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'It is inexcusably weak': Families of children who died slam hospital report

Bristol Children's Hospital Photo: ITV West Country

The families of children who died at Bristol Children's Hospital have slammed an independent report into the care they were given.

The review of cardiac care at the hospital found the service let children down with poor care and failed their parents with bad communication.

But, the parents have heavily criticised the report, claiming it is "inexcusably weak" and designed to "limit damage".

The families who met NHS England Medical Director, Sir Bruce Keogh in 2014 are very disappointed with the report. This was not the parent-led Review that Sir Bruce promised us. It is for these and the following reasons that we regard the Bristol Review report as inexcusably weak.

– Families
Sean Turner and Luke Jenkins

Investigations began with Sean Turner and Luke Jenkins. Both boys died at Bristol Children's Hospital in 2012.

Doctors had expected them to make a full recovery after their operations, but they had cardiac arrests on an understaffed ward.

Faye Valentine, mother of Luke Jenkins, reacted angrily to the report.

Understaffing is one of the main criticisms of today's review.

The review panel has spent two years examining what went wrong, taking evidence from over 200 families.

But, despite the findings the families said the report did not go far enough.

We think the Review was designed to limit damage to reputations rather than expose the truth.

It skated over the most serious issues that families raised with Eleanor Grey and Sir Ian Kennedy, namely the toxic, defensive cover-up culture of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, presided over by a board of directors that responds to patient safety concerns with defensiveness, hostility and, in our opinion, dishonesty.

The Review acknowledged that senior managers of the Hospital failed to adequately understand and respond effectively to the concerns of parents, and that its Chief Executive adopted an unnecessarily defensive position in the face of the CQC’s observations after it inspected Ward 32 in 2012 at the insistence of families.

– Families

Until a CQC inspection in 2012, managers had no idea the cardiac service had serious problems

It isn't the first time cardiac services in Bristol have been critiicised. It was at the centre of a scandal in the 1990s when it emerged that too many babies were dying unnecessarily after heart surgery at the Royal Infirmary.

This review says mistakes haven't been repeated, but even so, many parents are deeply unhappy that the review didn't blame individuals for any failings.

Stephen Jenkins, Luke's father, told us he was worried about the care given to his son from the outset.

The Review has made 32 recommendations, to the Trust and the Department of Health.

The hospital says it will implement the relevant ones as quickly as possible.

At the outset we were very clear with Ms Grey and Sir Ian that that we wanted the culture of the Trust board and its senior management team to be thoroughly investigated and for them to be held to account for their failings, but there has been no accountability and we are deeply disappointed that the Review's recommendations fall short of addressing the long-standing, toxic and defensive culture displayed by the Trust's Chief Executive and his board when things go wrong.

In the light of this we have no confidence that the leadership of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust is capable of delivering the recommendations of the Review in a safe and sustainable way.

– Families

The Trust says it will implement the relevant recommendations as soon as possible, with the help of the families, and that it has already invested millions of pounds in new medical staff and facilities, and made improvements to psychological, family and bereavement support too.

The Chief Executive, Robert Woolley, also issued this message to the parents:

The families however, want the report to go further:

We call on the Chief Executive to take personal responsibility to publicly explain to families what action he commits to take to address the unsatisfactory and unsafe culture which undermines trust in the senior leadership of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.

We also call on NHS England to explain to us how it will hold the Chief Executive and his board to account to cleanse the Trust of its dangerously toxic culture.

– Families

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