Counting the cost of mistakes in healthcare – human, financial and political

The scale of the financial provision required for clinical negligence claims, in particular birth injuries, brought against the NHS, has hit the headlines again. For 2019/2020, NHS Resolution needs to collect £718.7 million from its member trusts, just to pay out on maternity cases.

The big numbers referenced by the BBC recently following a Freedom of Information Act request are in fact, readily available to view on the NHS Resolution website, as are the positive steps it is taking to ensure that the biggest claims, i.e. adverse birth outcomes are reported and investigated early, with incentives for trusts to ensure that learning is identified and implemented. All cases are reviewed from a patient safety perspective; with the aim to reduce risk of recurrence and thereby the number of claims.

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Amazon given free access to NHS healthcare information

Back in July a partnership was announced between the NHS and Amazon that would allow Alexa devices to offer health advice, and it was highlighted that this would be of particular use for persons with accessibility needs who would have trouble using a computer or mobile device to access NHS information.  But, The Sunday Times and Guardian newspapers this weekend revealed via Freedom of Information requests that this agreement allows Amazon access to information such as symptoms, causes and definitions of conditions.  Under the agreement, the information can be shared with third parties worldwide.

The NHS and Amazon were quick however to deny that this information included private data regarding individual patients, and any patient data would be anonymized.  Amazon said that it could not build profiles of customers according to their health needs.

In a previous blog we reported on the use of digital devices to assist dementia sufferers and the Tory party manifesto includes a promise to “invest in health data system.”  Certainly, the Alexa device and other similar devices would be useful for people with memory problems, as well as persons with disabilities and access problems, but it’s concerning that this information can be used and shared by private corporations.

Further information can be found here.


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Written by Jennifer Johnston at BLM

jennifer.johnston@blmlaw.com

Tory and Labour migration elections pledges fail to address NHS and social care staffing crisis

A report today by the independent healthcare think tank The Nuffield Trust, highlights the potential staffing risks to healthcare and social care if migration from EU were to fall. Currently, almost 25% of hospital staff and 20% of health and social care staff were born outside the UK. The NHS and social care sectors already have significant staffing shortages and vacancies.  We have highlighted in previous blogs that the demand for  care will increase in the future, and there’s an estimated 100,000 vacancies for staff for the NHS in England alone.

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NHS up for sale… or already sold?

One of the key issues to arise in campaigning for this month’s UK General Election is the future of the NHS and the role that private companies, in particular US-based healthcare companies, might play in that future following Brexit.  Last week, the Labour leader Jeremy Corybn claimed papers he had obtained showed that the NHS was “up for sale”.  This has been denied by the Conservatives.

Figures show that private businesses already have a significant interest in NHS healthcare and services and were awarded almost £15 billion in NHS contracts in the last five years. Additionally, NHS mental health services are dominated by private equity firms which are now estimated to provide nearly 25% of NHS mental health residential places.  The Independent today highlights this issue and in particular the huge financial interests of three private equity firms Acadia, Cygnet and Elysium that have invested significantly in British public healthcare services, in particular in the psychiatric/mental health residential areas.

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On your marks!

Jeremy Hunt, when he held the position of Health & Social Care Secretary, published a letter to independent hospitals on 8 May 2018 urging them to “get their house in order and improve safety.”  One of the triggers for this was the Care Quality Commission (CQC) identifying that a third of independent hospitals “required improvement” as they demonstrated poor practice and unsafe care.

The Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) has now produced a Medical Practitioners Assurance Framework (2019) which has been described by Chair, Sir Bruce Keogh as the equivalent of firing “a starting gun …to improve care and confidence in the private sector.” A link to this framework is provided here

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Duty of candour prosecutions – is silence golden?

The statutory duty of candour has been hailed the greatest reform in patient rights in the modern era. It was brought in under the Health & Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 as amended, in response to the Mid Staffordshire Inquiry.

The regulation 20 duty of candour requirements are detailed and specific.  There is an overriding obligation to be open and transparent, coupled with clear requirements to notify patients and/or their families where there is any unintended or unexpected incident, whether this amounts to an error or not.  This notification must be prompt. Whilst the requirements are dependent upon the level of harm sustained, the underlying principles governing the provisions are focussed on ensuring that patients are kept properly informed and that errors and/or other unintended consequences are not ‘brushed under the carpet’.

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NHS pays firms £181m to care for patients with serious mental illnesses

Due to a severe shortage of NHS mental health beds in England, the NHS has been left with no option but to pay private institutions such as the Priory increased sums to provide residential rehabilitation each year.

“The NHS is paying private firms an “eye-watering” £181m a year to look after people with serious mental health problems in units often hundreds of miles from their homes.” – The Guardian.

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