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How does the NHS hide the truth from relatives when things go wrong and a patient dies ..... ?

Nic Hart

The strategy seems clear and the Chief Executives of the NHS trusts are masterly at dealing with complaints and the consequences of NHS failures.

The NHS strategy from my perspective seems to be a simple one .... and seems to be followed to the letter by the NHS trusts I am dealing with ..... From what I have seen and my own personal experiences, here is how it appears to work :

Firstly - sympathise with the patients relatives, tell them that "no stone will be left unturned to get to the truth", gain their trust, so that the family actually believes that the NHS management cares about your loss and that your grief is important to them.

Secondly - get the NHS legal team on the case and put in a front person from Corporate Affairs to deal with the family, so that they can assess what information the family has about what went wrong and what failures and negliegence may have occurred.  Information here is the key, and it could be said that the less information the family has ... the less the NHS trust has to worry about litigation or serious complaints.

Thirdly - slow everything to a snails pace and stonewall in the case of difficult questions . The family have to find time in their busy lives to fight for each shred of information whilst the NHS legal team appear take their time.

Fourthly - Rely on the fact that many families will have limited resources and time to press for the truth and innevitably in many cases their quest and therefore their complaint burns out in the sheer exhaustion of the task in dealing with the NHS.

Fifthly - In dealing with difficult cases where the family press for information and will not give up, then procure a report from an author who may well be known to the consultants concerned. The remit and the questions for the report will be set by the CCG's own legal team and establish a remit that may well avoid touching on the basic errors that occurred. In this way the commissioned report may well ommit significant elements. The possibilities therefore are surely that the report will be sypathetic to the NHS as opposed to the patient and family.

Finally - when all else fails and the family are still not going away to leave the NHS boardrooms in  peace, it may be suggested to the family that there is always the legal option. This effectively means that the NHS trust are just able to pay their way out of trouble and avoid unwanted publicity.

In frustration at the lack of progress, this is the stage when many families call on legal help to try and get to the truth. 

This gambit by the NHS for the family to take the legal route, allows the organisation to offer "a no fault payout",  which in the case of a young person with no dependents is often totally insignificant.

Furthermore if the family refuses this "payout" and wish to proceed to court in order to establish the truth, the family could face ruin with the cost of the legal expenses involved. 

.............. Is it any wonder then, that families who are grieving don't wish to tackle NHS bosses and the NHS legal machine that sits behind them ?