Mid Staffs lawyer calls for ‘transparency’ in investigation of future care failings

An investigation into the deaths of 11 babies and one mother between 2004 and 2013 at a Cumbrian hospital that exposed 20 major failures in care ‘must be a catalyst for change’, a leading  lawyer has urged.

The call to action comes after an inquiry ruled that the deaths at Furness General Hospital, part of the Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, were caused by a ‘lethal mix’ of failures and could have been avoided.

Led by former Department of Health official Dr Bill Kirkup, the investigation found that the hospital’s maternity unit had been ‘dysfunctional’; the working relationships between doctors and midwives had been poor and governing bodies had failed to act on information that could have brought the problems to light sooner.

Today, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that although on a smaller scale the tragedy was ‘a second Mid Staffs’.

Law firm Leigh Day’s Emma Jones, who represents a number of victims affected by the Mid Staff’s scandal, said: “The findings of the investigation are a cause for serious concern, not least given the evidence that much more could have been done much sooner to address the significant failings now brought to light.”

The report also criticised the wider NHS for the way it had monitored and regulated events at the hospital, exposing that there was knowledge of five major incidents in 2009 revealed within Morecambe Bay’s application for foundation trust status.

A title reserved for elite trusts, regulators did not investigate the episodes fully before awarding the status.

Today, Emma who has acted for clients against the hospital, welcomed the 44 recommendations made within the report including a national review of maternity care and an additional investigation into the staff involved in care at the hospital during this time.

She said: “To read that the maternity unit was not only dysfunctional but that it also delivered substandard care as a result of staff ‘deficient in skills and knowledge’ must be extremely distressing to the victims and their families.

“It is now imperative that we look to the future to ensure that this investigation serves to catalyst fundamental changes that prevent others from suffering as these families have moving forward. 

“The safety of patients must always be of paramount importance, but where there is evidence of failings in the care received a transparent and thorough investigation must take place without delay or hesitation. and the public need reassurance that this will be the case.”