Even the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, described NHS care as ‘shocking’ and ‘tragic’ in cases highlighted by the Patients Association in a recent report, ‘Patient Stories’. Its accounts of neglect, ‘demeaning and cruel’ behaviour and at times negligence sound familiar to those of us who work for claimants in Clinical Negligence Claims – people injured by unacceptably poor care.
A number of stories concern elderly people but one is the particularly tragic case of 15 year old Lauren Hughes who died from Asthma after staff had failed to carry out basic checks on her breathing and to treat her breathlessness.
The value of this report is that it shows the real human cost of poor care: the individual stories of people’s experience not only of what it is like to be in hospital, ill, vulnerable and then at times to face what can be the catastrophe of suffering further avoidable harm. My colleagues and I daily work with people suffering grief after the death of their partners and relatives, suffering pain, dealing with disability and having to rely on other people for basic care.
What it does not do is give us a true picture of what is happening across our health service. Most people do not share these experiences. We need to look to much more detailed studies on care and outcomes to get the overview. Those studies tell us that, whilst much NHS care is excellent, 1 in 10 patients suffer avoidable medical accidents, 1 in 100 die from them and the cost to the health service of negligent mistakes is likely to be around £1bn over the next 10 years (to which must of course be added the enormous cost to the patient). All this suggests that there is a real problem here.
The Patient Association report may make emotive reading with its stories of human suffering but there is plenty of other evidence to suggest that the health service is creaking at the seams. There is more poor care going on than we would like to think.
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