The Courts will today decide how much to fine Mid Staffs foundation trust for its failings in 2007 in the case of Gillian Astbury.
The timing of course will upset some people as it always inevitably seems to be the case that there is a bit of bad news about the history of Mid staffs immediately before the announcement of something to do with downgrading services. The fine will be effectively the last chance to punish the trust before it is dissolved next week.
The Astbury case formed one of the two main cases that were the backbone of the Mid Staffs Public Inquiry. It involves a very ill lady with complex medical needs, including diabetes and dementia, who died because she did not get the insulin that she needed. This is of course shocking. What did also shock me greatly is finding out how extremely common the issue of poor management of insulin in hospitals actually is. A study by Birmingham University estimated 600 deaths a year occur because of these problems, and also offered software that would help hospitals avoid missing insulin treatment, an offer that the DoH has not so far taken up.
The coverage of the story on 21 Feb 2014 by BBCR4today was very interesting. (sorry they have not put up a clip – but it is worth taking the trouble to listen to the interview) Emma Jones, the solicitor for Leigh Day, who has been supporting her client in taking the Astbury case through the courts stressed that her client does not want there to be large fines for the hospital. They want care to improve, and other hospitals to be warned, which of course everyone wants.
It will be interesting to see if the courts take into account the wishes of Leigh Day’s client when they announce the level of the fine. A token amount would probably be the right answer.
The BBC picked up on the absurdity of one public body fining another, and also questioned if it was reasonable to keep the focus on Stafford for what is such a widespread problem. The BBC also picked up on the fact that the trust continues to have difficulty in recruiting staff, in part because of the constant drip feed of bad news.
Next week 20 nurses, volunteers, come down from Stoke, to help resolve the staffing problems at Stafford. They will be very welcome, and it should be the beginning of regular exchange of staff between the hospitals. This is really good news. Let us hope it is the start of a bright future for Healthcare in Stafford and Stoke.