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Nisha Sharma: Rivalry in NHS leads to misdiagnosis of patients

By Senior Associate, Clinical Negligence

My colleague, Paul Sankey, won a claim against University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UBHT) for a patient whose melanoma was missed after a biopsy was wrongly reported at the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI). Sadly this was a tragic mistake because the patient died at a young age.
I have also recently been approached by a patient with a similar story.
I was therefore interested to see The Independent Inquiry into Histopathology Services at UHBT. The Inquiry concluded that the histopathology department at the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) did not have adequate staffing leading to mistakes and the diagnosis of 26 patients whose tissue samples were taken between 2000 and 2008 were being investigated.
There were criticisms of the culture within the department at the BRI as well. Ms Mishcon, a retired Patients Association chairman commented on the culture at the BRI: ‘We have observed a culture which is at times defensive, responds aggressively to criticism, is sometimes unwilling to acknowledge, let alone learn from mistakes, and which is based on overconfidence bordering on arrogance.’
The Inquiry also found of how rivalry between the BRI, which falls under UHBT, and Frenchay Hospital, which falls under North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT), prevented the problem being adequately investigated. Both Trusts were aware of the issue in 2004 but it wasn’t until June 2009, when Phil Hammond of Private Eye reported his concerns, which the UHBT called for an internal inquiry.
Both Trusts have committed to improving relations. Let’s hope that they can put aside their differences to prioritise patient care.Nisha Sharma is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.