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Bereaved Families ‘Let Down By NHS’ Investigations

Medical Negligence Lawyers Say The Duty Of Candour Isn’t Working


Bereaved families are let down when the NHS inadequately investigates patient deaths causing more suffering, according to a new review by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Specialist medical negligence lawyers at national law firm Irwin Mitchell say that the NHS is still underperforming when investigating its own care.  

A report by the health watchdog into a culmination of a one-year inquiry into some high-profile cases of neglect said that too often grieving relatives were shut out of investigations and left without clear answers. 

Later today, (Tuesday 13 December), Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, is expected comment on the report in the Commons and to make NHS Trusts publish statistics on preventable deaths. 

The CQC report said that not all deaths would represent a medical failing but the NHS must acknowledge and learn from mistakes.  

The report looked at NHS trusts in England providing acute, community and mental health services with a particular focus on people with learning disabilities. 

From interviews with more than 100 families, visits to a sample of 12 NHS trusts and a national survey of eligible NHS providers, the CQC report found five key findings. 

The level of acceptance and sense of inevitability when people with a learning disability or mental illness die early is too common; There is no consistent national framework in place to support the NHS to investigate deaths; A failure to prioritise learning from deaths so that action can be taken to improve care for future patients and their families; Many carers and families do not find the NHS to be open or transparent; Families and carers are not routinely told what their rights are when a relative dies, or what will happen or how they can access support or advocacy. 

Irwin Mitchell has been instructed to investigate NHS hospital neglect on behalf of numerous clients. In one case instructed by Ayse Ince, medical negligence solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, the devastated parents of a 23-year-old woman, Laura Mottram, who died on the Harrington Ward at the Broadoak Unit in Liverpool have said more must be done to keep patients safe after an inquest was critical of a history of severe failings in her care.

The hospital had two other incidents of death in the mental health units within two months with similar issues being flagged and family members being ignored. 

Mark Havenhand, expert medical negligence solicitor at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office, who has helped families through particular traumatic incidents of medical neglect from hospitals, said:

Expert Opinion
“The report by the CQC into the quality of NHS investigations shows that much has to be done to restore public trust. Families are already undergoing an inevitably tragic time through bereavement and the NHS investigation into those deaths should not be making the process any worse.

“The NHS simply isn’t good enough at self-reporting and investigating. It’s often only when independent and specialist medical negligence lawyers get involved that patients and their families get the answers that they deserve.

“There are far too many occasions where I have seen that the duty of candour just isn’t working, and the CQC today has revealed further examples of neglect. Clearly, those concerned need to learn important lessons to improve patient safety and restore public confidence.

“Jeremy Hunt’s comments on the report today will hopefully see a commitment to positive action so that families are candidly told the truth and given closure during this traumatic time.”
Mark Havenhand, Partner

If you or a loved one has suffered illness or injury after poor care in hospital, our medical negligence claims team could help you to secure compensation. Visit our Hospital Negligence Claims page for more information.