It was made known yesterday that – five years after it was set up, three and a half years after it was supposed to report and seven years since the first death – Lord MacLean’s Inquiry is finally to report on 24th November 2014.
The inquiry has been investigating the treatment the Vale of Leven Hospital gave to 63 patients between 1st December 2007 and 1st June 2008 – which saw 31 of the 63 die. The focus is the spread of the serious hospital acquired infection, Clostridium Difficile – know as C.Diff, which was either the cause or a contributory factor of 28 of the 31 deaths.
The most recent delay to the publication of the report has been a nine month long gestation since, in February this year, Lord MacLean notified his findings to those to be criticised in the report.
This habit has become traditional but ought to be revisited as a matter of urgency. Such inquiries have top level legal advice available to them. It is absolutely in the public interest for inquiry findings to be made public as soon as possible. If some of those criticised have legal quibbles they are free to take up those matters after publication. But a report cleared for publication by an inquiry’s legal team is unquestionably fit to be published.
As things stand on this matter, many subjects of criticism have good reason to play for time to delay publication and simply endlessly quibble and pose obstructions to gain that time.
This has happened with the report of Lord Chilcot’s inquiry into how the United Kingdom was taken to war with Iraq in 2003. Former Prime Minister, Tony Blair’s entourage has continually obstructed the inquiry and its report in his interests – and in those of the Labour Party who do not want it to be published before the May 2015 General Election.
In both of these cases, there are unnecessarily lost lives to be considered and bereft families to be given healing for open sores.
Responding to the announcement that the Vale of Leven Hospital Inquiry will publish its final report on Monday 24th November, Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie says: ‘The publication of the report has already been pushed back five times so I welcome the news that next month the families of those who died will finally get the answers they have been waiting for.
‘I appreciate that the inquiry team needs time to consider all the evidence but we need to know exactly what went wrong so hospitals across Scotland can learn lessons to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.
‘It’s been almost seven years since the first deaths at the Vale of Leven Hospital and £10.1 million has been spent on an inquiry which has taken over five years to report.
‘It’s simply unacceptable that the families which have gone through the pain of their loved ones’ deaths have been left waiting for so long without answers. Although compensation has never been a motivating factor for the families I simply observe that the total cost of the inquiry is likely to be much more than the families will ever receive in compensation.’
Jackie Baillie’s point is important – that the length of time taken here to report leaves hospital practice in Scotland lacking in insights from the Vale of Leven experience that, if responded to in other hospitals. might well have saved other lives lost to C.Diff since since Lord MacLean might have published his report.