If NHS staff cut out basic medical errors, they could save £2.5 billion a year and employ thousands more staff members, according to a new study.
The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has identified poor standards of care as the most expensive and wasteful mistake made by hospitals, as it leads to longer stays in hospitals and painful complications for patients.
The recent research shows that the NHS bill for treating patients harmed by medical mistakes which could have been avoided has now reached £2.5bn – equivalent to the salaries of 60,000 nurses. Frontier Economics, the independent organisation which conducted the research, discovered that a total of 800,000 patients admitted to English hospitals, or 1 in 20, falls victim to an avoidable error.
The Department of Health has recently launched a new advertising campaign to educate staff about the cost of mistakes, and Mr Hunt is concerned that far too much money is being spent on correcting the consequences of mistakes rather than investing in NHS staff.
Speaking to staff at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, the Health Secretary called for managers to make significant investments into safe care, and a complete change of NHS culture. This speech followed on from a campaign launched earlier in the year, aimed at encouraging staff to whistle-blow when they saw risks to patients.
The government believes that improvement in patient care go hand in glove with changes to working practices and encouraging a culture of transparency. The Department of Health will publish statistics showing the cost to the NHS of patients who have prolonged stays due to infection, medication errors, bed sores, blood clots and other consequences of avoidable mistakes. These figures show that a patient who is allowed to develop bed sores spends another 12 days in hospital and costs the NHS an additional £2,500.
Mr Hunt had appealed directly to nurses and NHS management in hospitals across England to make safety a top priority. He has asked the management of each NHS Trust to look at the impact that mistakes is having on both their patients and their budget. These statistics seem to prove that this just isn’t true. All hospitals are funded in the same way, and hospitals with high standards and low claims for medical negligence are funded in the same way as hospitals who are classed as failing. Unfortunately the Royal College of Nursing doesn’t accept the link between cost and safety, and Dr Peter Carter, their chief executive claimed that the only way to improve patient care was by more staff investment.
It’s always sad to see the knee-jerk response from any of the national organisations representing the U.K.’s medical professional workers. Whether it’s GPs, surgeons or nurses, you can guarantee whenever there is the slightest criticism of the NHS or its staff, even if it’s all about simple issues of care, they always respond with the same predictable response – they always blame it on one thing alone, a lack of funding. I don’t know about you, but my view is that until these remarkably arrogant medical professionals start to accept that they are human like the rest of us, that some of them simply aren’t up to scratch and that even the best of them can make mistakes, NHS patients are going to see much improvement.
The government will be sending posters and leaflets to every hospital in England and Wales to inform staff of the research which shows the link between safer care, reducing costs and more time to spend with patients.
The report also shows that the rocketing £2.5bn annual bill for poor care is comprised in no small part with rising litigation costs to get medical negligence compensation for victims of errors. The litigation department of the NHS has seen its payments double since 2010, to £1.3 billion.
The staff posters will give details of the costs associated with having to stay in hospital for longer for patients who suffer from some of the most common avoidable errors such as infections caused by catheters, falls, bed sores and blood clots. These issues alone accounts for £200 million a year, equivalent to the cost of 4,000 nurses.
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