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Human Rights lawyer warns of similar HRA breaches as Trust pays out £1m

The lawyer representing over 100 victims of abuse at Stafford Hospital has announced that the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has so far paid out compensation of over £1m.

10 December 2012

The lawyer representing over 100 victims of abuse at Stafford Hospital has announced that the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has so far paid out compensation of over £1m after the ‘inhumane and degrading’ treatment victims suffered within the hospital but warns breaches of patient's human rights continue within hospitals.

The Healthcare Commission first lifted the lid on abuse at Stafford Hospital in March 2009. Their report estimated that as many as 1200 people had died unnecessarily at the hospital between 2005 and 2008 due to the ‘appalling’ standards of care provided.

The treatment included patients being left to sit in faeces for extended periods of time, food & drink being placed purposefully out of reach with thirsty patients forced to drink water out of flower vases.

All the legal cases against the Trust alleged that the poor treatment that the mostly elderly people received at Stafford Hospital directly caused, or hastened their deaths, or hastened their deaths through gross and degrading treatment. Lawyers from Leigh Day brought the claims under the Human Rights Act.

They argued that Articles 2 – Right to Life, Articles 3 – prohibition of Torture, which includes inhumane and degrading treatment and Article 8 – right to respect for a private and family life had all been breached by the trust.

The scandal of Stafford hospital has become the by-word for gross wilful negligence within the NHS, referenced in last Monday’s (3 December 2012) BBC Panorama programme, ‘how safe is your hospital’. Robert Francis QC is currently finalising details of the report into the public inquiry concerning the serious failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust which is due to be published in the New Year.

The recent Dr Foster Hospital Guide also referenced the Trust in its latest influential report, which revealed that the death rates at 12 NHS hospital trusts in England were alarmingly high during last year.

Mentioning in the report: “…there is a fear that there could be another Mid Staffs”

Emma Jones from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day said: “Having visited the families of those who died, or victims who survived the horrors of this hospital, you cannot help but become angry and extremely worried that this is happening elsewhere with the same excuses being given and blind eyes being cast to what is torture of the most vulnerable in a place where care should be the single most important feature.  

“As the Dr Foster Guide points out, death rates similar to the Mid Staffs Trust, at the time this behaviour was taking place, can be witnessed in 12 Trusts around the country. We believe that care in some hospitals is so bad it continues to breach the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The interview with Ann Clwyd on the BBC last week brought home to many the heartbreak this type of care not only has on the victim but also on their families who are haunted by what they have to endure, watching their loved ones suffer within a ‘care’ environment.

“We await the report into Stafford Hospital and hope that change does come to what is still a healthcare system to be proud of and which remains the envy of the world but it needs to continually improve and learn lessons from when things go wrong and have the systems in place for these issues to come to the surface and not be buried under bureaucracy or, even worse, disguised for financial benefit.”

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