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The University of Southampton
Southampton Law School

The NHS in crisis? Legal aspects of the Mid-Staffs inquiry into needless deaths

Published: 7 April 2013

Senior NHS managers and lawyers joined academic staff and students at a Southampton Law School event to learn more about what happened at Stafford Hospital that led to many needless deaths and poor quality patient care.

Robert Francis QC, the chair of the independent public inquiry into avoidable deaths at Stafford Hospital, discussed the legal aspects of his report into the Mid-Staffs NHS Foundation Trust with Jonathan Montgomery, Professor in Health Care Law.

Caring for Patients not Systems: Reflections on the Mid-Stafford Inquiry was organised by the Centre for Law, Ethics and Globalisation (CLEG) and Health Ethics and Law Network (HEAL) with Hickman & Rose Solicitors.

Mr Francis recalled hearing evidence of ‘appalling suffering’ given to the inquiry by patients’ relatives including the story of an elderly diabetic patient who died because no-one gave her the insulin she needed. He condemned managers’ ‘low grade deception’ of everyone outside the hospital and called for a new offence of ‘wilfully obstructing candour’ to oblige all staff to tell the truth about mistakes and wrong doing.

The public inquiry followed a Healthcare Commission report into unusually high death rates at Stafford Hospital which found appalling care and neglect of patients between 2005 and 2008. The Francis report revealed up to 1200 patients were let down by a culture that put reducing costs and achieving targets above the quality of care. It also raised fundamental questions about the culture of the NHS, its professional and managerial values and how to ensure that caring for patients is the first and paramount concern of health services.

Co-Director of CLEG Oren Ben-Dor, Professor of Law and Philosophy, says: “This event marked a unique collaboration between legal academics and practitioners. The subject of this lecture will vary from year to year and the series will constitute a platform to link domestic issues to the growing challenges posed by globalisation.”

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