Illness Lawyers Call For Clarity And Consistency On Tackling Outbreaks

New Committee Report On Action Welcomed By Experts

27.03.2013

By Ashlea McConnell

Legal experts representing victims of major illness outbreaks in the UK have welcomed calls for the Government to provide more clarity in relation to how health authorities will work together to tackle emergency outbreaks in the future.

The Communities and Local Government Committee has published a new report which has raised concerns that the changes being made to the NHS from April will lead to a ‘muddle’ in terms of how emergencies, such as local and national outbreaks, are handled.

With councils expected to coordinate services related to NHS, social care and public health following the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act, the committee stated that the government needs to ensure lines of responsibility are outlined “clearly and unambiguously.

Irwin Mitchell represents victims who have suffered long-term health problems as result of illness outbreaks in the UK and abroad, notably acting for people who were affected by the major Legionnaires’ outbreaks in both Edinburgh and Stoke-on-Trent in the past 12 months.

The team also represents victims of a food poisoning outbreak linked to a Newcastle food festival held earlier this month.

Suki Chhokar, a Partner and specialist in illness claims at the national law firm, said: “It is hugely important that, right from the introduction of these changes to the NHS, a clear plan of action is in place to ensure that authorities are able to respond quickly and effectively to major emergencies including outbreaks – as well as to ensure the public at large are kept updated with the progress being made in investigating such incidents.

“We are really worried about the concerns raised by the Communities and Local Government Committee, particularly considering the disparity we have seen in terms of responses to the Legionnaires’ outbreaks in Stoke and Edinburgh.

“While we have seen the prompt release of information in relation to the Stoke outbreak, we are still awaiting updates on the problems seen in Scotland.

“We feel this is unacceptable and a consistent approach to investigating and reporting findings on illness outbreaks, with all authorities completely clear on their roles in such processes, is absolutely vital. How else will lessons be learned from such issues?

“Authorities cannot afford to underestimate the importance of getting this right, as the consequences of failing to do so could have a massive impact on the health of a huge number of people.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise related to Environmental and Health Pollutant Claims