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Irresponsible Health Care at NHS Hospitals

I was horrified to read of an article in which 38 patients under the care of Abertawe Bro Morganwg University Health Board have been put at risk of developing Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

A patient at "high risk" of developing the disease was operated on in 2007, the same surgical instruments were subsequently used on a further 38 patients.  Whilst the instruments were sterilised, it is feared that the proteins that cause Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, known as prions; survived these routine sterilisation procedures. Therefore a risk of transmission remains.

Abertawe Bro Morganwg University has four main hospitals in South Wales: Singleton and Morriston in Swansea, Neath Port Talbot Hospital and Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend.

They have refused to name the hospital to protect the identity of the high risk patient. The 38 patients have been told that the likelihood of them contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is incredibly slim.  They were notified for public health reasons under guidance issued by the UK Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease Incidents Panel, which states anyone with a risk of more than 1% of being exposed must be told.

The Health Board are saying that there is no need for the 38 patients to worry. I do not see how this is possible.  Regardless of the low risk, news like this will be incredibly distressing.  Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a form of brain damage that leads to a rapid decrease of mental function and movement. There is currently no test or cure for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of mad cow disease.

These patients will have to live in fear of developing any Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease symptoms which include rapidly developing delirium or dementia; seizures; personality changes and hallucinations.  They may also be financially affected as they would need to disclose the risk on any medical insurance application.

Iona Meeres-Young is a Senior Associate& Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers.

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