Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Health Secretary estimates 12,500 unnecessary deaths in the NHS each year

Jeremy Hunt has used a keynote speech at the Patient Safety Congress last week to call on the NHS to reduce the estimated 12,500 avoidable deaths that occur every year. The fact that the NHS is causing more than 34 deaths each and every day is a staggering statistic. Whilst the thousands of lives saved by the NHS massively exceeds the number of deaths caused, no other organisation would or could permit so many fatal errors without a public outcry.

Part of the solution according to Mr Hunt lies with the NHS learning from the airline and nuclear industries which have transparent reporting systems.

“When we started the NHS 60 years ago we turned heads across the world… I want us to turn heads again. I want our NHS to be the first system in the world that starts introducing airline [industry] levels of safety and nuclear [industry] levels of transparency.” He went on to say “I think if we do that we can turn the tragedy of Mid Staffs into a turning point that many years later we can look back on and say: ‘that was when it changed’.”

According to data from the National Reporting and Learning System, medium-sized NHS acute providers report around 5,700 incidents of concern with regard to patient safety each year on average. Drawing on a recent visit to a US hospital, Mr Hunt noted that a threefold increase in reporting incidents of concern led to a 75% reduction in litigation, as problems were addressed before injury was caused.

Convincing some NHS staff that “reporting” will not have an adverse effect on their careers is proving an uphill task, with a less than enthusiastic welcome for the introduction of a duty of candour, despite it being the prime recommendation of the Francis report on Mid Staffs.

If you have experienced inadequate or unacceptable hospital treatment and wish to discuss the matter, contact Chris Thorne, Partner specialising in clinical negligence.