NHS failure to investigate deaths leaves families without answers

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (“PHSO”) is a body set up by Parliament to investigate complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England and UK government departments and other UK public organisations.  It estimates that complaints about potentially avoidable deaths make up around 20% of the NHS complaints that it investigates.

Earlier this month it conducted a review into the quality of NHS investigations into complaints about avoidable harm and death.  The results were alarming.  The report concluded that there were serious failings by the NHS in conducting such investigations, leaving distressed patients and families without the answers and reassurance that they deserved.  The PHSO concluded that amongst the factors contributing to such failings, there was inadequacy of the investigation procedures adopted, and often those investigating had received varying degrees of training, if any training at all.  Some investigators were not deemed by the PHSO far enough removed from the original incident to give any objective opinion.  There was also an inconsistency in the findings of the investigations.

Perhaps more worryingly, the PHSO found that where failings were identified, in some instances no action was taken by the relevant Trust to ensure that the same mistakes were not repeated.

This report has highlighted what many Claimant clinical negligence lawyers have known for a long time – that the NHS is seriously lacking a comprehensive, systematic approach to investigations.  Clinical negligence lawyers are providing checks and balances on hospital Trusts where perhaps none have existed before.

It is important that we at Pattinson & Brewer continue to investigate claims and challenge Trusts in order to find answers, ensure that those responsible for avoidable deaths are held to account and that adequate training and/or procedures are put in place to ensure that the same mistakes do not happen again.

Marcus Weatherby, Medical Negligence,
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