Yesterday David Sellu, a consultant surgeon, was jailed for 2 and a half years for manslaughter after he failed to act quickly enough to examine and operate on a patient he had diagnosed with a rupture in his bowel. The judge said that the surgeon should have prescribed antibiotics and looked at abdominal scans earlier. Although there was a chance that the patient would die even if he had received treatment, the risks were increased by the delay in action.
Elizabeth Joslin, a lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: ‘David Sellu’s care fell far below the expected standard, with terrible consequences. Prosecution of doctors for gross negligence manslaughter is rare and the threshold for criminal prosecution is high, but this doctor’s actions were not mistakes or errors of judgment, but negligence so serious that he has now been convicted of a criminal offence.‘
You can read more about the case in the Guardian here.
I thought it was quite interesting that also in the news this week, Janice Harry, chief nurse at Stafford Hospital between 1998 and 2006, was given a 5 year caution, but was still found fit to practice for her part in the Mid-Staffs scandal.
A Nursing and Midwifery Council panel heard that during some night shifts, a single nurse was looking after 17 patients on a ward. It said Mrs Harry should have been focused on staffing levels but she was distracted by ‘training, targets and other matters‘.
The panel told her ‘you had effectively closed your mind to your direct operational responsibilities and had limited yourself to the strategic role. You had the professional responsibility for every nurse in the Trust….you had in the past placed patients at risk of harm.‘
You can read more about the case here.
I think that both these cases show how important it is that doctors and nurses should always put the patient first, and I think it is a good thing that there are stricter controls in place now to ensure that bad practice does not happen in the future. However, it has made me realise just how big a responsibility medicine is, and I will have to make sure that I am always focussed on the patient first and not distracted by other things like targets. I also think it shows how important it is for everyone involved in caring for a patient to work as a team, and to report anything that falls below standard.