National jabs scandal exposed
Sure shot? ... some children 'got 30 vaccines instead of 13'
By JANE SYMONS
Deputy Health Editor
NOVEMBER 08, 2006
COMMENT ON THIS STORY
CHILD immunisation records are in such chaos that health chiefs across Britain have no idea what jabs have been given to hundreds of thousands of kiddies.
The scandal is exposed in top secret documents leaked to The Sun, which reveal records held by NHS officials are a farce.
Last night there were fears that some doctors may even have deliberately fiddled the number of shots given to youngsters — so they can claim huge bonuses. According to the official figures:
Up to 60 per cent MORE shots have been given to children than should have been.
Some youngsters appear to have received THIRTY jabs — when they should have had just 13.
Amazingly some children are shown as having nine jabs in a single DAY.
Doctors are paid whopping bonuses of more than £10,000 if they hit high vaccination targets.
But the shambolic records — dating back an astonishing TWENTY years — are mainly blamed on incompetent paperwork in surgeries.
The fiasco was uncovered as part of nationwide moves to transfer medical notes to a central NHS computer.
Seventy per cent of batch numbers — the serial numbers used to identify vaccines — were found to be missing. That means it is impossible to trace youngsters who may have received suspect doses.
Six records, taken at random, were ALL found to contain errors.
The Sun has been told that Health Minister Caroline Flint was given a top level briefing on the emerging scandal yesterday.
It focused on figures taken from Primary Care Trusts in London — but experts believe they are the tip of the iceberg.
An insider told The Sun: “It’s a complete mess. They don’t even know what they don’t know.
“Records for one borough are in such a poor state they could not be migrated on to the database.
“It looks like records for another 15 Primary Care Trusts are just as bad.”
That means records for one million children in London alone are involved.
But the insider said: “There’s no reason to think the rest of the country is any different. It’s just that London is the first place any of this work has been done.”
Yesterday afternoon a spokeswoman for Ms Flint initially claimed she had not viewed the document seen by The Sun.
The official, who refused to comment on whether Ms Flint had been briefed on its contents, insisted: “We have not had any document.”
She added: “We would investigate any concerns if they were reported to us.”
But according to our source the 11am presentation at the Department of Health HQ was made by Richard Granger, the NHS’s director general of IT.
Mr Granger is also chief executive of NHS Connecting for Health — which would investigate any fraud.
Late yesterday a second spokeswoman confirmed: “Senior officials in the Department of Health, Health Protection Agency and Connecting for Health are working together to sort out this problem.”
She said Primary Care Trusts had been told to audit records — and ask GPs to check central records against those held at surgeries.
She said of the fear figures had been deliberately fiddled: “That’s one conclusion that can be drawn.”
The innocuously titled document — Summary of Data Quality Issues — states: “There are 50 to 60 per cent more vaccines recorded as being administered as would be expected.”
It acknowledges that entries may have been duplicated.
But because of the system for paying GPs, doctors have a built-in incentive to give as many jabs as possible.
Lawyer Peter Todd, a solicitor who at one time represented 2,000 families who believed their children had been damaged by jabs, said: “If it’s wholesale fraud, that should be investigated.”
He told how he went through GPs’ records as part of his own investigations — and was shocked by some of them.
Mr Todd said: “It’s fair to say the record keeping is highly variable. Some GP practices are much more organised about it than others. Some are, quite frankly, diabolical.”
The lawyer added: “The errors relating to batch numbers cause a lot of problems for parents pursuing compensation.
“It’s crucial that we know clearly what the child has been given.” Under Government guidelines, infants under one should have seven vaccinations against diseases like meningitis, diphtheria and tetanus.
But many youngsters are recorded as having vaccines they do not need.
By the age of three, children should have had 13 jabs — with no more until they start school. Sun GP Dr Carol Cooper said any child given nine jabs in a day could suffer from fever, convulsions or brain damage.
She said: “It’s unlikely to be life-threatening. But if there were an immune system problem — and you don’t always know — it’s possible that the dose would be too much for them.”
Dr Cooper said of the dodgy records: “I don’t think any parent would allow their child to be vaccinated nine times in a day.
“I wouldn’t trust the records, it sounds like data has been input more than once. Whatever way you look at it, it’s very worrying.”
She said she could understand how vital batch numbers could be left off records. Dr Cooper said: “When you give a vaccination you immediately dispose of the needle and vial in a sharps box. It’s quite easy to check the serial number and dose, but forget to record this.
“Once the sharps are disposed of there is no way of knowing the batch number.”
These are the shots children SHOULD have had:
Under 12 months — babies should be immunised against diphtheria, tetanus, meningitis C, polio, whooping cough, pneumococcal infection and Hib — a form of meningitis.
One year old — they get booster jabs for meningitis C and Hib.
Around 13 months — they get their first three-in-one measles, mumps and rubella jab and a final dose of pneumococcal jab.
Ages 3½ to five — booster jabs for diphtheria, tetanus. whooping cough and polio plus a separate MMR booster.
Age 13 — another booster against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. Parents hold their own personal “red book” listing infant vaccinations.
Dr Cooper advised any parents worried about the shots their children have had to ask their GP practice to check their records match those in the personal record.
Cash bonuses for docs
DOCTORS have a cash incentive to give as many vaccinations to children as possible.
The level of payment depends on the proportion of children on the practice register who are immunised.
Based on an average patient list of 5,000 people, if 70 per cent of under-twos have ALL their jabs the practice gets a £2,655 bonus.
But if 90 per cent of toddlers are fully immunised the bonus rockets to £7,965.
Surgeries are paid another £822 if 70 per cent of under-fives have all their jabs.
If 90 per cent of under-fives do this. then the practice gets a bonus of £2,465.
And if fewer than 70 per cent of children are vaccinated, then doctors get nothing. Lawyer Peter Todd, who acts for parents who believe their children have been damaged by vaccines, said: “I am very surprised such a large number are recorded as having more vaccines.
“It could just be fraud, it’s certainly not my experience that people are being given additional doses.
“It’s more the case that people are not vaccinated enough to comply with the schedule.”
He said: “I would expect 50 per cent of children to have had all their vaccinations.”
BMA spokesman Dr Stewart Drage said most doctors do not like, or want, the target-related payments.
He said: “There have always been anomalies with it.
“But if there’s a suspicion of fraud at practice level it’s up to the PCTs to investigate.”
Payments are calculated on the number of people signed on at the practice.
An average practice has 5,000.
If 70 per cent of under-twos have ALL their jabs the GP practice is paid a bonus of £2,655.
If 90 per cent of toddlers are fully immunised the bonus rockets to £7,965.
Surgeries are paid another £822 if 70 per cent of under-fives have all their jabs.
If 90 per cent of under-fives have ALL their jabs, the GP practice is paid a bonus of £2,465.
If fewer than 70 per cent of children have their jabs, doctors get nothing.
MUM Jackie Fletcher believes her son Robert was brain damaged as a result of a catastrophic reaction to the MMR jab.
But his notes showed the batch number for a TETANUS vaccination.
Antibody tests confirmed he had, in fact, received the MMR.
Jackie, who founded the JABS campaign, said: “We have traced EIGHT MORE children from the same surgery whose notes show the same mistake.”
Jackie, from Warrington, Cheshire, said: “It’s appalling. You are supposed to check batch numbers, particularly when a child is vaccinated.
“When something so fundamental is not being recorded properly, you can’t follow up a problem.”
Jackie added: “He was 13 months when he had the jab. It was so difficult to follow it all up. He’s 15 now and in a wheelchair.
“If parents are to have any faith in the system, the book-keeping has to be accurate. There can be no room for mistakes when vaccinating children.”
8 November 2006
Shots in the dark
PARENTS will be deeply concerned by the apparent shambles surrounding records of children’s inoculations.
Documents leaked to The Sun suggest that some doctors may be exaggerating the number of jabs they give in order to qualify for performance-related bonuses.
If extra jabs have been given, then NHS guidelines have been broken and kids exposed to risk.
Records from one London health trust indicate that some infants get more jabs for MMR than they need.
The files suggest other children may have received overdoses for meningitis, diphtheria and tetanus.
An alarming 40,000 youngsters in this small sample apparently had up to four unnecessary injections.
Some allegedly received NINE jabs in one day. But if anything goes wrong, the cause cannot be tracked because many doctors fail to keep a record of serum batch numbers.
The kindest interpretation of this bombshell report is that paperwork is in chaos. The Sun desperately hopes it is no worse than that.
The alternative — that greedy doctors are milking the NHS and risking children’s lives — is too appalling to contemplate.