Lawyer Attacks NHS Trust's Failure To Learn Lessons After Patient Deaths

NHS Trust Emergency Care Failures


A leading medical negligence solicitor has backed the findings of an NHS watchdog report which has unearthed "appalling" emergency care at hospitals in mid- Staffordshire.

According to the Healthcare Commission, there were deficiencies at virtually every stage of emergency care at hospitals run by mid Staffordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust between 2005 and 2008.

Jonathan Peacock, from the Birmingham office of national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, has had personal dealings with the Trust, having represented a number of relatives following patient deaths at Stafford General Hospital.

He said: "This report may be one of the final acts of the Healthcare Commission, which will cease to exist as of 1st April 2009, when its responsibilities will come under the wider remit of the Care Quality Commission. The report has highlighted what many patients at this Trust have known for a long time. Mistakes are being made, people’s lives are being devastated and lessons are not being learned. We have seen a number of clients who have been treated very poorly, often with long-term or even fatal consequences.

"The vast majority are determined to bring the hospital to book over the treatment of their loved ones, to try and make sure it can’t and won’t happen again. For all of those victims, this news will be an unwelcome reminder of the problems they have experienced and a huge disappointment that the hospital has still not learnt from its past errors."

In recent years, Irwin Mitchell has taken legal action following a number of fatalities at Mid Staffs NHS Trust managed Stafford General Hospital.

77 year-old Cannock pensioner, Lillian Tucker had a known penicillin allergy but when she was admitted to Staffordshire General Hospital on 8th October 2005 with a fractured pelvis following a fall, medical staff wrongly injected her with a penicillin based drug. The pensioner suffered a cardiac arrest and severe brain damage as a result and never regained consciousness. She died on 21st October 2005.

Her son Dave Tucker commented: "In its letter of apology to us the hospital claimed it had learned valuable lessons but the day after Mum died we heard on the news about another similar case at the same hospital which had happened some years earlier. I’m very angry that lessons were not learned or my mother might still be with us today."

In January 2007, 67 year old Spencer Greaves from Stone in Staffordshire was involved in a relatively minor road traffic accident. Mr Greaves was shaken but able to walk unaided to the ambulance and was taken to Staffordshire General Hospital’s A&E department. Mr Greaves was also allergic to penicillin and also required regular hydrocortisone and daily hormone replacement medication for a long standing medical condition.

However, despite this information being communicated to medical staff on his admission, regular medication was not given and Mr Greaves’ condition deteriorated until, two days after admission on Sunday 7th January 2007 he suffered a seizure and died.

His wife, who had not even been informed that he had been admitted to hospital, came back from a business trip to be informed of his death via a neighbour. Widow, Patricia Greaves said: "I firmly believe my husband’s condition deteriorated because he wasn’t given the hydrocortisone he needed following the road accident and may have been starved of the normal medication which he had been on for 24 years. I also suspect that he may have wrongly been prescribed penicillin on admission to the A&E Department. Spencer had attended Stafford General Hospital many times prior to this and his medical notes would clearly have stated his need for hydrocortisone, his allergy to penicillin and the prescribed daily medication he was on."

Jonathan Peacock added: "There seems to have been a large scale, systemic failure by the hospital trust to ensure patients were receiving appropriate care and when failures occurred and lessons were clearly not learned. The statistics would seem to suggest that between 2005 and 2008 there were 400 more deaths than should normally have been expected.

"The question seems to be why this damning state of affairs was not addressed by the hospital trust sooner. One preventable death is one too many and our law firm alone has had first hand involvement in a number of legal actions against the Trust, where people have died unnecessarily. 

"The most important factor for many of our clients who bring their cases to us is to ensure that others do not suffer similar experiences. It is in the interest of every patient in Mid Staffordshire and the rest of the NHS that, when the Healthcare Commission disbands, its role of identifying failings in basic patient care and taking robust action to stamp them out is taken up by the new system."