Full public inquiry into failings at Stafford Hospital announced

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Full public inquiry into failings at Stafford Hospital announced

11th June 2010

The Government has announced a full public inquiry will be held into patient care failings at the scandal-hit Stafford Hospital that led to the deaths of between 400 and 1200 patients.

Daniel Lee, a clinical negligence specialist at Fentons Solicitors LLP, welcomed the news. "This is obviously fantastic news for those directly affected as well as the wider public who need assurance that the appalling and tragic failings in standards of care found at Stafford Hospital can never be repeated," he said.

The problems at Stafford Hospital - run by the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust were laid bare by the NHS regulator in March 2009. The Healthcare Commission reported an extra 400 more deaths than expected between 2005 and 2008 citing a catalogue of failings including accounts of hospital receptionists being used to assess emergency patients.

During the period in question the Trust had been climbing the NHS ratings ladder and had even been awarded Elite Foundation Trust status - the 'gold standard' of NHS bodies enabling them to run in a similar way to mutual organisations like building societies, with the public becoming members and sitting on a board of governors.

The public inquiry will be chaired by Robert Francis QC, who also chaired the independent inquiry that revealed patients had been routinely neglected due to management pre-occupation with cost-cutting and meeting targets.

Following the independent inquiry findings, Cure the NHS - the campaign group set up by the families of victims - demanded a more wide-ranging probe with tougher powers. Unlike the independent inquiry which was held behind closed doors for reasons of confidentiality, the public inquiry is held openly and has the power to compel witnesses to attend and give evidence under oath, all of which will be publicly accessible.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has said he will be issuing guidance to Trusts on their whistle-blowing procedures as well as introducing a contractual right for staff to raise any concerns in the public interest.

Daniel Lee said, "It is vital that families of patients who suffered so dreadfully as well as every NHS patient in the country, are able to understand how the regulatory and supervisory systems failed - the very systems in place to ensure patient safety and quality of care."

"This inquiry is about accountability, openness, and examining how the culture in the NHS allowed these failings to occur," he said. "Understanding is the very least the families of those who died are entitled to."

Robert Francis QC aims to provide his final report by March 2011.

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims relating to clinical and medical negligence.

If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Source - BBC