13th December 2016
Given the case of three-year-old Sam Morrish, who died at Torbay hospital in 2010, and the conclusions of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman that many investigations into avoidable deaths were not fit for purpose, I welcome the statement. I also welcome the spirit of openness that will follow in relation to these extremely difficult issues. We are, ultimately, all mortal. Although I think it is absolutely right that we will not be setting targets, will the Secretary of State reassure me about the ongoing monitoring we will undertake and the proactive work we will do with trusts to reduce the number of such incidents?
As my hon. Friend knows, I have met the parents of Sam Morrish—Scott and Sue Morrish—on a number of occasions. They described how when their son died, all the shutters came down. I met them only a few months after I became Health Secretary, and that engraved itself on my memory because it was so awful to hear about what they were doing.
My hon. Friend raises a rather sensitive issue, which I tried to talk about in my statement. I expect, as a result of the changes, the number of reported avoidable deaths to increase. If that happens, I do not think that it will necessarily mean that patient care is suffering. We have to be very careful, in this House and with our local newspapers, to say that if trusts start to report an increased number of avoidable deaths, it might mean that they have a more transparent culture and are being more open. Their standards about what is expected and what is unexpected may start to change as they realise that things could have been done to prevent a death that they might previously have described as expected. We have a duty, as Members, to encourage responsible reporting of this new openness, and that, in turn, will help staff.
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