The NHS has historically been under a lot of pressure, and that pressure is increasing for several reasons. These include economic, social and political pressures. The NHS was launched in 1948. It was born out of a long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth – one of the NHS's core principles. With the exception of some charges, such as prescriptions, optical services and dental services, the NHS in England remains free at the point of use for all UK residents. This currently stands at more than 64.6 million people in the UK and 54.3 million people in England alone. The NHS in England deals with over 1 million patients every 36 hours. It covers everything, including antenatal screening, routine screenings (such as the NHS Health Check), treatments for long-term conditions, transplants, emergency treatment and end-of-life care.

What are the Main Challenges Facing the NHS?

  • An ageing population
  • A growing population
  • Evolving healthcare needs, such as the increase in cases of obesity and diabetes, or antibiotic resistance
  • Medical advancements save lots of lives every year, but push up costs considerably. It is estimated that progress in medical technology costs the NHS at least an extra £10bn a year
  • Closure of local services due to centralisation drives
  • An increase in reliance on privatised services

Economically, the NHS has always been a battleground, as governments fight to secure the future of the NHS whilst being cost-efficient. One of the solutions is to move patient care out of hospitals and into clinics in GP surgeries and in the community. This takes a toll on hospital incomes, driving more and more of them into debt. Some hospitals trusts have even been put into administration over the last few years. Centralisation of services is one way the Government tried to redress funding issues, but this means closing some local services like A&E and maternity units.

Most people will understand and sympathise with the immense pressures that staff are under; however going into hospital is an anxious time for everyone and we should all expect to be well looked after. The law says every hospital has to meet the national care standards. The Care Quality Commission are responsible to check hospitals to make sure they are meeting all of the standards.

Peter Walsh, Chief Executive of Action Against Medial Accidents, said:

“Never events by definition are perfectly avoidable incidents which often cause serious harm or death. The number of them being reported remains disturbingly high.“

Official data reveals that the wrong site surgery took place 178 times in the 12 months before the end of April.  Surgical swabs were mislaid inside patients after operations 22 times, the data shows, and in two cases broken-off drill bits were mislaid. Misplaced vaginal swabs were a common problems across the Health Service, with 31 cases recorded, whilst 42 procedures on the wrong tooth took place. On four occasions, doctors operated on the wrong patient altogether.

As well as medical mishaps, three patients fell from improperly restricted windows, and in three cases a patient’s neck or chest became trapped in their bed rails.

The latest figures show a steady increase in the number of wrong site surgeries, rising from 54 reported in 2012/13 to 135 in 2015/16. NHS chiefs have suggested the rising number is due in part to greater awareness among staff to report these events. A spokesman for NHS Improvement, which oversees hospitals said:

“We are seeing increased awareness and transparency among staff about the need to report patient safety incidents to support learning and drive improvements.”

Here at Anthony Collins Solicitors, we welcome this new trend in increased awareness among staff but we recognise when you are treated by someone working in the healthcare profession, you are owed a duty of care. You are putting complete trust in them to give you the best possible care and treatment, whether from a GP, pharmacist, surgeon, medical therapist, dentist or carer. Most of the time a high standard of care is exactly what you will receive, but sadly mistakes and errors do happen.

If you feel that you have suffered as a result of a mistake by a clinician, we are very experienced in investigating all types of clinical negligence claims.

For more information

Please contact Stephanie Moustache or Rankeshwar Batta, head of the clinical negligence and personal injury department, who will be happy to speak to you on an initial free, no obligation basis.

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Operating on the wrong person and patients falling out of windows - NHS 'never events' at near record levels