FIRST STAFFORD, NOW CARDIFF…

Medical negligence solicitor, Michael Clarke, looks at the latest scandal to rock the health service

Following the fallout from the Staffordshire scandal, the Royal College of Surgeons this summer released a highly critical study, condemning Wales’ biggest hospital, the University Hospital of Wales, run by the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.

The terms of the study were brutally damning; the hospital was branded “dangerous”; patients were at risk because of delays in treatment; patients waiting for heart surgery were “dying regularly”; patients with kidney problems were suffering complications; A+E was “frequently gridlocked” with patients “often stacked up in corridors and ambulances”.

Whilst the response from the Board was that the “unacceptable” situation was being addressed, one can imagine the frustration of the front-line clinical staff, who reported to the RCS that the worst problem was being unable to get patients in for surgery when it was sorely needed.

In the first 3 months of this year alone, more than 2,000 operations were cancelled or simply deferred because of lack of facilities. The study minced no words, saying that operations had been reduced to save costs and meet targets. Certain medical services, such as tonsillectomy for children, had effectively been “suspended”. Most damning of all, it was stated that the board’s provisions for urgent and emergency surgery were “inadequate”; the A+E department was “failing to cope with the constant influx of patients”. There was no adequate programme for maintenance and replacement of surgical equipment and there had been failures in cleaning and sterilising procedures.

The response from the Board will be depressingly familiar to all of us- accepting that things were not good enough and promising all kinds of action plans to “address” the issues.

Anyone reading this news will probably be foaming at the mouth with frustration and rage, because whatever the Board did to “address” the issues obviously didn’t work. The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales has produced an equally damning report stating that systematic failures to perform the correct scans on women with suspected early pregnancy loss mean that possibly “hundreds” of women have been wrongly told that they have miscarried and perfectly healthy babies have been aborted.

Since 2006, midwives investigating suspected miscarriage were advised to use an internal transvaginal scan, which was more accurate that the external Doppler scan. This advice was issued by the Royal College of Gynaecologists and virtually every gynaecology unit in the country was aware of it. In Cardiff they were not; or chose to ignore it. Despite the guidelines being amended in 2011 to emphasise the need for a transvaginal scan, the policy at University Hospital Cardiff did not change and the hospital relied upon external Doppler scans.

It all came to light when a 31 year old lady was told at Cardiff that she had miscarried and would need medication to induce abortion. She attended Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny for that abortion, where a check scan showed her baby was alive and well. She went on to have a healthy baby girl. One can only imagine the heartache she went through.

The University Hospital of Wales Board has issued an “unreserved apology” to her. That will be of little comfort to the as-yet unknown number of women who have had terminations for miscarriage at the hospital since 2006, who will now have the horror of wondering whether it was all a mistake.

Nor will it comfort the thousands of patients who rely upon this hospital for sound medical care- something plainly not to be relied upon in Cardiff.

If you require expert advice on making a medical negligence claim you can email Michael Clarke in confidence at mike.clarke@sleeblackwell.co.uk

FIRST STAFFORD, NOW CARDIFF…

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