by their hospital.

West Bromwich family's 'nightmare' over £200k medical bill

The family of a seriously ill woman in Mexico have said they are living a “nightmare” as her £200,000 medical bills are not covered by insurance.

Maxine Howell, from West Bromwich, celebrated her 50th birthday in Cancun but days later she was struck down by pneumonia and bronchiolitis.

Her family said Axa would only pay 10% towards costs after she failed to disclose the prescription of an inhaler despite never using it.

Axa said it was looking into the case.

Mother-of-three Ms Howell has been in an induced coma for a fortnight at CostaMed hospital, in Playa del Carmen, Cancun.

Her family said they were “devastated” to be informed Axa was only covering 10.25% of medical costs.

They also said Axa recommended the hospital as the one they use.

‘Brick wall’

A crowdfunding page, set up by the family, has so far raised more than £6,000 from 300 donors.

Daughter Aneke Pye, 32, said the mystery inhaler was the reason given by Axa for dismissing the full claim.

She told the BBC: “It’s one big nightmare. It seems like whichever way we turn we hit a brick wall.

“She was prescribed an inhaler in 2015 – but has never used it. We have no idea why she had it in the first place.”

You may also be interested in:

Ms Pye said they cannot access their mother’s medical files as they do not have her consent.

She received life-saving medical attention to “drain fluid from her lungs and was placed into a medically-induced coma to aid her recovery” on 29 January.

An Axa spokeswoman said: “We are aware of Maxine Howell’s situation and are looking into her case.”

Follow BBC West Midlands on Facebook, on Twitter, and sign up for local news updates direct to your phone

Young people told – become a care worker

Young people in England are being targeted by the government in a bid to recruit thousands of more care workers.

The Every Day is Different campaign will be promoted on social media and online platforms to get the under-40s to take up jobs such as care workers, therapists and activity co-ordinators.

There are currently more than 100,000 vacancies in the sector – a figure which some warn may rise after Brexit.

It comes as a report says a lack of community staff may damage the NHS.

The report by the Health Foundation charity said the number of GPs had fallen slightly in the past year and there continued to be shortages in key posts such as community nurses, learning disability staff and health visitors.

Many of these work side-by-side with care staff.

Anita Charlesworth, from the Health Foundation, said there needed to be a “coherent strategy” to address the workforce problems.

What is the care worker campaign about?

The recruitment drive will be running in February and March and will focus on the rewarding and diverse nature of care work.

It will include the personal stories of young people who have built careers in the sector.

One of the faces of the campaign is Bradley McKenzie, 34, who works for Society of St James as a support worker in a residential care home in Southampton.

He cares for residents with long-term alcohol and mental health problems.

Before becoming a support worker, he was a fitness trainer.

“If you have a good heart and you want to be helpful, you could feel really rewarded working in this sector,” he said.

Greg Mather, 22, from London is a final year degree student who in the past year has been working part-time as a domicile care worker.

“It has been hugely advantageous to me in the long term as it has provided me with amazing experience in working with vulnerable adults.

But he says it not enough to say that ‘you’ll feel so rewarded after each shift’ if you are paid so little.

“For such an emotionally and sometimes physically demanding job it is shocking that the majority of care workers are paid minimum wage.”

Naomi Baker is a 20-year-old university student who uses care workers. She says it is useful having someone closer to her age caring for her. “It’s easier for them to understand what I want.”

Why are young people being targeted?

The campaign will be asking people of all ages to come forward.

But research shows that young people are the most likely to work in the sector.

There is also an acknowledgement that the care sector needs to plan for the long term.

There are more than 1.4 million people working in social care – a figure that needs to rise by 650,000 by 2035 to cope with an ageing population.

While care home work is synonymous with the sector, the campaign will highlight the variety of roles available, including hospital-based therapists, activity co-ordinators and personal assistants.

Sharon Allen, of Skills for Care, which supports the training of care workers, said: “I have spent my whole career in adult social care so I know first hand the tremendous professional and personal satisfaction that is on offer to anyone who joins us through this campaign.”

Southmead Hospital cervical cancer inquiry 'too small'

Media playback is unsupported on your device

The bereaved family of a nurse repeatedly given the all-clear for cervical cancer say she wanted “nobody else to suffer as she had”.

Julie O’Connor, 49, died on 4 February, after her condition was missed several times at Bristol’s Southmead Hospital.

Days before her death, she said: “It’s disgusting I have been suffering the way I have and I continue to suffer.”

North Bristol NHS Trust said an independent review of her care would start this month.

Her family are fighting for a wider inquiry into her case and say it was her dying wish that they continue to fight for other women who may have been affected.

Mrs O’Connor had a cervical smear test in September 2014 that came back as negative.

Doctors at Southmead said she had another condition known as a cervical ectropion. She was eventually diagnosed three years later by a private consultant.

Speaking before her death, Mrs O’Connor said she was “horrified” at the extent of her cancer when she went for a private examination and the consultant found a 4.5cm tumour.

“Within 30 seconds of being examined he told me it was cervical cancer,” she said.

“He couldn’t even get a camera into the womb, it was completely blocked.

“If it had been caught at the beginning, it would have been a simple procedure, at most probably a hysterectomy and it would have all been fine.”

You may also like:

The family sued North Bristol NHS Trust, which admitted liability and offered damages.

Her husband Kevin, from Thornbury, said he believed other cases of cervical cancer in women may have been missed.

He said: “One of the last things Julie said was that she didn’t want this to happen to anybody else.

“I’ve asked the coroners if they would consider an inquiry, not just into Julie’s care but back to 2014 to be sure this doesn’t have to happen to anyone else, and if there are other victims.”

Mr O’Connor said that despite her last painful year, his wife was “always happy, always smiling”.

“We knew what was going to happen so we focused on the love and the laughter and spent that last year with our family around us.”

Their daughter Sophie, 22, said her mother had never complained or “allowed us to feel sorry for ourselves”.

She said: “She was really passionate about women getting their smear tests and she knew that you always have a gut instinct and if you feel something is wrong with your body, you should try and get it checked and if the doctor says you’re fine, if you feel something’s wrong, you should trust yourself.”

Mr O’Connor said he also had concerns about the hospital’s review.

“It’s not independent because they wrote the terms of reference, the scope is very limited,” he said.

“They’re looking at doing the review from July 2017.

“The private hospital raised the red flag in March 2017 but this happened in 2014 so we do need to go right back to when it was misdiagnosed.”

The trust’s medical director Dr Chris Burton said: “We are committed to understanding the full circumstances of the care we provided so we can improve our services for the future.”

He added the trust would be “publicly open with the overall findings of the independent investigation we have commissioned”.

Essex baby's spine 'repaired' in the womb

An unborn baby has had surgery on her spine while she was still in her mother’s womb.

Bethan Simpson, 26, from Maldon, Essex, was told her unborn daughter Eloise had spina bifida at her 20-week scan.

Mrs Simpson has become one of the first mothers in the UK to undergo the pioneering “foetal repair” surgery.

During a four-hour operation her womb was opened and her baby’s bottom exposed, allowing surgeons to “sew up” a tiny gap in her lower spine.

Mrs Simpson said she “couldn’t justify terminating a child I could feel kicking”.

The procedure has been deemed successful and the baby is now due in April.

Mrs Simpson said she and husband Keiron were advised to terminate her pregnancy after the condition was diagnosed, but the decision to opt for foetal repair was a “no brainer”.

“I’m being told she’s paralysed, but she very much wasn’t,” Mrs Simpson said.

She was approved for surgery at University College Hospital in London in December after a series of tests and scans, and described the ensuing weeks as a “rollercoaster”.

The operation at 24 weeks involved opening her womb and lifting her baby into position to repair the hole, as well as repositioning the baby’s spinal cord.

“I came out of surgery at one o’clock and could feel her moving that evening,” Mrs Simpson said.

“It was reassuring to feel that first kick after the anaesthetic wore off. She’s bigger now, of course, and her kicks are stronger.”

Mrs Simpson said she remembered the surgeon telling her on the ward later: “I’ve held your baby.”

Mrs Simpson is thought to be the fourth patient to undergo the surgery in the UK, with the procedure mostly carried out in Belgium and the United States.

From April, the procedure will be available on the NHS in England. Two-hundred babies are born with spina bifida in the UK every year.

Lead neurosurgeon, Dominic Thompson, described the operation on Mrs Simpson’s baby as “an incredible journey”.

“Until now, when people got this devastating news there were two options – continue with the pregnancy or termination. This now offers a third option,” he said.

“It is not a cure. But there is quite clear evidence through critical trials that the outlook can be a lot better with surgery early on.”

Gill Yaz, of the spina bifida charity Shine, said foetal medicine consultants recognised there were options available “rather than just termination”.

“People need to be aware that this is not a cure, it may in some cases make no difference at all,” she said.

“They need to go into this with their eyes wide open.”

Mrs Simpson urged parents in her position to consider surgery and “give every option a go”.

“There are unknowns – it’s major surgery, and the biggest decision you’ll make in your life,” she said.

“But remember most children born with spina bifida today are walking and reaching normal milestones.”

Spina bifida and foetal repair surgery

Spina bifida literally means ‘split spine’, and occurs when the spinal column and cord are not properly formed in pregnancy (before the sixth week) – leaving nerves exposed.

It occurs in around four in 10,000 pregnancies.

The cause is unknown, however mothers are encouraged to take folic acid supplements to reduce the risk of developing spina bifida in early pregnancy.

Babies born with the condition can become paralysed, suffer bladder and bowel problems – and it can affect brain development.

It is estimated that about 80% of mothers choose termination when spina bifida is diagnosed, although the condition varies in severity.

The delicate surgical procedure involves opening the uterus and closing the gap in the baby’s back while they are still in the womb.

Teen kickboxer Scott Marsden's death 'tragic fluke'

A 14-year-old kickboxer died when a blow to his chest caused cardiac arrest in a rare medical “fluke”, an inquest has heard.

Scott Marsden, from Sheffield, collapsed during a kickboxing bout in Leeds in March 2017.

Wakefield Coroner’s Court heard he died from a rare disruption of the heart’s rhythm caused by a direct blow at a specific moment in the heart cycle.

The pathologist said Scott had no pre-existing heart defects.

Dr Kerry Turner, consultant paediatric pathologist, told the coroner the condition that killed Scott was “commotio cordis” and it was “very rare” that three elements – the blow’s impact, its location over the heart, and the timing in the cycle – all aligned.

Dr Turner said: “It is a tragic fluke that all three things line up in the correct way.

“For all these things to line up in the right way is very rare.”

Scott started kickboxing aged four or five, and competed from eight.

He trained at Marsden’s All Styles Kickboxing club in Hillsborough, run by his family.

The event was the fourth at Leeds Martial Arts College, organised by Paul Lynch under World Kickboxing Association (WKA) rules.

Scott’s opponent was of similar size and age.

The inquest heard Mr Lynch, MC-ing the event, hired a private medical team. A doctor he used for pre-fight checks at previous events was also there, although only in a social capacity as she was heavily pregnant.

Mr Lynch said Scott slumped on to the ropes and was caught by the referee following a spinning kick by his opponent.

More Yorkshire stories

The medics on-site gave him emergency treatment and paramedics were called, but Scott died the next day at Leeds General Infirmary.

Jon Green, UK president of WKA and judging on the night, questioned official ambulance service figures that a crew arrived in 21 minutes.

He told the inquest the crew seemed “in no rush whatsoever”.

The inquest continues.

Partner of man who killed himself calls for mental health review

Media playback is unsupported on your device

A Lanarkshire woman said her partner took his own life after asking for medical help eight times in the week leading up to his death.

Karen McKeown claimed hospital staff dismissed concerns about Luke Henderson’s mental state shortly before he killed himself.

Now she is calling for a review of mental health services in Scotland.

Ministers said they wanted to reduce suicide rates and Mr Henderson’s death had been investigated.

NHS Lanarkshire said a review and investigation found the correct procedures had been followed.

Ms McKeown, from Motherwell, told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme that help was asked for “many times” before her partner died in December 2017.

“He was hallucinating, he was hearing voices, he was seeing things. He was really, really mentally unwell,” she said.

She claimed hospital staff “dismissed” her concerns about her partner.

“They were saying he was showing no signs of mental illness, and he was showing no signs of suicidal ideation, which I find really hard to take,” she said.

“I noticed there was suicidal ideation there.”

“I told the hospital all of these things… and they just dismissed my concerns. They failed to recognise these signs.”

Since his death, Ms McKeown said her life had been “absolute chaos”.

Her two children are “absolutely heartbroken since losing their dad”, and getting the right support for her family has been a challenge.

She added that she was not surprised by the lack of support her family has received.

“Not only was Luke failed, but my family is continuing to be failed with not giving my kids the support or myself the support,” she said

Now Ms McKeown is petitioning the Scottish Parliament for “a full review of mental health services across the NHS in Scotland, to ensure that policy and practice is delivered consistently across the country”.

The petition is also supported by Gillian Murray, whose uncle David Ramsay was turned away from NHS Tayside’s Carseview unit in Dundee twice and then killed himself.

Ms Murray had previously told BBC Scotland that there was a catalogue of failures over the handling of her uncle’s case in the days before he killed himself.

She said Mr Ramsay’s death had been preventable as he had told staff “in no uncertain terms” and on separate occasions that he did not want to live and needed help.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said it had recently launched a new suicide prevention plan, and that they hoped it would reduce suicide rates further.

She added: “Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey has met Ms McKeown to discuss the family’s concerns.

“There is also currently an independent inquiry into mental health services in NHS Tayside, chaired by David Strang. We will ensure that the lessons from the inquiry are learned across the NHS in Scotland.”

If you have been affected by any of the issues regarding suicide, there is help available. If you, or someone you know, is struggling, you can find support here. And there is list of organisations that may be able to help at bbc.co.uk/actionline.

INTERESTED IN JOB OPPORTUNITIES?
Register with us
apply now

QUALITY ASSURED

Locum Placement Group, is a leading UK provider of Healthcare, Education and Social work staff; and is committed to delivering exceptional service. We are a framework-approved agency, and specialise in locum/temporary and permanent positions throughout the UK.

We are part of all UK frameworks and provide the NHS Trusts and private sector organisations with locum and permanent; registered general nurses (RGNs), registered mental health nurses (RMNs), healthcare assistants (HCAs), theatre nurses and practitioners (ODPs), Midwives, Doctors, Allied health professionals, Health scientists, Educational staff and Social workers.