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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Ombudsman defends role in hospital trust probe

A HEALTH regulator has defended its decision to withhold certain documents from the body completing an investigation into major failings in maternity care at an NHS trust.

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JAMES TITCOMBE

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has said it is legally prevented from sharing information with the Morecambe Bay investigation, led by Dr Bill Kirkup.

Dr Kirkup is investigating failings in maternity care at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust between January 2004 and June 2013.

Last month, the PHSO released four reports criticising the way UHMBT responded following the death of Joshua Titcombe in 2008.

But it has refused to share information requested by Dr Kirkup because of a “statutory bar”.

A spokesman for the PHSO said: “We have sent Dr Kirkup the recent publication, Four investigation reports concerning the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trusts and our publication Midwifery supervision and regulation: recommendations for change which involves three cases about the way in which midwifery services in the North West were regulated. We have always said that we will work closely with Dr Kirkup and provide as much information as we are able to. However, legislation that governs the Ombudsman’s work places strict restrictions on what we can share. But most of the information we can’t share will be accessible to the inquiry from other bodies. We published our reports, which contain relevant documents and correspondence, partly so that we could provide the Kirkup Inquiry with the Ombudsman’s full reports into these cases.

“We have apologised for the impact on the complainant and the family of the decision made in 2010 not to investigate their original complaint about University Hospitals Morecambe Bay Trust.

“The decision made at the time was lawful and we see no need for an Inquiry, but with the benefit of the complainant’s feedback and others, it is not the decision that would be made today. We have apologised to the complainant and his family for the pain and distress endured during this difficult time.

“When we receive an enquiry from a complainant we ask a number of questions to establish whether we can carry out an investigation. Almost half of the enquiries we received about Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust over the past five years have either fallen outside our remit or the complaint has not yet been made to the organisation in question such as the hospital or GP surgery. This year so far we have accepted 13 cases about the Trust for investigation.

“We have changed the way we handled complaints so we could help more people by investigating more complaints. At the end of last month, we had accepted eight times more complaints for investigation than the same period last year, 3,620 compared to 430. We have completed five times more investigations in this period, compared to the year before, 1,719 compared to 314.”

Campaigner James Titcombe, whose son Joshua died after staff at FGH failed to notice a treatable infection, has criticised the decision.

He has also called for the PHSO to hold an internal review into why it failed to investigate FGH sooner, when concerns were first raised.

Mr Titcombe said: “They need to be accountable and co-operating with Dr Kirkup is part of that. I would argue that they have let a lot of people down because if they had investigated sooner things could have been a lot different for people in Barrow.”

A spokesman for the PHSO said: “We have apologised for the impact on the complainant and the family of the decision made in 2010 not to investigate their original complaint about the trust.

“The decision made at the time was lawful and we see no need for an inquiry, but with the benefit of the complainant’s feedback and others, it is not the decision that would be made today.

“We have apologised to the complainant and his family for the pain and distress endured during this difficult time.”

Have your say

If the Nhs is killing children what exactly is the law that the PHSO states is stopping it from investigating?

For a health watchdog, it doesn't make sense.

Posted by Jane frost on 3 April 2014 at 19:29

Just plain wrong. No stone should be left unturned, no-one should be allowed to hide anything. Happy to stand alongside James and shout about this, it his decision needs to be reversed.

Posted by Darren mcSweeney on 18 March 2014 at 18:01

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