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Lawyer: “Disturbing NHS Report Needs To Be More Than Words”

Report shows how nurse was able to obtain lethal drugs


A leading medical lawyer has concerns after a report published today explained how Leeds nurse Colin Norris was able to obtain lethal drugs and murder four vulnerable patients in his care.

Linda Smith from law firm Irwin Mitchell represents several of the families of Norris’ victims and says the report, by the Yorkshire and Humber Strategic Health Authority contains disturbing news of how the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust could have avoided the tragedy.

Linda Smith, medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell said: “The report is very detailed and we welcome the thoroughness. It contains 32 recommendations but it also makes disturbing reading. It clearly shows that these four deaths could have been avoided.

“The Trust was not enquiring in any detailed way into the backgrounds of nursing staff. For example, they failed to follow up shortcomings in Norris’ references which were from colleagues as opposed to people in authority.

“Norris had also exhibited worrying behaviour towards lecturers and elderly patients during his training, yet this information was not passed on or found out from his referees.

“The report also highlights that earlier concerns over nurses and health professionals causing injury to children, in 1994 and again in 1997, were not addressed or followed in the recruitment of Norris and have ultimately led to these deaths. 

“We have another report now in 2010 and the concern is whether or not the NHS has learnt from previous tragedies to protect patient’s safety and wellbeing. The public need to have confidence in hospital and health professionals but the reading of this current report shows that little has been learned from the early 1990's and there are many areas that still need to be addressed by the NHS to really ensure this type of tragedy never happens again.

“Lengthy paper reports are all well and good but it is down to the individual nurse, doctor or manager at every level to ensure they do what is necessary to protect patient safety and to follow through enquiries where there are concerns.”

Stuart Hall, the son of Ethel Hall, one of Norris’ victims, said: “In some ways I feel more hurt now knowing that the Trust could have avoided my mother’s death.

“The report highlights many changes and suggestions that have been made in the past but these are not yet implemented and being followed. I just hope that the Trust can now get its act together and take the necessary steps to make sure that this does not happen again. I wouldn’t want anybody to have to go through what our families have gone through.”

Norris currently serving a minimum 30-year sentence for four counts of murder and one of attempted murder.