This March the health ombudsman published her final report on the deaths of six people who died in NHS care. For the families it was a chance for justice, but has it given them the answers they wanted?
When Mencap published Death by indifference in July 2007, it sent shockwaves across the health sector. The report detailed the deaths of six people with a learning disability who had needlessly died while in NHS care.
The families of the six people were promised a specific investigation into the events surrounding the deaths of their loved ones. The health ombudsman, Ann Abraham, published these findings at the end of March.
While the ombudsman criticises health services for examples of maladministration and the way that complaints were initially dealt with, she does not find service failure regarding the practice of any GP. This is despite evidence that doctors failed in their duty of care and legal responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Mencap’s head of campaigns and policy, David Congdon, says that the ombudsman should have been more critical of the GPs: “This was a missed opportunity to send a clear message to all health professionals that the rights of people with a learning disability must be respected, including their right to good-quality health care.”
Warren Cox died following appendicitis, aged just 30. Here his parents give their reaction
Peter and Wendy Cox are adamant that their son, Warren, died needlessly because of failures by NHS medical staff.
They say that doctors did not correctly diagnose his complaints or act with the urgency warranted by his pain. They think that Warren received less favourable treatment because of his learning disability, and above all they feel that the word of the medical professionals was taken above their version of events at every turn.
But the ombudsman’s report has found that Warren’s death was not avoidable and does not uphold a single complaint lodged by his family. After fighting for answers for more than four years, Peter says: “It feels like it’s been a waste of time. It’s rough justice.”