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Risks to patient safety? Paul Sankey discusses reports that A&E departments are struggling to cope

Accident and Emergency Departments are struggling to cope with the sheer volume of patients, to the point where patients are being scattering around hospitals on trolleys ‘like confetti’ according to the Royal College of Nursing.

Many are having to spend the night in units designed for other patients and are at risk of receiving inadequate nursing and medical care.

These disclosures reinforce concerns about patient safety in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire Hospital scandal and the NHS’ obligation to make savings of £20bn by 2015. Promises that ‘frontline services’ will not be at risk remain as empty as they always were.

Good care in Emergency Departments is crucial to our health system. Doctors in Accident and Emergency Departments see a wide range of patients with all sorts of different conditions. They need to be able either to diagnose correctly or to know when to refer patients elsewhere. Where patients need to wait or be assessed it is crucial that they are adequately monitored.

Our experience of handling Medical Negligence Claims where people are injured as a result of mistakes in Emergency Departments suggests that the areas where things can go wrong and hospitals need to pay special attention are:

•  Missed fractures;
•  Failure to investigate Brain Haemorrhages – which are sometimes mistaken for migraine;
•  Missing meningitis in children;
•  Failure to investigate signs and symptoms which could indicate Cancer;
•  Failure to diagnose Aortic Aneurysms – a medical emergency where the main artery from the heart ruptures;
•  Failure to notice patients developing sepsis – because of inadequate nursing observations.
This is an area where mistakes can be extremely costly both to the patient and to the health service. In some of our worst cases people have suffered disabling injuries including strokes and Amputations as a result of Medical Negligence.

It is therefore crucial that the government and our hospital listen to the nursing and medical profession when they raise concerns that our Accident and Emergency Departments are overflowing and support them in providing the best possible care for patients.

Click here for more information on Hospital Negligence and Accident & Emergency Claims.