MP highlights parents’ plight in call for NHS complaints change

John Healey, MP
John Healey, MP
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AN MP yesterday called for changes to the way NHS complaints are handled after the parents of a disabled toddler told him how they had been passed around between agencies for more than two years.

Andy and Andrea Duggan, of Goldthorpe, near Barnsley, said they had been fighting for answers over the treatment of their son Vinny since he was born at Doncaster Royal Infirmary in August 2010.

The couple said they had immediate concerns after their son’s birth because he was blue, was not feeding properly and was very sleepy, but claim their requests for help were ignored by staff.

They were sent home the next day after their son was diagnosed with a heart murmur, but they returned him the hospital two days later when his condition had not improved.

Mr and Mrs Duggan said that at point he was classed as a “non-urgent case” and kept waiting for more than five hours, but when tests were finally carried out severe heart and lung problems were found.

He was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary, where he underwent open heart and major lung surgery before spending five months in intensive care and high-dependency units at the hospital.

As a result of the way Vinny was treated, the couple have complained to Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council but none took action.

Yesterday Mr Duggan said the couple had been frustrated by the way their concerns had been handled, and said he and his wife were grateful that their MP John Healey had taken up the case.

Mr Healey, who represents the Wentworth and Dearne constituency, raised the issue in the House of Commons on Thursday with Health Minister Daniel Poulter, who agreed the family’s treatment had been “unacceptable”.

The Minister said the Law Commission, which keeps English law under review and recommends reform, was currently examining the regulation of healthcare professionals and was due to report in 2014.

Mr Healey said that would come too late for the Duggans and called for a change now, adding: “The internal investigation at Doncaster afterwards concluded there were “no real concerns” about the care in Vinny’s case. There remain important discrepancies between the evidence of the parents and that of some of the staff and the hospital in the investigation.

“Like so many other parents, Mr and Mrs Duggan had principally wanted an explanation – not retribution or compensation.

“However, like many parents, they were driven down the route of trying to get answers through the courts, and that is what they are having to do.”

The Minister also said he sympathised with the family’s situation and criticised the hospital trust but said nothing could be done until the commission’s review was published.

He added: “The trust clearly failed to acknowledge to any adequate degree that mistakes have happened and that the quality of care was not of the standard that it should have been.

“Two years is an unacceptable amount of time to wait for an apology or for an adequate explanation for what went wrong.”

A spokesman for trust said last night: “We carried out a thorough investigation following Mr and Mrs Duggan’s complaint in 2010 and subsequently met with them.

“While we cannot disclose confidential patient information, we do not believe that Vinny’s health conditions were caused or influenced by the care provided at DRI.

“Although we cannot comment further, our thoughts go out to Mr and Mrs Duggan and we would be happy to meet with them again if they would find that helpful.”