Rise in Patients Seriously Hurt by NHS Blunders

More than 6,000 incidents were recorded last year with poor training and inadequate staffing levels blamed.

A patient is treated by the NHS every 90 minutes following serious medical blunders. Image: Alamy

Senior doctors have warned the cash-strapped NHS is heading into an ”extremely difficult autumn”. Hospitals have been told to cancel thousands of non-urgent procedures. The medical blunders make the financial pressures worse by extending hospital stays and encouraging compensation payouts.

The figures reveal 6,082 incidents of patients needing NHS treatment following blunders in English hospitals last year.

This compares with 2,193 ten years ago, according to NHS Digital, the official health statistics unit.

The bill for compensation stood at £1.48 billion last year, a 27 per cent increase on 2014, accounts for the NHS Litigation Authority show.

Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association said: ”With all the systems and procedures that are in place within the NHS, how are such basic, avoidable mistakes still happening?

”It is a disgrace that such incidents are increasing. There is clearly a lack of learning across the NHS, or even within individual trusts.

”These patients have been very badly let down by poor processes and utter carelessness. We call for the Government and Royal Colleges to take steps to address this alarming rise.”

Andrew Goddard, registrar at the Royal College of Physicians, last week warned that a funding and staffing crisis is putting huge pressure on doctors.

”Physicians are facing rota gaps, consultants acting down into trainee positions, inability to recruit to posts in key specialties due to a lack of trainees, and difficulties in covering day-to-day services,” he said. ”We”re heading into an extremely difficult autumn.”

The Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health has also warned of staffing shortages, raising concerns that children”s care is ”increasingly compromised”.

The paediatric workforce is at ”breaking point” it said in a report, with more than half of units failing to meet staffing standards. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly called for a new culture of transparency to increase safety in an era of fewer resources.

Last year he launched what he called a ”reformation” in the culture of the health service, claiming he wanted to make British people the ”most powerful patients in the world”.

He encouraged every member of staff – from cleaners up to consultants – to blow the whistle when they see evidence of poor care, in a bid to halt the annual toll of 10,000 avoidable deaths in English hospitals.

Mr Hunt has repeatedly urged doctors to take the same approach to safety as the aviation industry. He has pledged that those who own up to blunders will get legal protection – the same system as that used among airlines.

NHS staff will be protected from prosecution based on their own evidence although they could still face sanctions if guilty of malpractice or negligence.

The new system involves the creation of the independent Healthcare Accident Investigation Branch, which starts work this autumn.

Safety campaigners said the first thing the unit must do is launch a review of why problems are rising so fast.

Peter Walsh, of the charity Action Against Medical Accidents, said more complex procedures and better reporting of incidents may partly explain the rise, but would not account for the figures trebling.

He said: ”I suspect inadequate staffing and increased pressure at work are also factors.

”I also know there is a lot of concern among surgeons that the training they get is not as thorough and adequate as used to be the case. There is not as much time spent on technical skills.

”Of course it is a known risk of surgery that these things happen, but that doesn”t make it OK and much of the time they are really bad errors that are perfectly avoidable.

”One of the most common mistakes we hear of during laparoscopic surgery is perforation of the bowel. This is very, very serious and can be fatal if not repaired very quickly.

”The increase in incidents is very worrying and there needs to be an investigation to get to the bottom of it.”

The NHS Digital figures include patients who have been the victims of medical blunders at private hospitals who have subsequently been admitted for care at an NHS hospital. However, these cases are thought to be a few in number.

They include readmissions for ongoing complications related to the damage sustained.

A spokesman for the Royal College of Surgeons said: ”We suspect the drive toward greater reporting and transparency of patient safety incidents in the NHS in recent years may partly explain the rise.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: ”NHS mistakes can lead to human suffering and tragedy. That”s why this Government has focused relentlessly on driving up standards through a safer, seven-day NHS, with extra support for staff to speak out honestly when things go wrong, and a tough new watchdog to probe incidents.”


Source: Daily Mail