Widow Speaks Out About Her Loss
Lawyers representing dozens of victims of the scandal hit Mid-Staffordshire Trust say the findings of an Inquiry made public today must be seen as a ‘line in the sand’ for the NHS as they look to ensure any issues identified are acted upon and lessons learnt shared with Trusts across the country
Welcoming calls for a patient-focused culture, medical law and patients’ rights experts at Irwin Mitchell say that every single recommendation made by Robert Francis QC must now be acted upon, with openness and transparency fundamental to ensuring nothing like this can ever happen again.
290 recommendations were made within the report designed to ensure that patients' interests are the top priority for the NHS and that any future lapses in care standards are detected and stopped right away, unlike at Stafford hospital.
Mandy Luckman, an Irwin Mitchell Partner and medical law expert who has been involved in litigation against the Midlands Trust since 2005, said: “This is the day the NHS needs to change forever. Every single recommendation from this extensively compiled report must be acted upon to ensure that a repeat of the horrific catalogue of failings at the Mid-Staffordshire Trust never happens again.
“What is sad is that the vast majority of NHS workers provide good levels of care, which makes what happened in Stafford particularly hard for those individuals to hear today.”
Francis gave five key initiatives that are needed now across the NHS. These are:
• Clearly understood fundamental standards
• Openness, transparency and candour throughout the system.
• No one should have hands-on care of a patient without being properly trained and registered.
• Strong patient-centred healthcare leadership.
• Accurate, useful and relevant information.
Luckman, who works as part of a National team that represents hundreds of clients in cases against NHS Trusts up and down the country said: “We wholeheartedly welcome each and every recommendation which echoes many of the concerns we have raised time and time again with the Trust after being contacted by many patients and their families concerned about the standard of care they received.
“But this is not exclusive to this Trust as we continue to be contacted on a daily basis by patients and their families looking for answers after believing the care they received fell short of acceptable.
“Transparency and a sense of camaraderie must become the norm. This would allow staff to express their concerns over any aspect of care being provided, such as staffing levels or communication between departments, that will see those responsible held to account. Only then will problems be firstly identified and then dealt with quickly in order to protect patients from unacceptable care.”
Following the report David Cameron ordered a new Chief Inspector of Hospitals to check standards across the NHS and reprimand failing doctors who are not providing patients with a satisfactory level of care.
Commenting on this news, Mandy Luckman added: “We welcome the appointment of a new Chief Inspector, but the success of that new role depends upon it being properly directed with a clear remit that the NHS must adhere to. The inspector must have access to a range of resources which will enable poor performance to be monitored and identified.
“There needs to be an independent research capability as well as a whistleblowers’ hotline so staff no longer feel scared to voice their concerns.
“The appointment must unquestionably be independent, similar to the Chief Inspector of Prisons, so there can be no suggestion of cover ups and there must be clear lines of accountability directly to the Secretary of State.”
Irwin Mitchell has continued to be contacted by victims of unacceptable care in Stafford since 2009 and is also instructed by over 100 clients taking action after being treated by a single doctor, Mr Manjit Bhamra in South Yorkshire as well as patients treated by struck off surgeon Ian Paterson in the West Midlands and patients affected by gynaecologist Rob Jones at the Royal Cornwall Hospital where close to 1,500 women have been recalled. Lawyers say this suggests the problem is deeper rooted than across Mid-Staffordshire.
“What is concerning is that even after the public Inquiry began into Stafford Hospital we have continued to receive many enquiries from patients or family members of patients who believe they were poorly treated at Mid-Staffordshire hospitals,” Ms Luckman said.
“However patient safety concerns are not unique to this area and we continue to be shocked by emerging cases on a daily basis that show unacceptable standards throughout the NHS.
“Fundamental change in the culture of the NHS to ensure it is transparent with patient safety at the heart of each member of staff’s daily duties must now be everyone’s top priority and will be key to restoring public confidence in a National Health Service that as a country we are lucky to have.”
The widow of a man who died at Stafford Hospital after staff failed to prepare him for an operation and left him unmonitored on a hospital ward because there were no beds in the Intensive Care Unit has today spoken of her loss.
Ernest Ashford died of blood poisoning in 2008, aged 65, following an operation to have a bowel resection at Stafford Hospital. An investigation into his death by Irwin Mitchell’s patient rights experts found that medical staff at the hospital had failed to provide proper care and support.
His wife Sue says the father of two was never told that he must not eat 24-hours before surgery, despite his bowel needing to be completely empty to prevent the risk of perforation and dangerous fluids leaking into the body.
Days later after his condition deteriorated, Ernest was diagnosed as having renal failure due to a perforation and underwent an operation to repair this. But despite doctors recommending he be monitored in an intensive therapy unit, no beds were available and, instead, he was left on a general ward, unmonitored, where he died hours later.
In 2012 the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust agreed to pay the family an undisclosed settlement to ensure they have financial stability in the future.
Desperate for justice, Ernest’s wife Sue instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell who secured the family an undisclosed settlement from Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
Sue, 61, said: “I have been appalled by the reports of standards of care within Stafford Hospital and was determined to seek justice to ensure Ernest did not just become another statistic.
“The Public Inquiry has ensured families like mine have answers and accountability for the unnecessary deaths of our loved ones but we now need reassurance that lessons will be learnt, not just by the Mid-Staffs trust, but across the country to ensure these deaths were not in vain.
“Nothing will ever bring Ernest back or make his death any easier to come to terms with but I hope that the findings heard today marks the beginning of a fresh start for the NHS where patients receive the care they deserve and are treated as people rather than tasks.”