Good quality health and social care for all
Cases of poor care which have taken place in British hospitals and care homes, as highlighted in a dossier published by the Patients Association on 22nd November and in the findings of the Care Quality Commission on 23rd, should come as little surprise.
As a medical negligence lawyer, I can say that whilst such stories of neglect make poignant reading, the experiences described are all too similar to those I hear every day from individuals and families that have suffered bereavements or life-long injuries and want to find out more about what went wrong.
Among the 13 cases reported as included in the dossier is that of Ronald Bowman, an Alzheimer’s sufferer who disappeared from hospital after staff assurances that they would check on him every 15 minutes. Mr Bowman was found drowned in a river four miles from the hospital.
In the majority of cases where medical negligence has been established, I typically find that a lack of communication between nurses and doctors is a real factor. They should not be so busy that they fail to identify a patient’s symptoms and check their records. Sometimes decisions are left to a junior nurse or a Registrar because more senior members of staff are not available.
It is concerning that we hear of staff in some hospitals and care homes ignoring the often emotional complaints of family members because they are regarded as a distraction. Too often family members say that their concerns about a patient’s treatment were just not listened to or taken seriously. They often feel that it was only when they made a formal complaint that their concerns were taken seriously and by that time the damage had been done.
This issue is particularly concerning when it involves the care of babies and young children – patients who can’t speak for themselves. In such cases, it is particularly important that carers and medical professionals listen to mothers and treat their concerns seriously. Guidelines on the observance of babies and young children should also be adhered to and more training provided if necessary.
The case of Paula Stevenson, which highlighted this issue, was covered widely by the media last week. Her baby daughter, Hayley, died at Birmingham Children’s Hospital whilst recovering from an operation to mend a hole in her heart. Ms Stevenson is calling for all families to have a right to an urgent second opinion. In this case, the coroner at the inquest into Hayley’s death identified ‘serious failings’ at the hospital.
Good quality health and social care shouldn’t just apply to those who shout loudest. If we are going to prevent more avoidable deaths and suffering in the future, all in the sector have a responsibility to start listening to the concerns raised by patients’ families as well as those of the patients themselves.
Suzanne Trask is a medical negligence lawyer at Bolt Burdon Kemp (www.boltburdonkemp.co.uk)Tagged in: care homes, Care Quality Commission, nhs, Patients Association, Paula Stevenson, Ronald Bowman
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