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Care Failings Responsible for 750 Avoidable NHS Deaths a Month

By Senior Associate, Clinical Negligence

A new study has revealed that around 750 patients are dying needlessly every month in NHS hospitals.

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said one in 28 deaths could be attributed to poor care.

Poor care can include a number of factors, such as doctors misdiagnosing patients, prescribing them with the wrong medication, and failing to properly monitor their conditions.

I recently blogged about the first ever clinical audit of the treatment received by more than 20,000 seriously ill patients at NHS hospitals in England and Wales. The report revealed a chronic failure to deliver sufficient care for patients undergoing specialist surgery such as emergency laparotomies.

In February, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the rate of preventable deaths in hospitals was “the biggest scandal in global healthcare.” He ordered an annual review of avoidable deaths in hospitals in England in an effort to reduce the death rate, stating how trusts would be ranked on the results.

This new study, however, has said that hospital death rates should not be used to rank quality of care because “there is no significant association between them and the proportion of avoidable deaths in a trust.”

Sir Brian Jarman, a professor at London’s Imperial College, argues that measures such as annual monitoring of hospital death rate figures should not be construed as a confirmation of poor care but should instead be seen as a “smoke alarm” in that they highlight an area that needs improving.

It isn’t always accurate to label hospitals as failing on the basis of their apparent death rates. Mortality rates do not always take into account other relevant factors such as the severity of patient illnesses and the availability of hospice care in the area.

A thorough review of patient notes is one effective method of judging whether hospital negligence has occurred or whether or not expected standards of patient care have been met.

This study illustrates how the NHS needs to assess a range of different factors to determine the standard of healthcare quality, rather than simply looking at death rates.

Although there are some extremely good hospitals in England, it is clear there are also many where care standards can definitely be improved.

The Clinical Negligence team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers have a huge range of experience dealing with cases relating to poor care, particularly in regard to misdiagnoses, surgical errors, and failing to properly supervise and monitor patients before and after operations.

Nisha Sharma is a Senior Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.

If you or a member of your family suffered from negligent treatment in hospital, call our Medical Negligence Solicitors for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online.

Clinical Negligence, Hospital Negligence

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