Month: August 2014

Police officers receive £328,100 in payouts following injuries at work

West Midlands Police have had to pay out £328,100 in compensation to 26 of its employees over the past twelve months as a result of personal injury claims.

What happened?

The pay-outs covered a wide range of incidents including one officer who suffered from stress after being exposed to HIV and another officer who suffered from an asbestos-related disease.

Other accidents at work included dog bites and slipping on wet floor.

Compensation

Between them the injured officers received £328,100 in compensation. The West Midlands Police force has since insisted that their latest figures showed a 7.5% drop in accidents and injuries, which reflected significant improvements.

Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale said:

“Police officers face dangerous situations on a daily basis while
on duty, protecting people from harm. This is a fundamental
nature of the job and a reality accepted by West
Midlands Police officers and staff, whose
health and safety we take
extremely seriously.

“We are responsible for our employees when they are on duty
and when we fall short of meeting that responsibility,
they are entitled to protection under the law and
seek redress through the courts.”

If you have been affected by an accident at work, and you would like expert advice, contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email claims@hampsonhughes.com

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NHS faces legal bill as dozens suffer problems after private eye operations

Half of patients left with complications from cataract operations carried out by Vanguard for the NHS at Musgrove Park hospital in Taunton.

What happened?

Private healthcare company, Vanguard Healthcare, were hired to carry out routine cataract operations at the hospital to reduce a backlog. The hospital’s contract with Vanguard Healthcare was terminated only four days after the operations began, after a significant amount of patients reported complications, including blurred vision, pain and swelling.

Dozens of patients have been left with impaired vision, pain and discomfort after undergoing these operations and one elderly patient claimed he lost his sight as a result.

The son of the 84-year-old said the procedure only took 15 minutes and that his father felt it was “very rushed”, and that the staff told his wife that she was not allowed to be present due to limited space.

After the operation his vision was impaired but he thought this was simply part of the procedure and that it would later return so went home, until Musgrove Park later told him that he needed to return as there had been complications.

His son said:

“My father is traumatised and depressed with the loss of
his eyesight. Previous pleasures of gardening and
watching sport on the TV have been taken
away from him.

“This could have been prevented if the welfare of the patients
had been thought about, rather than this
urgency of getting people through.”

What will the outcome be?

Some of the patients who have suffered complications, have sought legal advice on seeking compensation, which has raised the issue of whether the private company will be responsible for payouts, or whether the NHS will be expected to pay.

The trust refused to talk about the details of the investigation and has also refused to discuss which company will be paying out compensation costs.

Dr Colin Close, Musgrove Park’s medical director has stated:

“We still don’t know exactly what the cause is – we’re trying
to identify that at the moment. There could
be a range of causes.

“We’re deeply disappointed for our patients, but we want to
reassure everybody in Taunton that they can have
complete confidence in our own ophthalmology
department. Anyone coming up for cataract
surgery in Musgrove has nothing
to be worried about.”

The Vanguard mobile unit used for the operations has been quarantined while an investigation is being carried out to discover whether the fault was down to human error or mechanical/chemical factors.

If you have been affected by a negligent cataract operation, and you would like expert advice, contact the Hampson Hughes Solicitors Medical Negligence Team today on 0151 242 1025 or email medicalnegligence@hampsonhughes.com

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Director fined after health of workers was put at risk for more than 3 months

The director of a building firm was prosecuted after it emerged the health of bricklayers, plasterers and a roofer were put at serious risk for a prolonged period of time.

What happened?

Roland Couzens, 67, a director at CSC Construction Ltd, had been supervising a project to refurbish a row of Victorian terraced houses on Ashton Old Road in Openshaw between May and September 2013.

The company, which has since gone into administration, had been stripping the houses before plastering and fitting them with new kitchens and bathrooms.

After an investigation by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which found that one of the vacant properties was being used for the site office and to provide welfare facilities for the workers. However there was no hot or warm water supply in either the kitchen or bathroom.

The Court was told that the bricklayers and plasterers were put at risk of suffering skin burns as they were working with cement and plaster but could not use hot water to clean themselves and a roofer working with lead could have suffered lead poisoning from having residues left on his skin.

Mr Couzens disclosed that he visited the site several times a week during the project but failed to provide a hot water supply until after the HSE inspection, despite the need for hot water being highlighted in the company’s construction plan.

What was the outcome?

Mr Couzens was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £3,102 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974

HSE Inspector, Matt Greenly, said:

“There were around a dozen people working on the site every day
so it’s astonishing that they were without hot
water for more than 3 months.

“Mr Couzens was brought in to oversee the project, including the
health and safety of workers, but he failed to ensure
this basic legal requirement was met.

“This case should act as a warning to companies and directors
that we will not hesitate to prosecute if they do not
act to ensure the health and safety
of their employees.”

If you have been affected by an incident such as this, and you would like expert advice, contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email claims@hampsonhughes.com

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Rotherham child sex abuse claims – 1,400 children sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013

A new report into Rotherham child sex abuse, written by Professor Alexis Jay, has found that around 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham over a 16-year period.

Rotherham child sex abuse – report findings

The report, covering child sexual exploitation cases in the South Yorkshire town from 1997 to 2013, claims that police and council agencies had failed to protect the victims – some of whom had been gang-raped, doused in petrol, and threatened with being set alight if they told anyone.

The report highlights that over a third of the victims were known to child protection agencies. However, the extent of the problem was downplayed by political figures and senior managers within Rotherham council – the problem was also not seen as a priority by South Yorkshire police.

Prof Jay found that girls, some as young as 11, had been raped by large groups of men. She said:

“They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and
cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten and intimidated.”

Suppressed reports of child abuse in Rotherham

The failure to take action was despite three damning reports released between 2002 and 2006, the contents of which Prof Jay states:

“could not have been clearer in the description
of the situation in Rotherham”.

The three reports highlighted the extent of child exploitation and outlined links to wider criminality. However, the findings were suppressed or simply ignored – the inquiry team heard that police had failed to act on the crimes, and had treated the victims with contempt.

The majority of the accused men were described by the victims to be Asian. Many staff members were hesitant to identify the perpetrators for fear of being thought racist. Other staff members recall clear direction from their managers not to act.

John Cameron, Head of the NSPCC helpline, said:

“This report is truly damning and highlights consistent failures
to protect children from sexual abuse at the hands of
predatory groups of men.

“It is quite astonishing that even when frontline staff raised
concerns, these were not acted upon so allowing
devastating child sexual exploitation
to go unchallenged.”

Spotlight on Rotherham

Rotherham first came under scrutiny in 2010, when five men received prison sentences after being found guilty of grooming teenage girls.

Following this case, The Times released details from 200 restricted-access documents that allegedly exposed police and child protection agencies in Rotherham as having had comprehensive knowledge of these activities for a decade.

Response to the report

Rotherham council, which commissioned the report, has responded by saying that the failures were the fault of senior police officers, senior managers in child protection services, and elected councillors, “almost without exception”.

Martin Kimber, Rotherham council’s chief executive, said:

“The report does not make comfortable reading in its account
of the horrific experiences of some young people in the
past, and I would like to reiterate our sincere
apology to those who were let down when
they needed help.

“However, that must not overshadow – and certainly does not
excuse – the finding that for a significant amount of
time the council and its partners could and should
have done more to protect young people from
what must be one of the most horrific
forms of abuse imaginable.”

If you have experienced sexual abuse in relation to the Rotherham report, and you would like expert legal guidance, contact Hampson Hughes solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email claims@hampsonhughes.com

Royal Liverpool hospital under scrutiny over delayed cancer diagnosis

Royal Liverpool Hospital has apologised for causing a patient distress after she was only told she had cancer at a follow-up appointment, by which time she had assumed that her test results were normal.

What happened?

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman heard that Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust had taken too long to tell the patient that she had cancer, as they had previously told her that if there were any abnormalities with her results she would be contacted before her follow up appointment was due.

She also claimed that she had initially attempted to complain to the Trust itself but was unhappy with the way they had dealt with the issue, resulting in her turning to the Ombudsman.

A report by the Ombudsman read:

“The trust could have given Miss A her diagnosis more quickly
but we felt that the time this took was not unreasonable
and would not have adversely affected her prognosis.
We did not uphold this part of the complaint.

“The trust had discussed with staff the fact that Miss A had
been given incorrect information about how she would
receive her results but it did not explain this
well to Miss A in its responses to
her complaint.

They then went on to say:

“We agreed with Miss A that the trust’s complaint handling was not acceptable and we upheld this part of the complaint.

They told the hospital they would pay the patient £250, apologise for the distress they had caused her and for their poor handling of her complaint, and to formulate a new course of action to prevent a similar situation occurring in the future.

Chief Nurse at the trust, Lisa Grant, has since stated that:

“Although there were no failings in the medical treatment
provided to this patient, we did not handle their
complaint in a timely or appropriate manner
and have apologised to the patient for
the distress this has caused them.

“We are currently reviewing our complaints handling processes
to address any shortcomings and improve the
quality of our responses.

“We have invested in our patient advice and liaison team and run
regular listening events, inviting people to tell us about
any concerns or positive experiences, so we
can learn from them.”

The Ombudsman decided to publish the results of their investigations into this matter online as a caution, to encourage organisations to learn from these kinds of mistakes and their criticism.

If you have been affected by delayed diagnosis, and you would like expert advice, contact the Hampson Hughes Solicitors Medical Negligence Team today on 0151 242 1025 or email medicalnegligence@hampsonhughes.com

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Tougher punishments for negligent GPs

The General Medical Council (GMC) is considering the introduction of stricter sanctions in instances of GP error. This could include forcing a negligent doctor to formally apologise to an affected patient, and restricting the practice of GPs who have retrained as a result of making mistakes.

Praise and opposition for new measures

The GMC is the UK’s medical regulatory body – all doctors who wish to practise medicine in the UK must register with the GMC. The GMC currently has extensive regulatory powers (such as suspending or removing negligent doctors). However, the new proposals will mean increased controls.

These improved controls are aimed at taking more stringent action in the small number of cases that are of public concern. For example, penalties could be introduced where a doctor does not act on a suspicion that a colleague is under-performing.

Niall Dickson, GMC chief executive, commented:

“Doctors are among the most trusted professionals,
and rightly so. In the vast majority of cases
one-off clinical errors do not
merit action by the GMC.

“But if we are to maintain that trust, in the small number
of serious cases where doctors fail to listen
to concerns they should be held to
account for their actions.”

Dr Clare Gerada, an NHS medical director, has expressed the opinion that such sanctions could be damaging to the profession, stating that in some cases the measures could:

“traumatise and put in additional fear for
the vast majority of doctors who go in
every day to do a good job.”

Dr Gerada added:

“Of course it’s important that we take into account
the patient and we look at the damage that’s
been done to the patient, but it’s also
important that whatever sanction
is a proportionate sanction,
is a fair sanction.”

Health Secretary Jeromy Hunt has backed the proposals, stating that he is in favour of improving patient safety in the wake of the Mid Staffs scandal. The consultation ends on 14th November – following a review, the results will be published in 2015.

Professional legal guidance from Hampson Hughes Solicitors

If you believe that you have experienced GP negligence, you could be entitled to medical negligence compensation.

For further information on medical negligence, and to discover how we could help you to secure personal injury compensation, call our expert Medical Negligence Team on 0151 242 1025 or email medicalnegligence@hampsonhughes.com

Young family lived in property at risk from gas health risks for four years

A landlord from Slough has been fined for serious safety breaches after he left a young family in potential danger for nearly four years after consistently failing to check the gas appliances in a property he rented to them.

What happened?

The gas appliances had not been maintained and tested so the family could be provided with a Landlord’s Gas Safety Record for the property.

As a landlord, Mohammed Nawaz, 25, had a legal duty to ensure the gas appliances in any properties he rented were checked every 12 months by a competent gas engineer.

However, between June 2010 and February 2014, no such tests were carried out and no documentation was ever given to the tenants at any stage in the 4 years tenancy.

When a Gas Safe Register engineer finally visited the property, the boiler was classed as “at risk” because of an incompetent seal around the flue and incorrectly-sized gas supply pipes to the boiler.

Regardless of a warning and an enforcement notice from HSE, plus an abatement notice from the local council requiring him to comply with the law, Mr Nawaz neglected to respond, continuing to expose the family to potential health risks.

What was the outcome?

Mr Nawaz was fined a total of £9,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £3,941 after admitting two offences of breaching gas safety regulations and a further offence of failing to comply with an enforcement notice.

HSE Inspector, Karen Morris, said:

“Mohammed Nawaz failed to take seriously his duties and
responsibilities as a landlord and the result was
to put a family-including two children
at risk of significant harm.

“There is no excuse for landlords failing to ensure that
gas appliances in rented properties are
properly maintained and subject
to annual safety checks.”

“These are simple and inexpensive measures but they are vital for the safety of the people living in the premises.”

Russell Kramer, Chief Executive of Gas Safe Register, commented:

“When it comes to rented property, it is important that
landlords know their duties and tenants
know their rights.

“A landlord must be able to provide a as safety record for
the property, showing that the gas appliances have
been safety-checked by a Gas Safe registered
engineer in the last 12 months.”

If you have been affected by an incident involving housing disrepair, and you would like expert advice, contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email claims@hampsonhughes.com

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Firm fined after employee suffers life-changing injuries in fall

Lanchester Dairies Ltd in County Durham has been prosecuted for safety failings after a worker suffered life-changing injuries after a fall.

What happened?

Simon Atkinson, 41, of Dipton, had been unloading empty milk bottles from a vehicle into a storage area set 1.6m below ground level of the outside yard of the Lanchester Dairies site.

He was alone at the time of the incident but because he sustained a head injury, he had no recollection of the fall. His fall was either from ground level or from the rear of the delivery vehicle which was 2.6m above the concrete floor of the storage area.

A barrier had formerly been in place across the doorway to the storage area to prevent falls but this had been removed 2 years earlier and never replaced.

A risk assessment for the company, carried out 9 months before the incident, had stated that a safe system of work and training was needed for unloading the vehicle but this was not implemented until after Mr Atkinson’s fall.

He fractured an eye socket, sustained bleeding in his skull, had multiple collar bone fractures, a broken rib and had to be put in an induced coma until surgery was carried out to remove a blood clot from inside his skull.

He was in hospital for 9 days and has been unable to return to work since his fall. He is awaiting further surgery to repair damage to his spine.

What was the outcome?

An investigation into the incident found that despite a risk assessment identifying a ‘likely’ risk of a fall, there were no measures in place to prevent one.

Lanchester Dairies Ltd was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,690 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974

HSE Inspector, Michael Kingston, said:

“Lanchester Dairies was aware that the work being done by
Mr Atkinson and others, involved a fall risk, yet
they failed to implement simple, inexpensive
measures to prevent it.

“Falls from height are one of the main causes of major
injury and death in the workplace.

“This case reinforces the need to properly assess the
risks and to put in place measures to
prevent falls occurring.”

If you have been affected by an accident at work, and you would like expert advice, contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email claims@hampsonhughes.com

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Experts warn that legal highs will kill more people than heroin within two years

The Centre for Social Justice has released a report this week warning about the rapidly growing problem of legal highs, and what needs to be done to help those addicted before it becomes too late.

What is the problem?

Legal highs (also called new psychoactive substances or NPS’) are designed to produce similar effects to traditional illegal drugs such as Cocaine, Heroin, MDMA or Amphetamines.

They are frequently labelled as ‘not safe for human consumption’ as a means of circumventing the UK Medicines Act 1968.

The drugs were linked to 97 deaths in 2012, however experts warn this could top 400 deaths in 2016.

Hospital admissions due to legal highs rose by 56% between 2009 and 2012.

The UK has the highest youth legal high use in Europe.

More than 350 substances once classed as legal highs have been banned by the government. However new drugs flood the market quicker than they can be banned. The current estimate is that there are about 25 legal high substances in the UK.

The CSJ has stated that FRANK, the government’s flagship drug and alcohol prevention programme, is ‘shamefully inadequate’, as only 1 in 10 children would call the FRANK helpline.

It also states that the NHS, Public Health England and local authorities risk ‘giving up’ on many addicts.

What does the CSJ propose should happen?

It urges punishment for high street shops selling dangerous drugs. Many legal highs are sold in head shops of which there are close to 250 in the UK.

It wants to see the introduction of a scheme similar to the one in Ireland. The Psychoactive Substance Bill gave the Gardaí the power to seek court orders to close head shops suspected of selling banned substances. This meant the number of shops selling legal highs dropped from more than 100 to less than 10.

It wants a greater investment in the clampdown of online legal high sales. The problem of online legal high sales was first highlighted in August last year when Adam Hunt, 18, died after taking the psychoactive substance AMT at his home in Southampton, Hampshire, after purchasing it from a website.

It suggests that a treatment tax should be added to the cost of alcohol in shops to fund a new generation of rehabilitation treatment centres and stem the tide of Britain’s addiction problem.

Under the scheme, a levy of a penny per unit would be added by the end of the next Parliament to fund recovery services. It is estimated it would make £1.1 billion over five years. It would be spent solely on setting up a network of abstinence-based rehabilitation centres and funding sessions within them.

Are people beginning to speak out?

Last month ministers called the rise in the use of legal highs a ‘national emergency.’
Labour frontbencher, Toby Perkins, said:

“The truth is that some retailers are mocking the law, laughing
at powerless regulators, while visiting misery
and mayhem on our communities.”

Several leading UK festivals, including Glastonbury, Bestival and V Festival banned the sale of the drugs and called for more action to be taken against a problem blighting communities around the country.

7 people were arrested at V Festival for selling legal highs and 10 festival goers who were caught with nitrous oxide (or laughing gas) were ejected from the site.

Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said:

“All too often young people take their lives into their own hands
by dabbling with so-called ‘legal’ highs when they don’t
even know if they are safe, let alone legal.

“Some of these substances are proven to be more dangerous than illegal
drugs and it is vital that young people are informed about
the risks associated with their use.”

If you have been affected by product liability, and you would like expert advice, contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email claims@hampsonhughes.com

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