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‘Duty Of Candour Vital’ As Investigations Begin Into 14 Other Hospital Trusts, Says Lawyer

Case Studies Below


Lawyers representing victims of horrific standards of care within Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust say ‘a duty of candour’ called for in the Public Inquiry is absolutely vital in completing the investigations into 14 other hospital Trusts with higher than expected death rates.

Medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell say openness and transparency through all levels of the NHS, from managers to healthcare assistants, must be at the forefront of the ‘lasting legacy’ of the Inquiry, led by Robert Francis QC

Following the report investigating why between 400 and 1200 more patients died than expected in Mid-Staffordshire between 2005 and 2009, Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) analysts announced last week that mortality rates have been higher than expected for the past two years within five other trusts and Irwin Mitchell has received complaints about from patients or concerned family members in respect of all of those Trusts.

The Summary Hospital-Level Mortality Indictor survey found that between July 2010 and June 2012, a total of 3,063 deaths were recorded at the five trusts, which comprise eight district general hospitals, over and above what would be expected. They are:
• Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust which Irwin Mitchell has received 13 complaints about standards of care
• Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust which Irwin Mitchell has received nearly 60 complaints about standards of care
• Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which Irwin Mitchell has received 32 complaints about standards of care
• Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which Irwin Mitchell has received 63 complaints about standards of care
• East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust which Irwin Mitchell has received 30 complaints about standards of care

Today (11 February) a further nine Trusts have been named as "outliers" on the mortality ratio for two years running; North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Medway NHS Foundation Trust and Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

David Body, national head of the Medical Law and Patient’s Rights Team at Irwin Mitchell, which acts for both patients and families of those who have suffered as a result of negligence, errors or substandard care at NHS hospitals across the UK, said: “Whilst the report marked the dawn of a new era for the NHS, the announcement that nine further Trusts are being investigated shows problems may be wider spread than Mid-Staffordshire and lessons need to be learnt across the country to ensure this can never happen again.

“These latest investigations must result in systems being put in place to ensure any issues, whether they are about a specific doctor, ward, hospital or Trust, are identified quickly and fixed.

“A duty of candour is absolutely vital as these investigations are carried out to ensure the hundreds of patients and families involved who deserve answers are responded to in full. It also has to be a fundamental part of the lasting legacy of the Public Inquiry.

“Patients who have been left devastated by what happened in Mid-Staffs, along with those at the latest Trusts, need to see that the NHS is already putting into practice the 290 recommendations put forward in the report.”

Following publication of the report, both the General Medical Council (GMC) and Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) were criticised by the Prime Minister for failing to protect patients at Mid-Staffordshire.

David Cameron also said that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had “invited” the NMC and the GMC to explain what steps they’ll take to ‘strengthen their accountability in light of this report’.

David Body added: “Victims, but also current and future patients, deserve to see a fundamental change in the culture of the NHS that sees good patient care underpinned with an open and honest system where problems are resolved, lessons learnt and individuals held to account.

“It is vital that the appalling standards of care and subsequent inquiry that followed are not forgotten about as time passes because hospital staff have no fear that mistakes and cover ups will result in sanctions.

“Going forward, any problems identified must quickly enter a formal and transparent process that must be undertaken by the hospital, the Trust and, where necessary, the GMC and this process must be made clear to the public.

“No one can deny that human error is sometimes inevitable but these cases show clear systemic failings over a sustained period of time where lessons have not being learnt. On top of that, hiding the truth is completely unacceptable and must no longer be common practise at any level of the NHS.”

Case Study 1

The widow of a man who died at Tameside General Hospital of blood poisoning after staff left his stomach condition untreated for days has spoken of her loss after it was revealed the hospital’s Trust is one of five being investigated for higher than average death rates in the wake of the Mid-Staffordshire Public Inquiry.

Father-of-two Brian Wade died of multi-organ failure caused by blood poisoning aged 69, in February 2009 after staff at the hospital admitted him to a ward but failed to treat his colitis, a severe inflammation of the colon, for FIVE days resulting in his bowel becoming so enlarged it split and leaked.

His wife Doreen, from Denton in Manchester, instructed Sharon Williams, a medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell in her battle for justice who secured the family a £40,000 settlement following Brian’s tragic death. 

Sharon Williams from Irwin Mitchell said:  “This is such a sad case as Brian’s death could have been avoided if he had received prompt treatment and surgery.  Had the simple step of a consultant review taken place, Brian’s condition would have been confirmed and treatment carried out more quickly.  As a consequence of this failure in care, Brian’s wife Doreen, who was previously cared for by Brian as she suffered health problems of her own has been left without her husband.”

David Body, a Partner and medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell, said: “There are clear failings in the care Brian was given and whilst we welcome the settlement, it would appear lessons have not been learnt which is why the Trust is now one of five being investigated.”

Denise, Brian’s daughter said: “Dad was always such a strong man so to see him in such agony was horrible for my mum and my family. We just couldn’t believe he was in hospital yet no one gave him any help and he was just left on a ward in agony.

“I’m horrified but not surprised that Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is being investigated given the appalling lack of care dad was given.

 “Doctors suspected early on that dad was suffering from acute colitis and despite his obvious pain, discomfort and a host of warning signs, such as severe diarrhoea and the fact he was passing blood, it was just ignored. If he had been seen by a consultant surgeon he would have been referred for surgery within 48 to 72 hours and his condition wouldn’t have deteriorated beyond repair.

“Nothing can bring dad back or make his death easier to come to terms with but I hope the investigation into the Trust highlights the need for a complete culture change across the NHS so that that other patients can receive the care they deserve in future.”

Case Study 2

The family of a man who died from pneumonia and blood poisoning after doctors failed to realise he had suffered seven fractured ribs after a fall have welcomed investigations into standards of care at Blackpool Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Peter Bellinger, of Bela Grove in Blackpool, died aged 77 in December 2010 after he was rushed to the Blackpool Victoria Hospital after he fell on ice outside his home.

Despite the fact he complained of severe chest pains and two x-rays were carried out, one on the day he was admitted on 5 December 2010 and another the following day, doctors didn’t realise he had fractured multiple ribs and a vertebrae before he was admitted.

His condition quickly deteriorated as he was unable to breathe properly because his broken ribs were so painful. He developed pneumonia and septicaemia, which ultimately led to his death.

Peter’s family say were not even told about the fact he had fractured multiple ribs until the day he died and also had grave concerns about a ‘do not resuscitate’ order that had been put in place incorrectly some time prior to his death but was later revoked by a doctor after discussion with his family.

Peter’s devastated wife Angela and daughter Michelle Lunn, have instructed Sarah Sharples a specialist medical negligence lawyer at law firm Irwin Mitchell in their battle for answers and to ensure lessons are learnt from his tragic death.

Sarah Sharples, a medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, said: “We are working to ensure they get the answers about Peter’s care that they deserve and ensure lessons are learnt so other families don’t have to go through the same terrible ordeal.”

Michelle, 47, of Thornton-Cleveleys, said: “It was absolutely devastating to see Dad in such pain and obvious discomfort. He couldn’t breathe properly and constantly complained about chest pains in the days after the fall. We put our trust in the hands of the doctors at the hospital, but he wasn’t given the level of care he needed and deserved.

“If the scans had been carried out accurately and quickly they would have showed he had suffered multiple fractures in the fall, which he could have received proper treatment for.

“I’m relieved the Government has called for further investigations to be made into the standards of care at Blackpool Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust so that lessons can be learnt from wholly avoidable deaths like my dad’s. I just don’t want his death to be in vain.”