NHS Medical Director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, told The Sunday Telegraph on 28 October 2017 that many hospitals are failing to deal with serious safety issues, which could lead to patient injuries and fatalities. This is the first time someone in Sir Bruce’s position has spoken publically on this matter.
Sir Bruce believes patients are at risk because of the lack of a central NHS system responsible for enforcing safety improvements in its provision of health care. This lack of protection, Sir Bruce said, is exposing patients to unnecessary harm, including surgery complications, maternity errors and even fatalities. He stressed that too many hospitals are prioritising cost cutting over patient safety.
In the interview with the newspaper, Sir Bruce said: “People accept that their disease has risks, they accept that the treatment may carry some risks. What they should never have to accept is that the way we design and deliver our services adds to that risk.”
The former heart surgeon has called for the creation of a single NHS system responsible for ordering safety changes across the industry. This would replace the current inconsistent system, in which multiple organisations carry out this job.
“The difficulty that we have is that the NHS is a conglomerate of hundreds of organisations, all of whom have their own boards and people in them with their own views,” Sir Bruce explained.
In addition, Sir Bruce believes it is vital to have clarity about when the implementation of new solutions, particularly new technology and devices, should take priority over financial considerations.
Demand for services overtaking staff numbers
Health bosses have also revealed that staff in NHS England are working on the “edge of safety”, as staff shortages and rising demand become increasingly concerning. Demand for health services in some areas is outstripping the number of new staff threefold.
Saffron Cordery from NHS Providers, the NHS trade association, said there is no main “coherent or credible” system in place to deal with the staffing issue, and that members of the association are anxious about the level of “pressure on the front line”.
However, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has during the past 12 months, announced an increase in training places for doctors and nurses, which has been described by the Department of Health as “the biggest ever expansion of training places”. In addition, a spokesperson for the Department said: “European workers will be able to stay after we leave the EU – to ensure the NHS has the staff it needs both now and in the future”.
What this means for NHS patients
The comments made by Sir Bruce Keogh, the rising demand for health services and the NHS staffing gaps show there is a problem with patient safety across the NHS, which needs to be addressed. With no central system to learn from medical mistakes and put robust precautions in place to prevent, as far as possible, reoccurrences, the current situation exposes patients to medical errors and injuries.
Any reformed system will need to take full account of clinical mistakes that have happened, which can be done by encouraging a dialogue between the patient and the NHS – allowing lessons to be learnt and an effective response to be enforced across the service. Medical negligence claims also allow the health service to review broader trends in mistakes, and allow this information to be communicated across the service. While patients can be reluctant to take action against such an important institution as the NHS, an open discussion about clinical accidents is likely to be crucial to improving patient care.
While the NHS is generally very good, things can from time to time go wrong. Healys Recover has extensive experience representing clients who have suffered an injury as a result of a medical error. We understand that the process is about much more than obtaining compensation; it allows you to get the answers you need as to how and why the mistake happened. This is not only a vital part of your recovery, helping you to move on from the incident, but it also assists the health service, by providing it with the information it needs to prevent the accident from happening again.
Contact our Medical Negligence Lawyers in Brighton and London
If you have been injured as a result of negligent health care, whether due to a misdiagnosis, incorrect treatment or a mistake made during an operation, it is important that you seek specialist legal advice. We have over 20 years’ experience assisting clients affected by medical negligence. Our comprehensive service includes providing advice on birth injury claims, hospital negligence, GP negligence, cancer misdiagnosis and surgery negligence.
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