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Lawyers probe negligence claims against East Lancashire hospitals
THE SOLICITORS who investigated dozens of claims at Mid Staffs hospital are probing negligence cases against the health trust which runs the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals.
As well as three cases currently being pursued by London-based Leigh Day solicitors, who tackled a number of the Stafford cases, the Lancashire Telegraph has learned of a further 68 potential claims against the hospitals, currently being worked on by legal firms in the north west.
In one of the most serious claims, the family of Darwen pensioner Donald Barlow has accused East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) of ‘appalling care’ over a nine-week period.
Daughter Dawn Shilson, 44, believes his death in March could have been avoided, had crucial procedures not been cancelled several times.
The hospitals were placed in special measures by NHS chief Sir Bruce Keogh last month, after inspectors made wide-ranging criticisms of the way they had been run, including staff shortages, poor governance and a complaints process which lacked compassion.
The inspection, triggered by the higher than expected ‘death rates’ at the trust, followed a major inquiry into Stafford Hospital, where shocking failings of care led to hundreds of unecessary deaths.
Human rights solicitor Emma Jones, of Leigh Day, who has settled 120 legal claims relating to abuse and poor care at Stafford, said: “From the people who have contacted us, and the findings of the Keogh Report, it seems there have been issues at the East Lancashire trust for a while.
“The accounts we’ve heard relate to issues similar to those that were investigated at Stafford Hospital. We wouldn’t be surprised if more people took steps to bring their concerns forward.”
Meanwhile, Forbes Solicitors in Accrington said it had opened 17 files against ELHT this year, while Blackburn-based Farleys is investigating 10 new claims.
Blackburn firm Curtis Law is pursuing another 14 claims, while Pannone Solicitors in Manchester has 27 outstanding cases, although a number of these files were opened before the Keogh investigation, which was announced in February.
In June, the Lancashire Telegraph revealed how compensation payouts against ELHT had almost doubled during the past three years to £10.5million, which had earned the trust a ‘red rating’ from the NHS.
Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said he supported the right for patients and family to seek compensation, but feared a new surge in claims will make it difficult for the hospitals to improve.
He added: “If patients can’t get staisfactory recourse from the trust and the only option is the legal route then I would suggest they do just that.
“Having said that, we are living in a claims culture and it’s very sad the trust are facing another bumper year of claims when they have been tasked with saving £85 million.”
Val Bertenshaw, director of operations at ELHT, said: “We are unable to comment as we are unaware of the detail surrounding these cases.”
She said claims were managed and dealt with by the NHS Litigation Authority.
'I WAS ROBBED OF MY DAD'
THE daughter of former school bus driver Donald Barlow felt she was ‘robbed’ of her dad after watching him deteriorate and die at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.
Dawn Shilson, of The Meadows in Darwen, believes staff failed to respond to the urgency of his problems, and allowed two key procedures to be repeatedly cancelled during his nine weeks in hospital.
She is now seeking to make a compensation claim for clinical negligence through Leigh Day solicitors, the firm which pursued a number of the Stafford Hospital cases.
Mr Barlow, 65, of Laneshaw Close, was admitted with abdominal pains in January this year, and diagnosed with acute pancreatitis due to gall stones.
His case soon became more complex, however, as a severe infection spread to his kidney and lungs, while a pocket of fluid developed next to his pancreas, according to his family.
After stabilising the father-of-five in critical care, doctors wanted to perform a procedure to remove the gall stones, but this was cancelled three times due to the theatre being taken up by emergency cases, or being double booked, the family said.
By mid February, the gall stones had become a secondary concern, as the pocket of fluid had increased in size, and was pushing down on his stomach, making it difficult to eat.
Doctors wanted to perform a different procedure to insert a drain to remove the fluid, but this was cancelled four times for various reasons, the family said.
The procedure was finally performed in March, but Mr Barlow’s condition deteriorated sharply over the next week and he died a few days later, his family said.
Dawn said the cancellations allowed her dad’s condition to worsen and the gall stones remained untreated.
There were numerous occasions when Donald would be left in unclean or soiled sheets, because his bedding was not changed enough, she added.
Dawn said: “We feel dad died unnecessarily and we’ve been robbed of another 10 or 20 years with him. We put our trust in the medical profession but I was absolutely appalled by the standard of care he received.”
Rineke Schram, medical director at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We offer our sincere condolences to Mr Barlow’s family.
“We can confirm that we have met with the family and we are carefully reviewing the circumstances around Mr Barlow’s care.”
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