The pursuit to make individuals accountable for the appalling failures of care at the Mid Staffordshire hospital has been slammed after over 40 doctors believed to have treated patients negligently escaped sanction.
The doctors, who were all believed to have failed patients at the Mid Staffordshire Hospital Trust, were being pursued by the General Medical Council (GMC). However, all 44 cases have now been dropped amid public ire.
The abandonment of these cases means that the GMC has fired just one doctor (for fraudulent activity) involved in the scandal despite 44 cases being referred to it in total. The most recent group of cases related to 4 senior managers but proceedings were dropped when lawyers made it clear that the chances of securing sufficient evidence proving gross misconduct were small. This comes as a surprise to many given that the scandal was subject to a public inquiry.
The Mid Staffs trusts medical director between 2003 and 2006 Dr John Gibson, his replacement Dr Valerie Suarez, deputy director Dr David Durrans and clinical director Dr Diarmuid Mulherin will all escape sanction despite their seniority whilst the scandal was unfolding.
The enquiry discovered that Dr Gibson had made sweeping cuts to nursing staffing levels which had a damaging effect on patient care. Dr Suarez explained to investigators that she struggled to handle the demands of the management position and inquirers concluded that Dr Durrans should have done more once the dangers to patients were revealed. Despite these things, none will be punished.
The GMC revealed that the legal team which presided over the public inquiry advised them that there would not be enough evidence of misconduct. Just like the various allegations of substandard medical care against over 40 medical professionals, the charges have been dropped. In many cases, the accused were simply given guidance on how to improve their performance in the future.
In light of the cases being dropped, the debate about accountability in the NHS has been raised once again, with many believing that doctors and senior managers are simply not accountable enough for their actions. Indeed, the senior managers in this case were doctors in their own right and they still failed to care for patients’ safety.
It appears that the NHS is under-regulated because of the number of negligence cases that are making headline news at the moment. It may be the case that new regulatory and scrutinising bodies are needed to prevent further scandals.
One of the biggest problems revealed by the inquiry into the Stafford Hospital failures was that senior managers cut staffing levels in order to satisfy financial performance targets, resulting in terrible suffering for many patients. As a result, the NHS currently has a high death rate relatively to other developed nations and many of these deaths will have been avoidable.
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