Speaking at the Patient Safety Congress which was held in Liverpool on the 21st and 22nd of May, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed that on average there was 12,500 unavoidable deaths every year within the NHS. Hunt then recounted a catalogue of errors that had happened at British hospitals within the last year. These included the amputation of the wrong toe on one patient, removing a patients Fallopian tube instead of their appendix and giving the wrong patient a vasectomy. This ties in with the latest figures from NHS England which show that last year there were 312 hospital ‘never events’, errors so serious that they should never occur. 123 of these related to the leaving of swabs or other surgical instruments in the body and 89 were instances of surgeons operating on the wrong body part. Other never events included the insertion of feeding tubes into patients lungs instead of stomachs and the fitting of incorrect implants.
Hunt told the conference that hospital staff should be completely honest and upfront with patients when a mistake has been made. He said: ‘It’s harder because it’s so much more difficult to tell patients’ families there’s been an avoidable death than to tell them nothing could have been done. If we don’t do that we aren’t going to create the learning culture, we aren’t going to transform our healthcare system.
He then suggested that the NHS look to the nuclear industries or airlines who have managed to implement successful practices to make fatalities very rare.
Health Board Take 15 Months to Reply to NHS Complaint
A new report released by the Scottish Healthcare Ombudsman reveals a ‘massive missed opportunity’ in the way that complains to the NHS are handled. The Ombudsman said that the way complaints are dealt with must be improved in order to avoid the fostering of mistrust towards a service which should be seen as caring and empathetic. The report said:
“People complaining about the NHS are often bereaved, or aggrieved because they feel that they or their loved one have been unnecessarily harmed. They are in in search of answers that will move them towards completing the grieving or the recovery process. In this context, delays and mistakes in the handling of their complaints can cause significant additional distress and create distrust. ”
The report discusses several examples of poor complaint handling, including one instance where a hospital board took 15 months to reply to a complaint in relation to a fatality. Another involved a lady who waited for three months for a reply to her complaint only to have the letter sent to the wrong address twice despite her contacting the board with her correct details. The report calls for a ‘person-centered’ complaints process to be put into place for NHSScotland as well as the implementation of e-learning training courses for complaint handlers.