Mistakes that are made by clinicians in England could cost the National Health Service as much as £2.5 billion each year, according to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. Speaking in Birmingham, the minister said that the NHS could afford to take on more nurses and auxiliary staff if such errors were reduced. According to Mr Hunt, high costs are incurred by NHS Trusts throughout England because of problems such as medication errors, avoidable infections and surgical mistakes. Many of these errors lead to the need for further medical treatment and care – which has an on cost for the trust concerned. In addition, Hunt claimed that litigation as a result of these mistakes was costing the taxpayer dear both because of the legal expenses that ensue and the compensation that – in some cases – is paid out.
However, the Royal College of Nursing responded to the Ministerial criticism saying that mistakes were often down to nothing other than understaffed wards. A spokesperson for the nursing organisation said that preventable conditions, like pressure ulcers, happen when there are not enough people in care giving roles. Dr Peter Carter, who is the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing said, “If there are not sufficient ward nurses to care for vulnerable patients, there will inevitably be an upturn in preventable conditions.”
Hunt, who took over as Secretary of State for Health from Andrew Lansley in 2012, cited a new report, which had been commissioned by the Department of Health. In it, the report’s authors claimed that poor care was costing the NHS at least £1 billion a year and could peak at levels as high as two and a half times that amount in some years. In 2013, for example, the NHS in England handed over no less than £1.3 billion simply in the form of compensation, after patients sued following care errors. The report suggests that at least £770 million alone is spent annually treating patients who have suffered an adverse reaction to a course of drugs.
The report also highlights waste in areas of healthcare like surgery. Reducing the number of people who go on to develop a post operative infection – following orthopaedic surgery, for example – could save millions, the report continues. The authors claim that between £200 million and £300 million might be being wasted in this area alone. Mr Hunt went on to add that he wanted to work with the NHS to make it, “the safest healthcare organisation in the world.”