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James Bell asks: What can the Mid Stafford Inquiry teach us?

By Principal Lawyer, Clinical Negligence

The ongoing Mid Stafford Inquiry (http://www.midstaffspublicinquiry.com/) has revealed some shocking home truths about the way patients are sometimes treated in the UK.
 
Up to 1,200 people lost their lives (in a three year period) needlessly because Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust put government targets and cost-cutting ahead of patient care.
That is one person per day, every day, for three years.
 
Patients were left unwashed in their own filth for up to a month as nurses ignored their requests to use the toilet or change their sheets;
Four members of one family. Including a new-born baby girl died within 18 months after of blunders at the hospital;
Medics discharged patients hastily out of fear they risked being sacked for delaying;
Wards were left filthy with blood, discarded needles and used dressings while bullying managers made whistleblowers too frightened to come forward.
Patients were shunted into assessment units and ignored in order to comply with 4 hour A and E targets.
 
Looking back it is perhaps easy to say that the regulators who were meant to protect patients from this kind of abuse were asleep at the wheel.
 
The suspects who should be in the frame at the Inquiry are….
 
General Medical Council (GMC) - annual budget of £83 million
Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) - annual budget of £44 million
General Social Care Council (GSCC) – annual budget of £48 million
Health Professions Council – annual budget of £15 million
Monitor - annual budget - annual budget of £12.5 million
Care Quality Commission - annual budget of £161.2million
National Patient Safety Agency - annual budget of £15million
Healthcare Protection Agency annual budget of £230 million
NHS confederation - annual budget of £29 million
 
Grand total - over £600 million.....
 
Of course there has to be a regulator to regulate the regulators… which are the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) –   with an annual budget of £2.36 million (who checks them by the way???)
 
Most of the above institutions and quangos are relatively new organisations. Their task was to prevent the culture that is being uncovered in the Mid Staffs Inquiry.
 
Given that approximately £600 million a year is being spent on civil servants whose task is to "protect patients" one would have thought that the number of clinical negligence claims would therefore be falling. The simple truth is that over the last five years the annual number of clinical negligence claims notified to the NHSLA has risen by 18.8% from 5,609 in 2005 to 6,652 in 2010. There was a 9.2% year-on-year increase between 2009 and 2010.
 
The Mid Stafford Inquiry will hopefully come up with some ideas as to how scandals like Stafford can be prevented and how we can set up some effective regulators for the UK healthcare system.James Bell is a Partner in the Russell Jones & Walker clinical negligence team. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email enquiries@slatergordon.co.uk and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.

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