Medical negligence solicitor Suzanne White hopes that more transparency around mistakes made by medical professionals will improve outcomes for patients.
As a lawyer who acts for patients who have suffered an injury when something has gone seriously wrong in their treatment, I know it is crucially important that lessons are learnt each time this happens.
This is not just for the peace of mind of those injured, but also for the benefit of future patients, who may be equally at risk from a potentially harmful procedure or rogue doctor.
I was therefore pleased to see the “Learning from mistakes league “published recently by the Department of Health, which ranks health trusts in England by their ability to learn from mistakes. The idea appears to be that through naming and shaming Health Trusts with inadequate reporting procedures, where lessons are not learned, patient safety will be improved.
Within the League table 120 trusts were currently rated outstanding or good, 78 have significant concerns and a further 32 are noted to have a “poor reporting culture”.
One of those at the bottom of the table is United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
In September 2013 my client, Rolf Dalhaug, had a twin baby boy called Thor who died at a hospital within this Trust.
The Coroner at the inquest into Thor’s death found that the doctor that delivered Thor had used an inappropriate and unorthodox practices, causing the baby’s death.
The Coroner found that the investigation into the cause of Thor’s death was inadequate and on that basis issued a “Prevention of Future Deaths Report” to ensure the Trust addressed systemic failures.
Despite the findings at the inquest, over two years later it seems that the lessons have not been learnt given the “poor reporting culture”.
This is devastating for families. Not just for Rolf and his wife Michelle but also for those who have been similarly affected after Thor’s death, let down by a reporting system which had been flagged as inadequate two years ago.
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, is speaking at a Global Patient Safety Summit in London on 9th and 10th March 2016.
We are told he is to announce a number of new measures to improve safety and transparency in the NHS, one of which will be the creation of an independent Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch; this will provide protection for anyone giving information about a hospital mistake.
Mr Hunt believes that these new provisions will provide a step towards a “new era of openness”.
Mr Hunt stated: “it is a scandal that every week there are potentially a 150 avoidable deaths in our hospitals, it is up to us all to make the need for whistleblowing and secrecy a thing of the past.”
It seems we have a long way to go looking at these latest statistics within the ‘league table’.
It also seems unlikely that changes to the way the NHS is being run, with extended shifts, low morale and staff shortages, will ensure we all get the NHS we all pay for and deserve.
We agree that there needs to be a culture shift, to greater transparency within healthcare, an admission of liability as soon as possible to assist those who are injured and a truly world class reporting system.
Everyone working within the healthcare system should feel able to tell the truth and to learn the lessons which will save lives.