Looking at your (thankfully scant) covering of the Leslie Ash compensation award (HSJ 24/1) I'm tempted to use three words - inequalities, inequalities and, last but not least, inequalities.

Why? Well given that health inequalities is at the heart (sic) of all our concerns for the NHS I'm iterested to know how people feel about the fact that Ms A got£5 million in compensation for contracting
MRSAwhereas "if she had been a pensioner there would have been no story", according to Steve Walker of the NHSLA (I assume he means the kind of pensioner most of us will be and not a high earning celebrity pensioner).

I understand the principle of compensation according to earnings; it is after all applied in Employment Tribunals. What we're dealing with here though is something different.

The ET principle rests on a wrong having been done to a specific person which leads to compensation being awarded. In this case there was nothing specific that might be described as contributory negligence on Leslie Ash's part, which is of course a crucial element in ET compensation decisions, and she wasn't singled out for special treatment in getting
MRSA- just special treatment in being compensated for getting it.

Are we really going to means test those patients with HCAI's, all of whom acquire their infections with as little culpability as Leslie?

If the argument is to do with her loss of "earnings as a celebrity", then surely her high celebrity earnings enable her to sustain a higher loss than does the putative pensioner that Mr Walker mentions.

If we are serious in the NHS about eradicating health inequalities shouldn't we stop perpetuating them by discriminating in favour of already rich people and against the rest of us?

I wonder what HSJ readers think?


Phil Thompson,
UNISON Regional Organiser,
London.

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