Hull telecoms firm KCOM fined over 999 call failures

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Communications provider KCOM has been fined £900,000 after flooding caused by Storm Eva led to the failure of 74 emergency calls.

Ofcom found “serious weaknesses” in the Hull-based firm’s emergency call service which meant people in the area could not make calls to 999 or 112.

The regulator found it had broken rules to ensure people can contact emergency services at all times.

KCOM operates the main telephone and broadband network in Hull.

It is the only UK city not served by BT’s Openreach, which controls the telecoms network.

Ofcom said KCOM notified the regulator on 28 December 2015 that its emergency call service for the Hull area had failed for around four hours.

It said the failure was because of flooding at one of the BT’s telephone exchanges in York in the wake of Storm Eva.

However, Ofcom found that all emergency calls from customers in that area relied on the flooded telephone exchange in York.

Under Ofcom rules, the telephone and broadband operator should have been able to automatically divert emergency calls via back-up routes.

The investigation found that although the firm did have back-up routes in place, these also relied on the flooded telephone exchange in York.

Ofcom said KCOM created an alternative route to carry emergency calls that bypassed the flooded telephone exchange in York within two hours of identifying the problem.

The regulator said it expected telephone companies’ services to be resilient enough “to the greatest extent possible” to connect emergency calls at all times, even in challenging circumstances.


Firms face £17m fine if they fail to protect against hackers

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Firms could face fines of up to £17m or 4% of global turnover if they fail to protect themselves from cyber-attacks, the government has warned.

The crackdown is aimed at making sure essential services such as water, energy, transport and health firms are safeguarded against hacking attempts.

Firms will also be required to show they have a strategy to cover power failures and environmental disasters.

Digital Minister Matt Hancock said any fines would be a last resort.

They would not apply to firms which had put safeguards in place but still suffered an attack, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said.

‘Safest place in the world’

Mr Hancock, who is launching a consultation on the plans, said: “We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to live and be online, with our essential services and infrastructure prepared for the increasing risk of cyber-attack.”

The DCMS said firms that take cyber-security seriously should already have measures in place to prevent attacks or systems failures.

It said the consultation was aimed at determining how to implement the Network and Information Systems (NIS) directive which becomes law across the EU next May.

It is separate from the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which are aimed at protecting data, rather than services.

The GDPR will replace the UK’s Data Protection Act 1998 from 25 May next year and the government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not change this.

Earlier this year, NHS services across England and Scotland were hit by a large-scale cyber-attack that disrupted hospital and GP appointments.

And the threat to firms from cyber-attacks appears to have grown.

Nearly half (46%) of British businesses discovered at least one cyber-security breach or attack in the past year, a government survey earlier this year found.

That proportion rose to two-thirds among medium and large companies.

Most often, these breaches involved fraudulent emails being sent to staff or security issues relating to viruses, spyware or malware.


Energy price cap on pre-payment meters tightened by Ofgem

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About three million households are set to benefit from a tightening of the price cap on pre-payment energy meters, according to regulator Ofgem.

The regulator says the move will cut the average bill for pre-payment customers by up to £19 a year.

The change, which takes effect on 1 October, is set to cut the average annual bill for dual fuel pre-payment customers to £1,048 from £1,067.

On Sunday, a review was launched looking at ways to reduce energy costs.

The independent review, launched by the government, will examine how the UK can keep household bills down while also meeting its climate change targets.

Higher cost

A temporary price cap on pre-payment meters was introduced in April this year. It is updated by Ofgem every six months to reflect the estimated cost of supplying energy.

Ofgem said the change to the cap would reduce bills for electricity customers by about £19 a year on average, while the cap on pre-payment gas prices would remain broadly unchanged.

Many pre-payment meter customers pay through token- or coin-operated machines. Some of these customers may have had difficulties paying in the past. Others include some tenants whose landlords have the meters installed in properties.

Ofgem has found previously that competition among suppliers for pre-payment customers is less developed than for those who pay by direct debit, cash or cheque. This means that there are fewer tariffs available and they are generally more expensive.

Figures published in August last year showed that pre-payment customers paid an average of £220 a year more than those on the cheapest deals.


Car insurance market dysfunctional, says Aviva

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The car insurance market is “dysfunctional” and does not reward loyal customers, said the chief executive of Aviva, Mark Wilson.

He said firms were tempting in new customers with prices that were “too low”, which put prices up for existing customers.

Car insurance premiums have gone up by 11% in the last year, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The typical bill for an annual policy is now £484, it said.

“I think that the UK car insurance market is dysfunctional, I don’t think it works properly,” Mr Wilson told the BBC’s Today Programme.

“The entry level is too low and then it gets put up for all existing customers,” he said.

Aviva has developed a “suite” of products to be launched before the end of the year, which will help reward loyal customers.

“Let’s see how it goes,” Mr Wilson said.

Car insurance is just 2% of Aviva’s total business.

Pay

Shares in Aviva rose by about 0.5%, after the company reported operating profits up by 8% in the first half of 2017.

Sales of annuities, bulk annuities and equity release products all rose, with growth particularly strong in the UK.

The dividend was up by 13%.

However, Mr Wilson refused to say whether he thought he was paid too much.

“I think I’ll let the shareholders answer that one,” he told the BBC.

He said the company was happy to publish the ratio of its highest paid employee to its lowest, as soon as the government had determined how such a ratio should be expressed.

Aviva already pays its employees the National Living Wage and requires all its contractors to do likewise.


Wigan hospital trust hit after £5.5m paid out for negligence

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More than £5.5m was paid out for clinical negligence claims made against the trust running Wigan’s hospitals last year, it has been revealed. Payments were made following the deaths of patients, unwanted pregnancies after sterilisation procedures, the misdiagnosis of conditions and problems with the treatment of patients.

A teenager died after complaining of a sore throat, an injection was given to the wrong patient and a woman died after issues following a hysterectomy. The highest payment of £2m was made after “repeated prolonged inhalation of Entonox” – pain relief also known as “gas and air” – led to a patient having a vitamin B12 deficiency, resulting in both physical and psychological injury. In another case, a child suffered brain damage, including visual and development impairment, following a delay in diagnosing infantile spasms before and after birth. The mother claimed psychiatric damage. As a result, a lump sum of £1m was paid, followed by £95,000 annually until 2023 and then £108,000 each year for life. The legal claims were revealed in a report prepared for Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust’s board. It shows a total of £5,544,373 was paid in 45 settled claims in 2016-17, with a further £900,976 paid in the claimants’ solicitors’ costs. That compared to £2,498,012.33 paid in the previous year, when the largest settlement was £900,000.

There were 63 new claims for clinical negligence in 2016-17, a drop from 75 in 2015-16 and 81 in 2014-15. All damages and solicitors’ costs were paid by the NHS Resolution Clinical Negligence Scheme For Trusts, into which the trust pays an annual premium. There was an increase in the number of requests for disclosure of medical records by solicitors, which could lead to future claims. There were 431 requests in 2016-17, compared to 409 in 2015-16 and 338 in 2014-15. As well as clinical negligence claims, the report details other legal claims made against the trust.

There were 14 employer liability claims, dropping from 16 in 2015-16 and 31 in 2014-15. This led to damages of £14,700 being paid in six cases, plus £25,287 for the claimants’ solicitors’ costs. The majority of the cases were for slips and falls, injuries caused by an object or equipment, lifting and sharps injuries. Three new public liability claims were made, with £1,200 paid for one claim and £5,551 for the claimant’s solicitor. Steps have been made to save money by dealing with more legal work “in house” rather than referring it to external solicitors. The trust spent £82,078.10 on external solicitors in 2016-17, dropping from £106,396.16 in 2015-16 and £239,595.15 in 2014-15.

Some of the claims made, which led to damages being paid: Following an operation to remove a cancerous tumour, the surgeon failed to remove all swab remnants from the wound. A wound infection followed and a further procedure under general anaesthetic with a prolonged period of recovery, wound healing and pain and suffering. Delay in diagnosing hypothyroidism. Claimant suffered extended pain and suffering and symptoms of lethargy, general ill health and deterioration in school attendance and weight gain. Vasectomy not performed satisfactorily as the left vas deferens had not been cut but instead a blood vessel had. A second procedure was required and claimant sustained some nerve damage. Claimant’s wife became pregnant. She also made a claim after suffering stress and anxiety following the unwanted pregnancy, which resulted in a termination. Filshie clip was dropped and left in situ during sterilisation procedure resulting in the patient becoming pregnant a few months later. Poor outcome following surgery for hysterectomy. Failure to investigate fall in haemoglobin levels on discharge. Patient was readmitted for pelvic haematoma and small bowel perforation, suffered incurable infection and died. Child sustained brain damage including visual and development impairment following delay in diagnosing infantile spasms prior to and subsequent to birth. Mother claimed physiatric damage. Death of an 18-year-old female presenting with “sore throat” and identified as a + glandular fever. Patient prescribed drug to treat tumour at the side of their head but it was discovered the tumour was benign. The patient died before being weaned from the drug. Patient treated with botulium toxin injection to right shoulder. It was subsequently noted that the injection had been given to the wrong patient. Delay in escalation of patient who developed sepsis after being treated for liver damage and jaundice. Patient died. Following repeated prolonged inhalation of Entonox patient sustained a vitamin B12 deficiency, which resulted in both physical and psychological injury. Patient had operation for repair of fracture cancelled on two occasions. Following operation patient was readmitted with deterioration and died. A spokesman for Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust said: “We consider each case on an individual basis and, on taking legal advice, make admissions and settlement payments where appropriate. “The NHS Resolution arrange payment of damages, claimants’ solicitors’ costs and defence solicitors’ costs relating to the clinical negligence claims. These costs are reflected in the trust’s annual premium payments. “We are unable to comment on individual cases but we endeavour to be as transparent in our reporting to the board as possible.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


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