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Corries Solicitors - Personal Injury Specialists
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NHS mistakes- will greater transparency get us to the truth?

NHS mistakes are often reported in the press and on television. We look at recent changes which may mean a more transparent approach to finding out if your loved ones have had poor treatment.

NHS hospitals and medical staff are there to help us all in our hour of need.  The majority of the time the treatment and support they provide brings comfort and assistance.  Even when it is not possible to cure or ease a problem, medics have for centuries sworn to, “First do no harm”.

Sadly though every year we deal with many cases of clinical or medical negligence.  This negligence either by mistake or by omission on the part of doctors and other medical professionals causes untold misery for many victims and their families.

The consequences of clinical negligence can vary from person to person. Delays in treatment can extend pain and suffering. The need for repeat surgeries that cause more pain and inconvenience. At its worst negligent surgery or steps which cause ongoing irreversible pain and disability or even death.

What is new?

With no major reduction in figures we welcome the recent announcement  from the National Health Service (NHS). It has agreed to become the first organisation of its kind to publish annual estimates of the number of patients who have dies as a result of errors in their care.  Estimates state that this release of information is likely to affect between 1,200 and 9,000 deaths annually. See here

Statistics – how many are affected?

The NHS undertakes some 19.7 million treatments and procedures each year. Consequently even 9,000 deaths is less than half of one per cent (0.5%) of the treatments undertaken by the NHS.  Annually there are around 240,000 deaths in hospital. Even with these figures the preventable deaths are expected to be less than four per cent of the overall sum. See the link here

In addition some or the deaths to be reported are high profile failings. Others will be those that draw less media attention such as failings which accelerate the deaths of already terminally ill people.

When dealing with numbers this large it is easy to forget that each of those 1,200 –  9,000 avoidable deaths each year involves a person who has a family whom they love and who they are important to.  For each of these failures there is a grieving family. A NHS mistake affects all those around them.

NHS mistake

NHS mistakes – hopefully there will be more transparency in the future

NHS Mistake reporting – What is good about this?

The NHS plan to publish information quarterly. This will allow on-going review and improvement by learning lessons from past incidents.  Because it will be published so widely  it will allow lessons to be shared between the NHS care providers rather than just at one individual hospital or organisation.  Importantly it will allow each family grieving the opportunity to receive an explanation about their relatives’ death.

NHS Mistake reporting  – What is not so good?

We welcome any move toward greater openness and transparency within the NHS. Such NHS mistakes are always likely to happen. Yet one major concern is that each of the NHS trusts will be allowed to set their own definition of an avoidable death and make their own judgment about which deaths fall into the category of preventable deaths.  Our concern is that the lack of consistency across all hospital trusts will mean that there is no possibility of across the board comparison between organisations. In addition there is the potential for failing NHS Trusts to ‘massage’ the definitions and figures to make their organisation appear to be safer than it is.

Despite this concern, we welcome this move toward transparency. Our hope is that it will bring consolation to those already affected and help prevent future deaths and injuries.

What if you have been affected?

Many people choose not to make medical negligence compensation claims because they find it too distressing. As a result many lose out. Many don’t know where to start.  If you or your loved one have been affected by clinical negligence call us. Do not worry about the scale or the outcome. Call us today on Freephone 0800 655 6550.

Click for our website page on medical negligence here