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Bristol Royal Infirmary Scandal: After Ten Years The 'forgotten Families' Still Wait
A new website offers data on hospital success rates in children’s heart surgery but, according to Michelmores, families whose children were severely injured as a result of botched surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary ten years ago are still waiting. Those cases are not covered by the information.
After a decade, the scandal of BRI lingers on. Laurence Vick is head of clinical negligence at Michelmores and led the families’ legal team at the public inquiry into the scandal. He reveals that he is still fighting for justice on behalf of those he dubs ‘the forgotten families’.
He worked with more than one hundred families whose children died as a result of malpractice at the BRI. Two doctors and the chief executive were struck off by the General Medical Council after having been found guilty of serious professional misconduct.
But not all of the children tragically affected died of their injuries. A number of them were left with severe brain injury, and ten years after the scandal they are still fighting for justice.
Even though they were operated on by the struck off doctors, the NHS Litigation Authority has been fighting those children’s cases ever since. Because the NHS has denied responsibility, the families have been left to battle on as best they can. In several cases the children require round-the-clock care, but their families have had to look after them without any financial input from the NHS.
Now, Laurence Vick reveals that at least two of the cases are due to come before the courts during the next few months.
‘Everybody remembers the BRI scandal and much of public health policy is still driven by its repercussions,’ he says. ‘Not a week goes by without a national newspaper or a government minister making reference to it. The Bristol children’s heart scandal scarred our perceptions of how we thought the NHS treats our children.
‘But the real scandal is that it’s still going on. The impression everybody has is that the dreadful goings-on at the hospital were exposed, those responsible were dealt with and the public inquiry made recommendations which would radically change the way that hospitals and surgeons behave in future.
‘At the same time, everybody believes that the grieving families received sympathetically justice and that we have moved on. But that is simply not the case.
‘A number of families, perhaps ten of them, have struggled on unrecognized for the past ten years, nursing children who were brutally injured as a result of having been operated on by the disgraced doctors. They have been forgotten by the public and the media, and justice delayed is justice denied.
‘Now there is a new website specifically aimed at giving information on success rates for heart surgery on children. I welcome it of course, but it illustrates the same problem we have been facing for the past ten years. It only looks at data on children who die as a result of clinical negligence, not at those who survive surgery but are left severely injured. There remains no data available on those operations.
‘Given this shortcoming, how can parents make an informed decision on the true success or failure rate of the surgeon or unit?
‘So in this ignorance of what is actually going on, for ten years the NHS litigation authority has been able to procrastinate and obfuscate the issues without the full exposure to the public glare which these outstanding cases deserve.
‘The new website is no help to them. But in the next few weeks or months at least two of these cases will come before the courts, when we must hope that justice is at last seen to be done.’
The families’ case has drawn the attention of Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesman, who says: ‘It’s very important that justice is done and that the pain and distress of these families is finally put to an end.’
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