Hospitals stand accused of covering up mistakes

24th June 2014 Clinical Negligence

This morning there has been worrying news that one fifth of hospitals may be covering up mistakes after a review of patient safety incidents by the government raised suspicions (BBC).

According to reports, 29 out of 141 hospital trusts have not registered the expected number of incidents which could potentially be a sign that some are being covered up rather than admitted.

Currently there is a push by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt underway which aims to save the lives of 6,000 patients over the next three years who would otherwise have been killed by serious errors. With that number of lives a stake it is unacceptable for hospitals not to get behind this safety campaign and accurately record each and every time a patient is put at risk of harm.

As head of the medical negligence team at JMW I must add that as well as having fatal consequences, serious mistakes can cause life-shattering disabilities which are also unacceptable and have a devastating impact on victims.

The hospital trusts accused of underreporting their patient safety incidents have not been named but it is vital that the reasons are investigated fully and tough action taken on any that are not being as open and honest as they should.

The failure to admit mistakes at the earliest opportunity is something that the team at JMW still sees too much of in the cases we handle. Sometimes NHS trusts seek to deny any errors were made in the first instance, only to admit them in full after legal proceedings are brought against them.

Although in the long-run the patient or family will be no worse off financially as we are still able to secure them the maximum amount of compensation they need, there is also the emotional and psychological toll to consider.

Being made to feel as though they are fabricating or exaggerating the chain of events that led to an injury being caused is incredibly upsetting for patients and families. Add to this the stress and worry about how they will cope with their injuries now and in the future and each and every day can be a battle.

Coping with their situation can be very difficult but the team at JMW are committed to supporting the patients we represent every step of the way. We believe this should not stop at just advising on the legalities of challenging poor care, but also to offer a listening ear when the stresses and strains become too much for them to bear.

However one of the most important issues for the clients we represent is ensuring that lessons have been learned so that others will not suffer the same fate. If some hospitals are still not prepared to ensure that happens by admitting their mistakes then they are not only at risk of continuing the same poor care but they are denying the patients they have harmed the chance to protect others.

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Eddie Jones is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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