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    The 5 most damaging and severe scandals in the history of the NHS

    Published on: 23/11/2014

    Tainted blood scandal

    In the 1970s and 1980s, contaminated blood was given to tens of thousands of individuals during blood transfusion operations, leading to serious diseases, thousands of infections, and deaths. Lord Robert Winston went on to depict the scandal as “the worst treatment disaster in the history of the National Health Service”.

    The Contaminated Blood Campaign states that some people were intentionally focused on. Thousands of people were infected with life-threatening viruses including HIV and Hepatitis C, with around 2000 people dying as a consequence and a number of victims and their families still searching for justice and compensation. The Contaminated Blood Campaign believe that such an extensive and massive case of medical negligence could not possibly have been an accident.

    Mid Staffordshire / Stafford Hospital scandal

    In recent times, the scandal with the highest profile has been the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust and Stafford Hospital scandal. During the late 2000’s, it witnessed inadequate care and increased mortality rates amongst patients. Mortality rates, from patients who were admitted on an emergency basis to Stafford Hospital, were uncommonly high. In 2007 Julie Bailey began the Cure the NHS campaign after her own mother passed away at the hospital. She instantly experienced a defensive behaviour from the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, which dismissed any accountability.

    When the Healthcare Commission subsequently introduced an investigation into Stafford Hospital, the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust were unable to produce sufficient answers to explain the high mortality rates. Therefore an all-out investigation was announced by the Healthcare Commission in 2008. The Foundation Trust was criticised in the report that came out a year later, where it proposed that around 400 and 1200 deaths could have been prevented, had the care and environment at the hospital been of an appropriate level, between 2005 and 2010. Martin Yeates, the Trusts chief executive, was suspended with full pay and eventually sacked with a large financial pay-off. This is in spite of the fact that he refused to give any evidence at the enquiries.

    The public enquiry into the failure of the Trust and hospital made 290 recommendations and emphasised a number of astonishing revelations, such as patients left to sit in there own urine, and having to drink from flower vases as they were dehydrated due to insufficient drinks being provided by the hospital staff. Compensation claim payments against the NHS were awarded to the impacted families which averaged around £11,000.

    Bristol heart scandal

    An enquiry was launched when, in the 1990s, a number of babies at the Bristol Royal Infirmary died following cardiac surgery. The number of deaths were far greater than the expected norm. The enquiry discovered issues such as staff shortages, an absence of leadership, and an old boy’s culture amongst doctors. Also, there was mindsets of secrecy with respect to health and safety and doctor’s efficiency which also contributed to the failings. One of the outcomes of the Bristol heart scandal is that cardiac surgeons encouraged initiatives to make sure that more data on the efficiency of doctors and hospitals was released, providing a sense of openness to medical procedures.

    Ely Hospital scandal

    Originally an industrial school for orphaned children and then a workhouse before becoming a psychiatric hospital, Ely Hospital was founded in 1862. Brian Abel–Smith opened an enquiry in 1969 following accounts of the abuse of patients. This was on the back of a News of the World article in August 1967 which claimed that patients were mistreated and also subject to petty stealing. Back then, this kind of offensive treatment towards mentally ill patients was not always seen as inappropriate by many in the medical world, with many psychiatric institutions being detached and inward looking. As a consequence of the scandal, the 1971 Better Services for the Mentally Handicapped whitepaper was launched, spear-heading improved care for the mentally ill.

    Alder Hey organs scandal

    The organs scandal at Alder Hey emerged after an 1999 public enquiry, in which it was discovered that, in the 1988 to 1995 time-frame, approximately 850 dead children had their organs removed and retained at the hospital with no permission or knowledge of the parents.

    The scandal led to the creation of the Human Tissue Act 2004. This consisted of new legislation regarding the storage and management of human tissues and also led to the development of the Human Tissue Authority. The enquiry also discovered that the storage of organs was instructed by Dutch pathologist Dick van Velzen, who was permanently suspended from practising medicine in the United Kingdom.

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