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United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust Failures in Care

I listened with interest today to the comments of the former Chief Executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Gary Walker, with regard to the culture of secrecy and how he was, in effect, gagged from disclosing his concerns over patient safety at the Trust during his time there until 2010.

ULHT is one of 14 hospitals in England currently being investigated for high death rates in the wake of the Stafford hospital scandal, where hundreds are believed to have died after receiving poor care.

This comes at a time when I have just settled a very tragic case concerning an elderly lady who was admitted to the Pilgrim Hospital, Bolton, Lincolnshire in May 2009 with a fractured shoulder.  By the time of her discharge from hospital to an intermediate care home at the end of May 2009, she had developed Grade 2 pressure ulceration on both heels from pushing herself up in the hospital bed by her heels, an action known as ‘shearing’.

Other than an initial brief assessment of her risk of developing pressure ulcers on admission, no further assessments or skin observations were carried out.  She was clearly at risk given her age and the injury she had suffered.  Had appropriate assessments been carried out to identify the risk to this patient, and that she was mobilising in this way, plans could have been put in place to mobilise her and maintain skin integrity.  This could easily have been avoided.  The guidelines and protocols are in place to do this, and there was no reason for not following them.

As a result this previously independent lady was unable to return home without 24 hour family care.  She was unable to walk independently or manage her personal needs.  Her health deteriorated and the tragic outcome was that she died of sepsis from the pressure ulcers at the end of October.

Her family sought answers from the Trust but the outcome of the complaints procedure was totally unsatisfactory, with the relatives feeling they had been given a smokescreen response. The only recourse was to go to a solicitor to get the answers as to why this had happened to their mother through a clinical negligence claim.

After many months, the Trust finally admitted that appropriate care had not been given.

The report into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust by Robert Francis QC highlighted the need for candour throughout the system.  This case again highlights this failing.

Robert Francis also noted that medical negligence claims have become increasingly more important as a means of highlighting failures and bringing hospitals to account, and therefore ultimately raising standards.  However, he concluded “I think all would agree solicitors should not be policing the NHS.”

Sadly, this is often the only recourse.