A FAIFLEY man has told of his mission to improve patient safety after tragically losing his mum 15 years ago.

Gareth Bourhill was devastated when his beloved mum Janet Fitzsimmons died in 2008 just eight months after it was discovered that she had contracted clostridium difficile (C. diff).

Clydebank Post: Janet FitzsimmonsJanet Fitzsimmons (Image: Healthcare Improvement Scotland)Janet, who was a diabetic, had been admitted to Vale of Leven Hospital shortly before Christmas 2007 with a blood sugar issue.

She soon became more unwell, and when doctors couldn’t find a cause or suitable treatment within 24 hours she was taken into isolation.

After being diagnosed with C. diff Janet made a limited recovery before sadly passing away aged 69, making her one of the youngest victims of the Vale of Leven’s C. diff outbreak.

The outbreak led to a criminal investigation and a full public inquiry.

After losing his mum, Gareth went on to become a patient representative with Healthcare Improvement Scotland in an effort to prevent other families from having to experience the same grief.

Clydebank Post: Gareth BourhillGareth Bourhill (Image: Healthcare Improvement Scotland)Gareth said: “It [being admitted to hospital] had happened before, and we expected her home after a few days when her blood sugar levels were back to normal.

“But this time it was different. While she came very close to passing away over those few days, she made a limited recovery.

“She died eight months later, on  August 9, 2008, aged 69, one of the youngest victims of the Vale of Leven outbreak.

“Police Scotland carried out a criminal investigation and I spent two full days with police officers in my home, writing down every single word, the date, times, things about my mother’s care, confirming on hospital ward drawings exactly what bed she was in and for how long, as she moved from ward to ward.”

Gareth, who was born in Clydebank but has lived in Alexandria for the past 25 years, explained that during the public inquiry, it became apparent that the voices of patients and their families were going to be needed to help rebuild trust in the care provided to people across Scotland.

It was around this time that the idea of being a part of Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s Excellence in Care initiative was first suggested.

The programme sees patients, their families, and health and care staff joining together as a team to work towards positive outcomes/experiences for all.

Gareth added: “It would have been very easy for me to walk away and leave others to make the improvements recommended by Lord MacLean, and continue with my own life.

“The majority of the families affected did that, but myself and two other families stepped forward when we were given an opportunity to become a public partner in late 2015.

“After everything my mum went through, that we as a family went through, you might wonder why I wanted to get involved with Excellence in Care, with anything to do with the healthcare system.

“Having been so involved with the outbreak itself, all the investigations, the public inquiry, and being critical of many aspects of the care provided, it was only right for me to share those experiences with others who were tasked with ensuring similar things don't happen again. Also, I wanted to give something positive back.

“It's doing the basic things, and doing them well, every time and on every occasion, no matter the circumstances or pressures put on any healthcare worker or professional.

“They treat the patient in front of them, as they would do a member of their own family.

"Tragically, it was the lack of attention to, and observation of, these basic fundamental acts that caused the majority of the failings for the incidents at the Vale of Leven.

"I knew that until all 75 of the report recommendations were addressed and executed within all areas of NHS Scotland, a similar or indeed worse occurrence wasn’t just likely, it was a certainty.

“It's easy to criticise, but I think it's also more important that you try and help out in the future, to ensure the mistakes of the past aren’t repeated.”