LEGAL EAGLE: NHS must learn from its mistakes

I come back to a question that never ceases to amaze me. Why can the NHS not learn from the mistakes that it makes?

Tuesday, 19th April 2016, 1:00 pm

It has been recently reported that a gentleman’s death was contributed to by a retained swab that had been left in his pelvis after an operation for over thirty years.

The retained swab had been noted on a subsequent scan but nothing had been done.

It was found coincidentally in a hernia repair operation but by then it was too late.

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We are told the hospital involved have produced a check list “so it does not happen again”.

How many times have we heard tired well-worn phrases like this?

We have also recently learnt that the Patient Safety Research Centre in London estimates that only five per cent of hospital mistakes are reported.

Allegedly the authors believe this is because of the culture of institutions and the culture of medicine. If the report is accurate then, on the basis of the data compiled by the NHS itself (October 2014 to March 2015), that amounts to 160 deaths a day. The same data would reveal almost ninety five thousand incidents a year causing “severe harm”.

The National Guardian Dame Eileen Sills has resigned from her post having only recently been appointed.

Her role, if she had actually started work, would have been to improve protection for NHS whistleblowers.

The creation of the post was a recommendation by Sir Robert Francis in his report on the scandal involving the lack of basic care at the former Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust.

I do not have the answer to my own question but it raises another troubling question. After a mistake has occurred it is this second question that bereaved families and those struggling to come to terms with life changing injuries often ask: why does no-one care about how this happened?

In our experience in handling many hundreds of cases over the years we are told from time to time that learning has taken place but these recent reports suggest otherwise.

Our clinical negligence team can assist victims of medical negligence with advice concerning potential claims. If you think you or anybody you know has been affected by medical negligence you may find it useful to click on the following link where you will find some frequently asked questions and answers on the subject: