Monday, 25 May 2009

'We demand justice': The families at the heart of Gosport's hospital scandal


Nearly 100 deaths at a hospital in Gosport have provoked an outcry from many of the patients' families, who believe the cases are suspicious. Official investigations have established little. The Independent on Sunday was the first to make arguments for a public inquiry and continues to pressurise the authorities to find out what really happened. Beyond the headlines, the relatives are struggling to uncover the whole truth behind their parents' final days... Nina Lakhani hears their stories

In 1991, nurses working night shifts at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire were troubled. Over the previous few months, the number of elderly patients dying under their care had been mounting. Two nurses at the community hospital (which treats elderly patients in need of rehabilitation or sometimes terminal care, in collaboration with GPs) raised the alarm to senior hospital staff and the Royal College of Nursing. They believed the deaths started after patients were given diamorphine (a powerful painkiller) via a syringe driver (which delivers drugs via a tube and needle, and is traditionally used for very sick patients who need constant medication but find it difficult to swallow tablets). Giving these drugs, while sometimes necessary for chronic pain, can cause serious side-effects, such as difficulty with breathing. These are more likely to occur in those patients not in pain: breathing can stop altogether.

Letters were written, internal meetings were held, but eventually the matter was closed by the hospital trust. A GP attached to Gosport, Dr Jane Barton, was responsible for prescribing drugs to many of the elderly patients. She continued working in the rehabilitation and terminal care wards.

The death at the hospital of 91-year-old Gladys Richards in 1998 triggered the first NHS, and two police, investigations after her daughter, Gillian Mackenzie, refused to accept she had died from natural causes. The police investigations were later found to have been incompetent and led to a third – lasting four years – into at least 92 deaths at the hospital. Thirteen were categorised as the "most serious" by an eminent team of medical experts led by Professor Robert ' Forrest, the forensic toxicologist who gave evidence at the Harold Shipman trial, but no charges were brought.

Full article here

Also from The Independent: NHS 'loses' thousands of medical records

The personal medical records of tens of thousands of people have been lost by the NHS in a series of grave data security leaks. Between January and April this year, 140 security breaches were reported within the NHS – more than the total number from inside central Government and all local authorities combined.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Why is the NHS killing so many with drugs?


By Daniel Martin
Last updated at 12:50 AM on 20th May 2009

An extraordinary rise in the number of patients killed by drugs given out by the Health Service has led to calls for an investigation.

The figure has more than doubled since Labour came to power, rising from 520 in 1998 to 1,299 last year.

Official figures also show that the number of such deaths last year was up by more than a quarter on the figure of 1,030 recorded in 2007.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb, who obtained the statistics following a parliamentary question, said: 'The Government needs to urgently investigate this extraordinary rise.

'The public needs to know why these adverse reactions are happening more frequently and why the trend appears to be increasing so much.

'Patient safety is being compromised. Ministers must ensure that better information on prescription drugs is available for patients and doctors.'

Some experts blamed the increase on failures in the training of hospital doctors and Labour's decision to hand greater prescribing powers to nurses.

The figures show that in 2008, a total of 25,424 reports of adverse reactions to drugs - both fatal and non-fatal - were made to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the government organisation in charge of drug safety.

They were up by 17 per cent on 2007 and by 41 per cent in a decade.

Of these patients, 4,487 had to stay in hospital for several days following side effects from medication - around the same as in 2007 but up by more than 50 per cent on 1998.

The figures mainly cover drugs handed out on prescription, but they also relate to over-the-counter and herbal medicines.

Peter Walsh, of pressure group Action Against Medical Accidents, said: 'There are far too many complications resulting in harm or death. These numbers must be reduced, and it must be in the gift of a modern NHS to get them down.

'The true figure will undoubtedly be much higher, because not all incidents are reported [by hospitals and GPs]. And in many cases doctors simply do not know what caused a sudden deterioration or a death - the drugs or another cause.
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Full article in Daily Mail