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A new report by the parliamentary and health service ombudsman has found a catalogue of errors, revealing that more has to be done to improve patient safety in the NHS.
The report, which summarised 161 investigations carried out between April and June this year, outlined serious errors such as complaints about incorrect discharges from hospitals and failings in diagnosis of cancer.
One complaint, concerning Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, outlined how a simple liver biopsy and subsequent poor care led to the death of a patient. In another tragic case, a patient was inappropriately discharged from a Bedford Hospital NHS Trust A&E department only to be found to be suffering from a complete loss of blood supply to his small intestine.
With its report, the ombudsman became the second high-profile body this month alone to point to serious and widespread deficiencies in patient safety.
Just a few weeks ago, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) raised concerns that patient safety in the UK had sunk to unacceptable levels. In a damning report, the CQC stated that as many as four in five NHS hospitals required improvement or were, simply put, inadequate.
Both reports point to a worrying variance in the quality of care between different providers. The United Kingdom has long been known for its excellent medical health services, and the NHS is one of the most respected public health systems in the world. Yet too many incidents of early discharges, misdiagnoses and other grave errors of professional judgement are having a devastating impact on patients.
With the general election nearly upon us, there could be a temptation for the Government to rest on its laurels and leave worries such as lacking patient safety to its successor.
However, the reports by the ombudsman and the CQC show that there is no room for complacency. It is crucial that the Government maintains its focus on improving care and patient safety rather than victimising those who claim compensation when things go wrong.
Initiatives such as Jeremy Hunt’s Sign up to Safety campaign should be applauded, but we are miles away from ‘job done’ on the issue of protecting patient safety.
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