The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found that safety is still inadequate in 4 out of every 5 acute NHS Trusts. The report, which looks at the state of care in NHS Hospitals between 2014 – 2016 raises a number of concerns.
The CQC defines good safety as including:-
- There being a genuine caring culture that prioritises safety.
- An appropriate investigation when something goes wrong, with lessons learned and communicated.
- A sincere and timely apology being made to affected patients, and keeping them updated with the implementation of improvements to prevent another incident.
- Staff understanding and fulfilling their responsibilities to raise concerns, reporting incidents and near misses, and being supported to do so.
As clinical negligence lawyers, dealing with all sorts of injuries, ranging from broken bones to cerebral palsy, we know that our clients want to understand what happened to them, and want the organisation to be held accountable. Universally, they also want to avoid there being a repeat incident. It is disappointing that even though the Duty of Candour was introduced in November 2014, the NHS is still failing to ensure there is an apology and learning after an adverse incident, and that patient safety is prioritised.
The report also raises concerns about staffing levels, and identifies this as a key factor in determining safety. Many of our clients report that those caring for them seemed overstretched and unsupported, and that most are doing the best they can in difficult circumstances.
Where the CQC identified that safety was a hospital’s top priority, the staff reported incidents, and observed that reporting and learning from incidents is an important part of improving safety, not a box ticking exercise. This provides some hope for the future.
Aside from safety, the CQC’s other concerns included:
- Inconsistent diagnosis and management of life threatening conditions, such as septicaemia.
- Poor infection control practice.
- Inadequate checking and maintenance of equipment.
- Insufficient recording keeping.
These are familiar themes in the medical negligence cases we encounter. In a time when hospitals are more stretched than ever before, and facing increasing demands, the report should be used as a basis from which the NHS can move forward in a clear and open fashion, communicating with patients well, and working as efficiently and as effectively as possible.
We hope that the report will mean that leaders and managers of NHS prioritise safety, putting patients at the heart of good practice.