WELCOME to our Spring newsletter in which we will be commenting primarily on two big media stories during recent weeks, firstly on the scandal of the deaths of a number of patients at Mid Staffs Trust and secondly (and much nearer to home) the shocking behaviour of a Royal Wootton Bassett GP, Dr Bains, who recently appeared at Swindon Crown Court and pleaded guilty to a number of sexual offences.
We would also remind our readers (and any of their friends or family) of impending changes in how personal injury including medical negligence cases will be funded after the 31 March 2013. As from the 1 April 2013, the law is dramatically changing so that the victims of either sub-standard care or an accident will no longer be able to recover all their costs and expenses from a Defendant in the event of them winning their case. A proportion of their costs/ expenses will now have to be paid by them in any event from their damages. It is therefore important that anyone who suspects they may have a claim, should seek advice from a lawyer before the April 2013 deadline.
MID STAFFS REPORT
Robert Francis, an eminent QC, who led an Inquiry into the Mid Staffs NHS Trust, published his report on the 6 February 2013. This report had been commissioned by the Government following the deaths of between 400 and 1,200 patients at the Stafford Hospital over a 8 year period.
It seems that many of the patients who died at this hospital did so without pain relief or dignity. The report comments on patients drinking from vases because the water was taken away at night. Staff also moved patients’ call ‘buzzers’ out of reach so they would not be disturbed.
At night-time, troubled patients were free to roam the wards, harassing others until being forced back to bed by the porters. Vulnerable patients went hungry and thirsty because staff did not take time to feed them. For some, the lack of fluids and dehydration left their mouths bleeding. Many of the staff were afraid to speak out due to a culture of fear of whistle blowing at the hospital.
All credit should go to Ms Julie Bailey, the daughter of one of the patients who died, for setting up a patient group called “Cure the NHS” which, in turn, put pressure on the Government to set up this Inquiry.
The report is very comprehensive and makes a total of 290 recommendations designed to change the culture of the NHS. They include:-
- to cause death or serious harm to a patient without reasonable excuse should be a criminal offence;
- being truthful to patients where harm was or may have been caused should be a statutory duty;
- staff should be legally obliged to make employers aware of incidents where harm is caused to a patient;
- the deliberate deception of patients, the general public and regulators should be a criminal offence;
- entrants to the nursing profession should be assessed for their aptitude to deliver proper care, and the ability to commit to the welfare of patients;
- healthcare workers should be regulated;
- a “fit and proper” test to for directors and senior managers in the NHS;
- gagging clauses to prevent whistle blowing should be banned;
- there should be a single regulator;
- an enhanced inspection regime for hospitals that would include all hospital staff;
- reform of professional bodies, including the General Medical Council, the Royal College of Nursing and the Nursing and Midwifery Council;
- the establishment of an NHS leadership college.
We at S J Edney welcome this report and its many recommendations and in particular the introduction of a statutory “duty of candour”. Staff should be truthful to their patients where harm has or may have been caused. In our experience, the vast majority of patients who seek our advice do so not because they motivated by getting compensation but they feel that they have been “fobbed off” by the hospital and their concerns about their treatment have not been addressed. Many simply want to know what went wrong with their treatment, why did it go wrong and what are the hospital now going to do to fix the problem?
We also welcome the emphasis in the report on hospitals improving standards of care and showing more compassion to their patients. It seems that the majority of those who died were elderly people who were given very little compassion or dignity during their remaining days. This poor attitude to the elderly is something which we often come across throughout the NHS.
THE APPALLING CASE OF DR BAINS
Dr Davinder Bains, a family GP at Tinkers Lane Surgery in Royal Wootton Bassett, appeared at Swindon Crown Court on the 15 March 2013 and pleaded guilty to 39 counts of sexual assault and voyeurism and asked for a further 65 offences to be taken into consideration. He has been remanded in custody to await sentencing at a later date.
The Court was told that he used a tiny camera concealed in the dial of his wrist watch to film intimate examinations of dozens of his female patients.
Over a three year period Dr Bains abused more than 200 patients, who were completely unaware that the examinations were purely for his sexual gratification. After his arrest, the Police found hours of video recordings on his laptop showing these intimate examinations and it appears that his youngest victim was only aged 14.
This is a shocking betrayal of trust by Dr Bains, as well as a terrible abuse of his position of authority. He will now be struck off as a doctor and it is likely that he will receive a long custodial sentence for what he did to his patients.
We at S J Edney Solicitors are advising a number of women who were his patients and victims of his sexual assault on their legal remedies. If any female patients of Dr Bains would like free and confidential advice about their legal position, they should contact either Seamus Edney or Mary Smith by phone on 01793 600721 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to Swansea City FC for winning the Capital One Cup on the 24 February 2013 at Wembley. Seamus Edney (whose wife comes from Swansea) had the good fortune to have a ticket to watch the game.
Swansea are a small club from a small Welsh city (probably no bigger than Swindon), who were promoted to the Premier League two seasons ago and have now won their first trophy in English football. I think it is agreed by football “neutrals” that they play very attractive football (they like to pass the ball) and they are a welcome addition to the top league. They also balance their books each year and do not rely on a rich Russian oligarch to finance the club.
We at S J Edney like to think that if we were a football club, we would be similar to Swansea City FC. Like them, we are small (from choice), consistently get good results (for our clients) and do so with limited resources. We will never have the marketing budgets that the bigger PI firms (the Manchester City’s and Chelsea’s) have to attract new clients but pride ourselves on providing a Premier League service nonetheless.
We are fortunate that the majority of our new clients are recommended to us by either existing or former clients and we still believe that there is a future for the smaller niche law firm in this ever changing legal landscape. In our view, the secret of our success is putting client care at the heart of everything we do and maintaining our expertise in this complicated area of the law.
This newsletter was produced by S J Edney solicitors Telephone: 01793 600721