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Ian Denham instructed in inquest after fatal infections at Royal Papworth Hospital

Ian Denham represents the families of two women after they contracted fatal infection from a hospital’s water supply

Ian Denham has been instructed to represent the families of two women who died following an outbreak of the Mycobacterium Abscessus pathogen at the Royal Papworth Hospital.

Ian Denham has been instructed by Jatinder Paul, Senior Associate Solicitor in the International Serious Injury team at Irwin Mitchell, and his colleague Jennifer Hodgson to represent the families of two women who died in an inquest following an outbreak of the Mycobacterium Abscessus pathogen at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.

The background

Karen Starling, aged 54, and Anne Martinez, aged 65, both tested positive for Mycobacterium Abscessus (MA) after successfully undergoing double lung transplants at the Royal Papworth Hospital.

A NHS serious incident report found that 21 patients with lung conditions were infected with MA in the months after the specialist heart and lung hospital opened in May 2019. The “most credible source” of the outbreak was the hospital’s water supply becoming contaminated, the report by Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the site, found.

More than 30 patients were believed to have been affected by bacterial infection outbreak.

The Inquest

Ian represented the interests of both families during the course of the two week inquest in November 2022.

During the inquest, evidence was given from those working at the Trust at the time the hospital opened, that there were concerns over whether flushing of water systems was being performed effectively after the hospital opened in May 2019, due to a lack of resource. Flushing is a necessary step to avoid stagnant water and the growth of bacteria in water systems.

Keith Morton KC, assistant coroner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, found that Karen and Anne’s infection was hospital acquired. It was likely both were exposed to MA in the hospital water at some point during their stay at the Royal Papworth.

The coroner said he would issue a prevention of future deaths report in which he would write to the Department of Health and Social Care calling on it to outline what measures it will take to reduce similar deaths in the future.

Mr Morton KC said he was concerned there was a “lack of understanding” as to how MA entered the hospital’s water system. He added there was “an absence” of guidance to hospitals in the Health Technical Memoranda – designed to advise on the design, installation and operation of specialist buildings and technology used in healthcare – relating to identifying and controlling MA.

This gave risk to future deaths, especially in new hospitals and among patients with weakened immune systems, the coroner added.

These tragic events have been widely reported in the press, including by the BBC

Find out more

Ian Denham is a personal injury practitioner with a particular expertise in matters involving serious and catastrophic injuries, wrongful deaths and accidents abroad. He also has considerable experience of acting for families at Coronial Inquests. In 2022, he also represented the family of a young child who died after being exposed to an E.coli infection which caused severe haemolytic uraemic syndrome associated with kidney failure and with critical neurotoxic effects on the brain from which she died. 

To find out more about Ian, contact Paul Barton on +44 (0)207 427 4907 or Mark Gardner on +44 (0)20 7427 4909 for a confidential discussion.

News 6 Jan, 2023


Ian Denham

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