Andrea Duggan’s newborn baby was left seriously brain damaged after admitted delays in hospital. Arriving back at hospital at 3 days old he was treated as non-urgent and made to wait 5 hours despite barely moving and turning blue.
His mother is angered that the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) cannot now renew its decision that there was ‘no case to answer’ despite the hospital, having first cleared staff of wrongdoing, now admitting mistakes in her baby’s management.
The story has been presented as suggesting loopholes in regulation and one of ‘Mother’s lack of redress’. If new evidence has come to light which affects the NMC’s decision it seems strange that the NMC cannot take it into account. However it is important to distinguish different sorts of investigations all of which have different purposes.
An NMC investigation is not intended to provide redress but to investigate whether nursing and midwifery staff are fit to practice. The same applies to the disciplinary investigations of other bodies such as the General Medical Council (GMC) in the case of doctors. One error, however serious, does not necessarily suggest that staff are not.
Hospitals identifying a ‘Serious Untoward Incident’ will often carry out their own investigation resulting in a detailed report which aims to identify errors and changes which can be made to learn from mistakes and avoid the same happening again. They are normally extremely thorough and very helpful.
In response to a complaint a hospital will often carry out an investigation in a less detailed manner than a Serious Untoward Incident investigation. The quality of those investigations is often very variable. Many are inadequate and in numerous cases we have established negligence despite denials made in response to complaints.
None of these investigations are about providing redress. That is the role of claims for damages. Claims can be made where there has been a breach of duty which causes quantifiable loss. Breach of duty is quite tightly defined as care falling below the standard expected of a reasonable doctor or nurse of a particular type. For instance the standard expected of midwives is that of a reasonable midwife. Identifying whether care is not just poor but amounts to a breach of duty and then to what extent it, rather than some other factor, has caused loss is a complex matter requiring input from medical experts.
So whilst it may be true to say that there are gaps in the regulatory system, it is not right to say that they have denied this unfortunate family redress.
For details of Andrea Duggan’s story please click here.