Avoidable Deaths in the NHS

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Article

30 September, 2020

The Daily Mail recently reported that Mr Hunt, previous Health Secretary and now Chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee has reported that ¾ of hospitals are refusing to publish reliable data on the number of avoidable deaths of patients in their care. Only 15 out of 59 hospitals have provided the data. East Kent Hospitals referred just 24 out of 124 deaths over the past 7 years.

An NHS spokesman said "delivering the safest possible health service for patients is a priority, and the national policy on learning from death is clear that hospitals must publish this information every 3 months, as well as an annual summary, so they are clear about any problems that have been identified and how they are being addressed."

The issues are not isolated to birth injuries, there is a worrying trend in failure to manage mental health services as suicides at Bristol and other Universities demonstrate. At the other end of the scale, there is increased reporting of neglect of dementia patients leading to untimely death.

It is accepted that the NHS is a caring profession and those on the front line have demonstrated during the pandemic. Adam Kay, in his eye-opening book, "This Is Going To Hurt" highlights the pressures of overwork, fatigue, under staffing and poor pay. It is not surprising that mistakes are made. It is what leads to them, and how they are dealt with that must be addressed. Greater support is required for medics. There should not be a blame culture and in his last year as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt reported that a Junior in Leicester was nearly struck off after making a series of mistakes. The Court of Appeal reversed the decision. No one can work effectively in a climate of fear.

As Claimant solicitors we can be criticised for getting involved in cases almost at the outset. Frequently we are approached because patients and their families need answers, and the means to support them to face the problems that they are left to deal with. I only engage in a case if I believe it has merit.

APIL has recommended to a committee of MP's that a database should be established to monitor recommendations made to improve maternity safety. It would enhance transparency and make available for public scrutiny recommendations and learning opportunities to improve safety in maternity services. The idea is to prevent the issues raised from 'gathering dust'.

Accountability goes hand in hand with improving safety, and public action reports would run alongside the database and provide a timescale for evaluation of the action taken to improve services.

The priority should be establishing what happened, learning from mistakes, and putting in place procedures across the NHS to stop them from happening again.

For more information contact Leonie Millard in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 770517. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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