Covid care-home reckoning must not see a repeat of the struggle to establish why Milly Main died in a Glasgow hospital – Scotsman comment

In 2017, ten-year-old Milly Main, who was in remission from leukaemia, died at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow after going into toxic shock caused by an infection.

Milly Main with her mother Kimberly Darroch
Milly Main with her mother Kimberly Darroch

It was to take nearly four years for her mother, Kimberley Darroch, to be formally told that the infection was “probably” caused by the hospital environment, following a case review.

Milly was one of 84 children who were infected with rare bacteria while undergoing treatment at the hospital, part of the new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital complex. The health of a third of those children was severely affected and one other child also died.

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However, his or her parents have not been told the full facts because they apparently cannot be found. The passage of time will have only made this task more difficult.

Yesterday, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar lambasted Nicola Sturgeon for failing to address what he called the “biggest scandal of the devolution era”, claiming she had “broken the law” in relation to the legal duty of candour placed on public institutions to inform relatives when an unintended incident leads to a death.

Mr Sarwar said the case review had only happened “as a result of families fighting with the health board to get that review”. “This scandal involved denials, bullying of clinicians, cover-ups... clinicians have been raising the alarm for years. Inexplicably there are still families fighting for truth and justice,” he added.

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The deaths of Milly and the other child were appalling tragedies that raised most-serious questions, some of which were important to answer as quickly as possible in order to prevent any repeat.

Soon a reckoning must take place over another shocking tragedy: the Covid-related deaths of more than 3,400 residents in Scotland’s care homes.

We already know enough to call this a scandal, given that many elderly hospital patients were discharged to care homes without first being tested for the virus along with, astonishingly, at least 338 who had been diagnosed with Covid-19.

A lesson to learn from the treatment of Milly’s relatives is that, this time, there must be not even a hint of “denials” or “bullying” or “cover-ups”. The public has a right to know the truth and politicians have a duty to ensure they are told it.

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