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24 November 2013 / legal-blog
A blog article by Jonathan White
The Government’s reaction to the Mid Staffordshire Hospital Scandal shows commitment to greater transparency in cases of medical negligence – but will it help victims?
The Government issued a detailed paper responding largely positively to the 290 recommendations made by Robert Francis QC, who reviewed the events that led to the scandal.
Recommendation 181, and the Government’s response to it, is particularly interesting.
The recommendation states that “A statutory obligation should be imposed to observe a duty of candour [...] On healthcare providers who believe or suspect that treatment or care provided by it to a patient has caused death or serious injury to a patient to inform that patient or other duly authorised person as soon as is practicable of that fact and thereafter to provide such information and explanation as the patient reasonably may request.”
To paraphrase, if you kill or seriously injury someone through poor treatment or care, you really should tell them and not sweep it under the carpet.
You might expect the Government to show astonishment at the fact that healthcare providers don’t immediately put their hands up when something goes wrong and, consequently, to implement the recommendation as a matter of urgency.
In reality, the Government’s actual response is to sweep the good idea under the carpet – just like the healthcare professionals.
I am, of course, being slightly unfair. The Government does appear committed, in principle, to a culture which facilitates the open and transparent reporting of mistakes.
Many of the 1,500 people who contact NAH each month about medical negligence simply have no idea if there has been an error or mistake – just that things turned out a lot worse than they were expecting.
It remains to be seen whether the Government’s apparent commitment will lead to anything in practice – or whether patients will be left wondering.
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