The BBC’s Panorama documentary last night set out some figures that will startle many people. The programme (which is available until 13 December on the BBC’s great iplayer service), set out that government statistics show around 3,000 people died and over 7,500 suffered significant harm as a result of unsafe care provided in our hospitals.

Examples of blunders include failure to notice chest infections in newborn babies and failures in diagnosing cancer in elderly patients.

The programme was aired on the same day that the independent guide, Dr Foster published its 2012 Hospital Guide.

The continuing problems received widespread media coverage – see for example the Daily Mail report. The Daily Mail’s view was that such figures are likely to be as a result of overstretched NHS staff. There is a concern that the figures will increase as already busy staff are unable to cope with the high number of patients coming into hospitals each year.

Lessons not being Learnt

The programme spent some time highlighting the much publicised problems at Mid Staffordshire Hospital. It also highlighted the Trust’s more recent problems that we blogged about in September.

One of the contributors to the Panorama programme was Peter Walsh, Chief Executive of the charity Action against Medical Accidents who campaign for patient safety and justice. He noted that AvMA see elements of the problems that were present at Mid Staffordshire in many of the calls that they receive from people worried about the care they have received. It is a problem we also see in many of the calls we take. We are committed supporters of the AvMA. Peter Walsh told Panorama that in his view the current system for monitoring patient safety “isn’t fully fit for purpose”.

Stark death rates

In addition, the Dr Foster Report highlights other problems in NHS hospitals, including alarmingly high death rates at 12 NHS Trusts.

The report also explains that patients may be in danger due to high numbers being admitted to NHS hospitals. The report notes that “high levels of occupancy make it harder to provide a safe, effective service”.

Widespread concern

Another article published yesterday emphasized further concerns in the level of treatment provided at NHS hospitals. The Independent reported that the surgeon who delivered the Prime Minister, David Cameron and his wife’s youngest child removed himself from the medical register following an investigation which revealed his surgical skills were not to the standard required. It has been reported that he made mistakes during various surgical procedures and did not follow national guidelines.

The cases of 1,500 women are being reviewed following the investigation.

High quality care

The news stories of the last couple of days show that for some patients the services provided by the NHS are not what they should be. There is a long way to go before uniformly high quality healthcare is provided across the board.