14 March 2012
and abuse claims
lawyers in the human rights department at Leigh Day & Co have welcomed new guidance published by the General Medical Council following scandals at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust
where up to 1, 200 ‘excess deaths’ occurred because of poor care and neglect. Specialist human rights and abuse claims solicitors at Leigh Day successfully represented and secured compensation for over 120 families whose relatives died at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2008. Solicitor Emma Jones
is also representing a number of families whose relatives received inadequate care at Alexandra Hospital, Redditch and Queens Hospital in Essex.
The new guidance, Leadership and management for all doctors
came into force on 12th March and means that doctors could face disciplinary actions if they ignore poor patient care on hospital wards, and also reminds doctors that they have responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of patients when performing non-clinical duties, including when they are working as a manager. Doctors will have to be responsible for the "entire welfare" of patients, which includes care by other professionals. The guidance prevents doctors entering into contracts or agreements that seek to stop them raising concerns about poor quality care. A public inquiry into failings at Stafford Hospital heard from the Government’s chief nursing office, Dame Christine Beasley, that more had to be done to support whistle-blowing and that it was very difficult to explain why concerns at Stafford Hospital had not been reported sooner.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council said:
“Our guidance makes clear that doctors have a duty to act when they believe patient safety is at risk, or when a patient’s care or dignity is being compromised. The guidance explains when doctors need to raise concerns and advises on the help and support available to them, including how to tackle any barriers that they may face.
He added: "You can look at examples at the Mid Staffs inquiry, where although some doctors did raise concerns, it is also clear that many doctors didn't raise concerns, that in a sense they walked by on the other side of the ward.
"That's not to say that the medical care itself may have been bad, it may have been bad care by other care professionals, but our advice is that doctors have a wider responsibility.
"They have a responsibility not just for the care they give themselves, but also for ensuring the entire welfare of patients and that includes care provided by other doctors but also care provided by other professionals.
"They have an obligation to raise concerns when they have them, and doctors who are in management positions also have a responsibility to act when those concerns are raised."
team at Leigh Day has represented many vulnerable clients, including the elderly and learning disabled adults and young people, who have been abused, or who have received inadequate, inappropriate or insufficient treatment.
Human rights and abuse claims solicitor Emma Jones welcomed the new guidance and said:
“From our contact with families whose loved ones died at Stafford Hospital we know that there is a need for stronger guidance from the GMC about the levels of care patients received in hospital. It is surprising that so few doctors raised the alarm at Stafford Hospital, despite large numbers of frail and elderly patients receiving obviously inadequate care. We have also been approached by families who have been patients at Alexandra Hospital and note that the Care Quality Commission is still finding problems at hospitals including at the Conquest Hospital, Hastings and at Eastbourne District General Hospital. We welcome this guidance from the GMC and hope that doctors will not be afraid to step forward if they are aware of poor standards wherever they work. Doctors should be aware that the care of their patients is of vital concern, and failure to act on any concerns they have can now result in disciplinary action.”
If you would like to contact a member of the human rights team at Leigh Day please contact us on 020 7650 1200
for a friendly and free initial consultation.
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