Shoosmiths’ Serious Injury comments on the Letby case

18 August 2023

Following the sentencing of neo-natal nurse Lucy Letby, clinical negligence experts from Shoosmiths’ Serious Injury (SI) have shared their thoughts around improving patient safety.

Letby was this week given a whole life sentence in absentia by Mr Justice Goss at Manchester Crown Court.

Shoosmiths’ SI partner Kashmir Uppal, a leading clinical negligence specialist who was one of the lead solicitors in the case against rogue surgeon Ian Paterson, said that one of the most worrying aspects comes from reports that the hospital failed to act when concerns were first raised about Letby in October 15.

As reported at the trial and across the media, senior clinicians said that they raised concerns but that they were dismissed by managers because they were worried about the reputational risk to the hospital.

Kashmir now believes that a statutory inquiry into the handling of the case is the best way forward, as a means of ensuring future patient safety.

Kashmir Uppal said: “This is a truly shocking and desperately sad case. A hospital should be a safe place and at the very least Letby should have been taken off the ward when the first concerns were raised.

“We know from the case of Paterson that failings in clinical governance allowed him to continue with his criminal behaviour. We need to ensure that patient safety is at the forefront of clinical governance and management.” 

“Questions about the case can only be answered by a statutory inquiry with a wide remit where a Judge has the power to compel witnesses to give evidence. In non-statutory inquiries witnesses can decide, if they are concerned that they may face professional and criminal sanctions, not to participate in the inquiry. The consequence of that is that we will not fully understand what happened and why and we will lose the opportunity to learn lessons to prevent such tragic events occurring in the future”.

It is also essential that any recommendations made are fully implemented swiftly to safeguard patient safety. Unfortunately in the The Paterson inquiry recommendations were published in February 2020 and  some of those recommendations have still not been implemented” 

“If we are to prioritise patient safety we must eradicate any culture of avoidance and denial that exists. This can only be addressed if those in a position of authority are subject to regulation and are held accountable for their decisions.

“As we know, this is not an isolated incident - there have been numerous reported cases in recent years where clinicians have raised concerns about patient safety and have been sacked for whistleblowing. In fact, the chair of the BMA recently spoke about a ‘culture of punishing those who dare to speak out’.”


Media coverage

Nicky Campbell’s show on BBC 5 Live - from 1:03:15. (Available until 11 September)



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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