Administration Errors and Medical Negligence: Chaos Squared?
The current plans for NHS reform are to increase the number of private healthcare firms supplying services to NHS hospitals. We may for instance expect to see x-rays and scans done by private bodies without hospitals or patients being sent to separate Treatment Centres for particular types of operation.
One of the risks here is that the more fragmented services are the greater the difficulty of ensuring continuing care. There will be an enormous amount of administration involved. There is probably a law of physics that the more the admin the greater the number of admin errors. Where ‘A’ = admin, ‘n’ is an unknown (big) number and C is a lot of chaos, I would suggest the following equation: A x n = C. Double the amount of admin and I would suggest 2A x n = C2. For those who struggled with equations at school I am suggesting that doubling the amount of admin squares the amount of chaos.
Already patients suffer neglect as a result of the difficulties of coordinating care between different agencies. In one of my cases a man had to have his leg amputated after developing a foot ulcer. Podiatrists at one hospital decided he should be referred to another. Either they forgot to make the referral or the other hospital did not act on it but one way or the other there was a 4 week delay before he was treated. By then his ulcer was so bad that he had to undergo an amputation.
This is not an isolated case and some recent medical research suggests that there is already a real problem here. A paper in the International Journal of Clinical Practice found a large number of failures in coordinating care caused numerous medical errors affecting nearly a quarter of patients.
If the future holds an increasing fragmentation of our healthcare services, my equations suggest there is a lot of chaos to come.Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence.
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