Mistakes in the NHS

Today there have been two stories suggesting that managerial problems in the National Health Service are costing us money, getting people seriously ill and even causing a frightening number of deaths.

First, hospitals are facing a massive compensation bill.  As Blair Gibbs, TPA Campaigns Director told the Daily Mail:

"Too often some law firms see public services as an easy target for compensation because they can more readily afford big payouts - because the buck stops with taxpayers, not the individuals responsible."

The Daily Mail article suggests that the main factor driving the number of claims is serious surgical errors.  Total payouts have risen from £345 million to £426 million, 23% from 2002.  While there are other factors involved in this rise it does suggest an increase in the frequency of errors.

Second, the Times reports that the first hospital has been warned over its failure to improve cleanliness and tackle the 'superbugs'.  The Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, North London is the guilty hospital.  In a six month period last year it reported more than 600 infections yet the Healthcare Commission reports that there has been "no evidence" of Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS trust, the body responsible, learning from its mistakes.  Problems include:

"A failure to provide and maintain a clean and appropriate environment for healthcare.

A failure to provide adequate isolation facilities for patients already suffering from infections.

A lack of appropriate management systems for infection prevention and control.

A failure to assess risks of acquiring healthcare-associated infection and to take action to reduce or control them.

In addition, only one microbiologist, working four hours a week, was employed to monitor infections at the trust, which serves a catchment of 500,000 people. There was also no identified budget for training of staff in infection-control and attendance at such training was not monitored.

Clinical staff were found to be “confused” about isolation policies, “indicating that they are not always adhered to”."

Political management, generalist politicians without management experience attempting to run monopolistic public service conglomerates, reduces accountability for junior staff.  In departments where the secretary of state changes every couple of years they are never around long enough to hold junior staff properly accountable.  The organisation becomes unresponsive and essential change takes too long.

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