7+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
- Dec 1, 2003
- Reaction score
The sad thing is that the national health service model for socialized medicine in England is actually one of the better models, far better than (say) Canada.
Too bad it's a terrible model.
Too bad it's a terrible model.
KILLED BY NHS 24
Families' grief as staff are blamed over tragic patients
By Bob Dow
THE NHS 24 helpline was blamed yesterday for the deaths of two patients.
A sheriff ruled that schoolgirl Shomi Miah and dad-of-two Steven Wiseman would have lived if the phone service had done its job properly.
Sheriff James Tierney slated NHS 24 nurses for failing to recognise that the patients were seriously ill and for their reluctance to send doctors out to them.
The Sheriff said it was "tragically clear" the system had failed Shomi, 17, and Steven, 30.
He said: "In each case, it failed to identify that the patient may have been suffering from a serious and potentially life-threatening disease.
"Had these signs and symptoms which were presented been properly identified ... there is a strong likelihood that each of the patients would have survived."
Last night, NHS 24 said they would "carefully assess" the sheriff's findings.
But there was outrage that they had failed to apologise for the tragedies.
Shomi's brother Khalis, 29, said: "The system is supposed to be there to save lives, not to take them. Our only sister was taken away from us and that is something we will never get over."
Schoolgirl Shomi, of Aberdeen, fell ill with meningitis in September 2004. She rang NHS 24 and told a nurse she was shivering, in pain, that she had a headache and that she had suffered meningitis as a child.
The nurse said she may have flu and told her to take paracetamol.
When her condition worsened, Shomi's family rang NHS 24 again and spoke to another nurse.
She passed on the details to a GP overnight service. A doctor visited Shomi at home - almost 12 hours after the family's first call - and arranged for her to go to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
She died there several hours later.
In December 2004, Steven asked his fiancee Kerry Robertson to contact NHS 24 after he become unwell. Kerry made three calls to the helpline and, on one occasion, Steven had to crawl across the floor in agony to speak to medical staff on the phone.
He was told he probably had flu and was advised to take painkillers and ring his GP surgery in the morning.
Steven's condition got worse and eventually NHS 24 sent out a GP.
When the doctor arrived at Steven's home in Laurencekirk, Aberdeenshire, he was gravely ill.
He died of toxic shock later in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Sheriff Tierney gave his findings into the two deaths after a six-month fatal accident inquiry in Aberdeen.
NHS 24 is manned by nurses who use computer-based questions - called algorithms - and their own judgment to assess patients' conditions.
Sheriff Tierney said that if the helpline was manned by properly trained staff, who erred on the side of caution, it should be safe and efficient.
But he said NHS 24 nurses had made mistakes in every one of the calls they took about Shomi and Steven, a joiner.
In Shomi's case, they were so sure of their own judgment that they put down answers to computer questions that were the opposite to those given by the schoolgirl.
The sheriff branded the questioning of both patients as superficial.
He added: "Obvious questions were not asked, follow-up questions were not asked.
"Closed or leading questions were asked, bringing about answers which were perhaps what the questioner wanted, or at least expected, to hear.
"And assumptions were made which were not based on what the patient had actually said.
"Accurate information was not obtained and potentially dangerous conditions were not identified.
"This problem was sufficiently widespread in the telephone calls as to indicate a possible insufficient level of training."
The sheriff also said NHS 24 nurses felt free to ignore advice produced by the computer algorithms if they thought it was incorrect.
He said: "Perhaps the nurses had an over-high evaluation of their own clinical expertise when compared with the contents of the algorithms, which had been produced by very senior and experienced medical professionals."
The sheriff also slammed the belief by helpline nurses that they should avoid recommending GP home visits. None of the nurses involved has been disciplined and NHS 24 bosses say they will not face any action.
Yesterday, Dr George Crooks, NHS 24's clinical director, said the service had improved since the deaths.
He also said the inquiry had been "a difficult time for all involved, including our staff".
But Shomi's family were livid that he did not apologise.
Her brother Jabir, 26, said: "They don't want to give the impression they were in the wrong as that would mean the public would lose all confidence."
Steven's partner Kerry said the family were pleased there had been a thorough investigation.
Health Minister Andy Kerr gave NHS 24 until the end of September to respond.