NHS Trust Apologises For DNA Failings

"Inexcusable Failings" Were Blamed For DNA Tests Not Being Sent To Labs

27.12.2013

An NHS trust in London has apologised for a number of failings at one of its sexual assault referral centres after complaints that samples were not sent to forensics laboratories.

Barts Health NHS Trust has admitted 93 people were affected by the situation and swift action has since been taken to resolve the situation - including firing two staff members at the Haven centre in Whitechapel.

The facility has since been put under new management, but because the allegations about inaction are so serious, NHS England has pledged to conduct a full investigation to ascertain why DNA samples were left in fridges and not sent off for analysis.

A statement released by Barts Health NHS Trust outlined its sorrow on the matter and promised action: "We are extremely sorry for the inexcusable failings at the Whitechapel Haven.

"As soon as we became aware that there was an issue in 2011, we took swift and immediate action to ensure that all the affected samples were retested and contacted the individuals involved to offer a full apology, support and counselling."

The failings at the haven were uncovered by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which worked with the Independent newspaper to highlight purported deficiencies at the centre.

Journalists also discovered samples were stored in plastic bags, which can cause evidence to deteriorate, while contaminated clothing items that were set to be used as court exhibits were mixed with clean items.

It is unclear whether any of the perpetrators of the sexual assaults on the affected people have now had evidence linking them to their crimes destroyed because of these failures, but the NHS trust's pledge to retest the affected batches means it is likely they are still usable.

Further investigations by the Independent have also discovered that the Metropolitan Police cut its funding to the Barts NHS Trust havens by £215,500 because of an underspend resulting from a temporary closure of the Whitechapel branch in 2012.

Expert Opinion
There have been very worrying reports related to this NHS Trust over the past few days and while it is very welcome that action has been taken to address the issues, the question may still remain as to how such problems were allowed to develop at the site.

"Such failings by the Trust are clearly unacceptable and it is very important that those affected have received apologies and the support they deserve. Through our work, we see numerous cases where people have suffered serious physical and psychological consequences of all forms of abuse and understand how it can take a great number of years to get at all close to coming to terms with such experiences.

"Victims need the best possible help and support and it is vital that the terrible mistakes seen here are never repeated again in the future."
Lisa Jordan, Partner