Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt recently announced that a study will be taking place into avoidable deaths. Investigators will scour through the case files of around 2,000 patients who died last year to confirm if there was more that could and should have been done to save their lives.
After announcing the review, Mr Hunt expressed his thoughts that the number of avoidable deaths which take place in hospitals is the “biggest scandal in global healthcare”.
“It is about changing behaviour and the way everyone works in the NHS,” he said.
This yearly study sees England become the first country in the entire world to monitor the severity of avoidable death cases, in the hope of reducing the current figure. Mr Hunt has warned that 1,000 patients are dying unnecessarily each month in NHS hospitals.
Mr Hunt said that 1,000 people are dying for no given reason in NHS hospitals each month, and to lose even one life to poor care or safety negligence is too many.
The Tory Health Secretary said the attitude to safety in the NHS was too relaxed compared to other industries such as aviation, where global deaths have fallen from 2,000 in the 1970s to 500 now.
He told The Telegraph: “This is the biggest scandal in global healthcare. Why hasn’t the health service adopted the kinds of standards we now take for granted in the airline and nuclear industry?
“I’m determined to go even further in rooting out poor care, and have ordered a national case-note review to work out the percentage of avoidable deaths by hospital.
“I want all hospital boards to have a laser-like focus on eradicating avoidable deaths in their organisation; even one life lost to poor care or safety error is too many.” The announcement comes days before a report on the treatment of NHS whistleblowers is set to be published.
Sir Robert Francis, who led the damning report into the Mid Staffs Hospital scandal, will also make known his findings on how staff who want to raise their concerns are dealt with.
Responding to the proposals, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister Andrew Gwynne said: “We will look at the detail but from what we have seen this proposed annual review does not appear ambitious enough. “Labour is looking at whether we can go further and have a mandatory review of case notes for every death in hospital – not just for a sample of cases as Jeremy Hunt proposes.
“But as well as initiatives to measure avoidable harm, we need action to prevent it from happening in the first place. “The sad truth is that by turning the NHS upside down with a damaging reorganisation and causing a crisis in A&E, the Tory-led Government is making care problems more likely, not less. “Labour has committed to recruiting 20,000 more nurses by 2020 and until David Cameron matches these plans, he will not be credible on patient safety.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said depending on the number deaths estimated locally under the annual review, hospitals will be placed into bands. “By March 2016, every hospital board will have the first of an annual series of projected avoidable mortality rates to inform and drive local improvement,” she said.
“The Health Secretary will require every hospital chairman to write to him upon receipt of their figures each year to update him on how they plan to eradicate avoidable deaths in their organisation.”