Teenagers urged to take part in meningitis B vaccine trial

Teenagers in Great Britain are being asked to take part in a study to learn if immunising them against meningitis B could protect them and other people.

The NHS wants 24,000 to take part in the Oxford Vaccine Group’s Be On The Team trial, which is helped by National Institute for Health Research funding.

Bacteria at the back of the throat can cause meningitis and the study will see if vaccination can stop this happening.

The trial will take place in four waves of recruitment over the next two years.

Control group

Each of the teenagers who chooses to participate, in Year 12 in England or the equivalent in Scotland and Wales, will be put into one of three groups of 8,000 participants and will receive two doses of one of two vaccines.

Two of these groups will be in the programme for a year, with the third, which will act as a control group, taking part for 18 months.

The recruitment started this week and is planned to work around school holidays and exams, taking place in March-April and September-October this year and in 2019.

Meningitis B facts

  • Meningitis B is a bacterial infection that most often affects children below the age of one
  • It is the most common form of the condition in the UK
  • Since 2015, children under 12 months have been offered the vaccination
  • There are about 1,200 meningitis B cases each year in the UK
  • With early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, most people will make a full recovery
  • It is fatal in one in 10 cases
  • About one in four of those who survive is left with long-term problems, such as amputation, deafness, epilepsy and learning difficulties

    Dr Matthew Snape, a consultant paediatrician at the Oxford Vaccine Group, told the BBC: “We’ve had great enthusiasm from the schools we have approached, with the majority of Year 12 students interested in taking part.

    “The peak of carriage for the bacteria is from the teenage years through to young adulthood – there is a lot of carriage with university students.

    “We are doing the study to help us understand whether an immunisation campaign in teenagers would help us to protect the whole community.”

    Dr Snape said the study’s findings would be passed on to policymakers “to inform any future decisions about adolescent meningococcal immunisation”. And there have already been calls for a wider meningitis B immunisation programme.

    Following the death of two-year-old Faye Burdett in 2016, a petition set up to ask for all children to be routinely vaccinated attracted 820,000 signatures.

    As a result, the government published a report last month explaining how it made decisions about which vaccines to fund.

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      One of the report’s recommendations was to lower the cost-effectiveness threshold for immunisation – widescale vaccination against meningitis B had been rejected as being “not cost effective”.

      A consultation on the report is running until 21 May.

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      Georgie Hall, whose six-year-old son died from the condition last October, told the BBC: “The government, I know, are saying that it’s not cost effective to vaccinate more children against this disease. We really need the government to listen to the families.”

      And Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt apologised for “system failures” that led to the deaths of two teenagers from the disease in Bristol in 2016.

      Claire Donovan, head of research and information at Meningitis Now, told the BBC: “We support the trial, and it’s something we’ve been waiting to happen for a number of years – we are very keen that it goes ahead.”

      Ms Donovan added that if the trial was successful, “then potentially vaccinating that age group will help protect the rest of the nation”.

      Dr Tom Nutt, the charity’s chief executive, said: “This important study is a chance for young people to make a real difference to not only their own health but that of their wider community.”

Southern Health fined £2m over deaths of two patients

An NHS trust that admitted failing two patients who died in its care, one in a bath, has been fined £2m.

Connor Sparrowhawk, 18, drowned in Oxford in 2013. Teresa Colvin, 45, died in Hampshire in 2012.

Southern Health admitted to “systemic failures” and pleaded guilty in 2017 to breaching health and safety laws.

Passing sentence at Oxford Crown Court, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said each death was an “unnecessary human tragedy”.

The trust will pay £950,000 for Mrs Colvin’s death and just over £1m for that of Connor Sparrowhawk.

The judge said the penalty was “a just and proportionate outcome that marks the seriousness of the Trust’s offending, the terrible consequences of that offending, and the other material factors that I have indicated”.

He said it was a “regrettable fact” Dr Sara Ryan, Mr Sparrowhawk’s mother, and Roger Colvin, Teresa Colvin’s husband, had to campaign to uncover problems at the trust.

The judge paid tribute in particular to Dr Ryan who had to endure “entirely unjustified criticism” during her JusticeforLB campaign – named after her son’s nickname Laughing Boy.

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    A victim impact statement from Dr Ryan made for “almost unbearable reading,” he said.

    He acknowledged the trust’s early indication it would plead guilty and said Southern Health had made it completely clear it would not attempt to shift responsibility to individuals.

    Speaking outside court, Teresa Colvin’s husband Roger said his wife – who he called TJ – had been “a vivacious, beautiful, and loving woman”.

    “Six years on, so many questions play over in my mind”, he said, adding his life was “much poorer” for her loss. “We all loved her so dearly,” he said.

    “TJ and I believed the hospital was a place of safety and Southern Health failed her,” he added.

    Mr Sparrowhawk’s mother thanked the judge for his summary of Southern Health’s failures and also thanked the Health and Safety Executive for their “meticulous investigation”.

    She added: “No-one should die a preventable death in the care of the state.

    “I’m left thinking if Connor was here now in the shadow of Oxford Crown Court and St Aldates police station, he would say: ‘Why mum?’ And I would say: ‘I don’t know, but we’ve done you proud’.”

    ‘Entirely preventable’

    In its submissions to the court, Southern Health acknowledged the deaths were “entirely preventable” and were “a matter of significant regret” it did not address its failures quicker.

    Dr Nick Broughton, its chief executive, said he wanted to “apologise unreservedly”.

    He was ordered to stand during the final part of the sentencing by the judge as an acknowledgement of the trust’s historic failings.

    Speaking outside court, he said: “Those mistakes and those failures had dire consequences.

    “Both Connor and Teresa should not have died. That is a matter of profound regret to me and the organisation, and I am truly sorry. We let them down and we let their families down,” he said.

    The deaths had “served as a catalyst for change,” he added.

    Dr Broughton was appointed in September after previous boss Katrina Percy resigned after it was revealed the trust had failed to investigate hundreds of deaths of patients in its care.

    Southern Health employs more than 6,000 staff and owns or manages 136 sites, including 15 mental health facilities and two for people with learning difficulties.

    Southern Health Timeline

    26 April 2012 – Teresa Colvin dies at Southampton General Hospital after she was found unconscious at Woodhaven Adult Mental Health Hospital

    July 2013 – Connor Sparrowhawk, 18, drowns after an epileptic seizure at Oxford unit Slade House. An inquest later rules neglect contributed to his death

    10 December 2015 – The BBC reveals details of a leaked independent report into the trust, produced by Mazars, which highlights a “failure of leadership”. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says he is “profoundly shocked”

    17 December 2015 – The report is officially published and shows out of 722 unexpected deaths over four years, only 272 were properly investigated

    29 April 2016 – A full CQC inspection report is published which says the trust is continuing to put patients at risk

    30 June 2016 – Following a review of the management team competencies, it is announced that the trust’s boss Katrina Percy is to keep her job

    29 July 2016 – The BBC reveals the trust paid millions of pounds in contracts to companies owned by previous associates of Ms Percy

    7 October 2016 – Ms Percy resigns completely from the trust

    13 December 2016 – A CQC report, the culmination of a one-year inquiry, says investigations into patient deaths are inadequate

    19 August 2017 – A medical tribunal finds a doctor failed to carry out risk assessments for Connor Sparrowhawk

    12 September 2017 – The trust announces Dr Nick Broughton, leader of Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, will take up Southern Health’s chief executive role in November

    18 September 2017 – The trust admits breaching health and safety law in the case of Connor Sparrowhawk

    20 November 2017 – The trust admits breaching health and safety law in the case of Theresa Colvin