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‘More Should Have Been Done’, Say Victims' Families Following Infection Deaths

Lawyers Call For Public Report Following Fatal Infection Outbreak At Cardiac Centre


The families of four patients who died after contracting a fatal infection at a Nottingham Hospital have today criticised the Trusts own investigation into the tragedies claiming ‘more should have been done’.

The call comes after Coroner Dr Chapman, of Nottingham accused the state-of-the-art Trent Cardiac Centre of ‘multiple failures in communication’ after 11 out of 28 heart valve transplant patients were diagnosed with endocardiatis between December 2008 and July last year. Five victims went on to suffer heart failure and died.

Now their families have pledged to continue pushing for the answers they say the hospital has simply failed to give, and have instructed medical law experts Irwin Mitchell to investigate how their loved ones came to be infected, and why it took so long for a problem to be identified.

Despite all 11 victims suffering exposure to the same fatal infection during surgery to insert a heart valve, carried out by the same surgeon, the hospital claims it could not have been expected to notice that anything was wrong until May 2009, five months after the first exposure.

But Ian Christian from Irwin Mitchell, who is helping the families of Albert Rigley, 62, Michael Smithers, 67, Alan Daniels, 73, and 82-year-old Dennis Mills, supported the Coroner’s comments that alarm bells should have been ringing as early as January 2009.

He said: “The families of those who died are understandably devastated and increasingly frustrated by the hospitals ongoing refusal to commit to an explanation of how their loved ones came to be infected.

“The widows and children of these men have waited patiently for this inquest so that they could finally understand what happened, and look to move on with their lives, safe in the knowledge that lessons have been learnt.

“But, despite the hospitals own report outlining serious failings in the way they reacted to, and communicated the crisis, they refuse to provide transparency to the public, who ultimately rely on their services, as to what happened.”

Christian goes on to say that without a clear understanding of what went wrong, and why, it is impossible to know if lessons have been learnt and future suffering prevented.

And safety at the Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust, which is responsible for the Trent Cardiac Centre, faced further scrutiny last weekend when the latest Dr Foster findings reported a high number of so-called ‘adverse events’ at the Trust – incidents in which a patient’s safety was found to be compromised.

Christian added: “Patients place their trust in the NHS and it is entirely reasonable to expect that an organisation such as the Trent Cardiac Centre would have sufficiently effective systems in place to detect patterns of infection. It is frightening that patient safety has been compromised to the extent that has been demonstrated in this case. 

“It is now essential that the Trust acts on the recommendations made here today by the Coroner and finally accepts responsibility for the suffering and heartache this ordeal has caused the victims and their loved ones.

“Five men died, and another six patients have suffered following exposure to infection and they deserve answers. I would urge the hospital to deliver a further public report in 12 months time to demonstrate the changes they have implemented, and lessons they have learnt, in order to improve patient safety.”

Denise Edwards, who lost her father Denis Mills as a result of the infection said: “My mother watched my father die in agony. He suffered beyond belief and she is now is now left to struggle on her own. I have lost a loving father and his grandchildren have been deprived of their grandfather. More should have been done to prevent this tragedy.”

The Widow of Albert Eric Rigley, Gillian said: “He was only 62 when he died. If the Trust had picked up the outbreak sooner then they could have treated him, and he would be here with me now. I am so angry at how this whole business has been handled by the Trust and that I’m the one left still trying to find answers.”

Note to editors: Further quotes from the families are available on request.