Bristol Children’s’ Hospital caused an 8-week-old baby to die

Bristol Children’s’ Hospital caused an 8-week-old baby to die

What has happened?

On 4th October 2021 the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman released a report into the tragic death of an 8-week-old baby named Ben Condon. It followed an inquiry into the concerns about his care at the hands of the Bristol Children’s’ Hospital in 2017.It held there were a “catalogue of failings” in his care.Most alarming of all in this case was the finding that the Hospital wilfully attempted to cover up the errors made and tried to deceive his parents in blatant disregard of their duty of candour under the Care Act 2014.This caused untold suffering to them at the most difficult time for any parents.

What Does it Mean?

The Ombudsman held that due to the shortcomings in his care and his treatment Ben and his family suffered serious injustice. The report found that doctors seemingly had inexplicably failed to diagnose Ben’s deadly bacterial infection.In fact, he was not provided with any medication until an hour before he died.

The Ombudsman said the doctors and nurses ignored the concerns of the parents about Ben’s low temperature, incompetently failed to follow the body of medical opinion which would ordinarily be followed in the normal course of events.They failed to test him for a low temperature, carry out tests for a bacterial infection and subsequently failed to provide the urgent life-saving treatment desperately required once they realised the extent of his illness.

The matter is of great public interest because the ‘professionals’ responsible for his care deliberately attempted to deceive his parents on the circumstances of his tragic death.They failed to communicate with Ben’s parents on the severity of the illness or reveal he had the infection in the first place. Regretfully, he was not prescribed the necessary anti-biotics for nearly two whole months causing Ben to tragically died in their care.

What is the Impact on the Legal Profession

For the wider legal profession this case is significant because the “Duty of Candour” as introduced by the Care Act 2014 obliges hospital staff to be open and honest about the circumstances of the patients in their care. This illustrates that lessons were not learnt from Mid-Staffordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, where patients were left without medical treatment and water, forcing them to drink out of flower vases

In-house legal teams need to be advising the NHS Hospital estate to enforce a culture where this duty is embedded and enforced daily. This will reduce the likelihood of more children and their families being treated like this.This case highlights that one training session is not enough. There is a need to back up the rhetoric with a robust independent confidential reporting mechanism, responsible record-keeping and exploring the option of a dismissal from employment for incompetent staff using appropriate legal mechanisms. This will go a long way to ensuring that standards are perpetually high.

The key NHS stakeholders should ensure that the professionals responsible for making crucial decisions about the care of the most vulnerable patients have sufficient professional indemnity insurance provisions in place to protect them in the event of a breach of this crucial duty. Furthermore, they will need clauses incorporated into their key contracts to reduce the amount of compensation payable in the event of a breach.

While the hypocritic oath is highly regarded for medical professionals, it can be argued that staff should be reminded through the above methods of their legal obligations and the significance of medical malpractice.

Medical professionals need to be carefully advised to be meticulous prior to providing a diagnosis and alerted to the fact they could be investigated as witnesses. Consequently, for the legal process to flow smoothly the overriding objective (CPR rule 1) must be adhered to- for parties to work together to resolve any difficult issues. Creating greater transparency will allow for the cause of these situations to be rooted out.

 

The Legists Content Team

This Article Was Written Using the Following Sources

[Source 1] Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman – An Investigation into the An investigation into the death of Baby J at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust

[Source 2] Campbell, Denis - Baby died after hospital’s ‘catalogue of failings’, NHS inquiry findsBaby died after hospital’s ‘catalogue of failings’, NHS inquiry finds | NHS | The Guardian – 04 October 2021

[Source 3] Section 81 of the Care Act 2014 - Care Act 2014 (legislation.gov.uk) as introduced through Legislation enacted under section 20 (5) of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 - Health and Social Care Act 2008 (legislation.gov.uk);

[Source 4] Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992 - Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992 (legislation.gov.uk)

[Source 5] Tribunals and Enforcement Act 2007 - Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (legislation.gov.uk)

[Source 6] Inquiries Act 2005 - Inquiries Act 2005 (legislation.gov.uk)

[Source 7] Report of the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry – Volumes 1-3 - Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Source 8 – Rule 1 – Civil Procedure Rules

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