Families feel ‘shut out’ of patient death investigations

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The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has released a report on how community and mental health NHS trusts investigate patient deaths.

It highlights that a key complaint from relatives and carers of deceased patients that they feel shut out from the investigation and that their views were taken much less seriously than those of clinical staff.

Over 100 families were involved in the review. One mother interviewed told how a nurse had taken her into a room and told her that she needed to accept that her 34 year old son’s “time had come.”

The review was sparked by the death of Connor Sparrowhawk at Southern Health NHS Trust. An 18 year old who suffered from both epilepsy and learning disabilities, Connor’s death was put down to natural causes by an initial investigation. However, following a campaign by his family, an independent investigation commissioned by the Trust found that Connor’s death was entirely preventable – there had been not only failures in his case, but neglect.

A further review into the Trust showed that less than 1% of reported deaths in their disability services and 0.3% of all deaths among older people in mental health services had been investigated.

Seeking closure

Responding to the report’s findings, Adrian Stone, Senior Associate commented: “Losing a relative is hard at the best of times, and support and guidance is needed during this time. When the health service investigates a patient’s death, relatives will be understandably concerned and want to be involved, if only to get answers and perhaps seek some closure.

I hope that the recommendations of the Care Quality Commission will be taken seriously and that the Health Secretary will provide clear guidance to relatives on investigations and seek their input on how to handle the issue with sensitivity.”

Further information

If you’re concerned about the medical treatment you or a family member have received from the NHS, contact our medical negligence solicitors in Bristol on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.


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