NHS mistakes increase as more patients are needlessly dying

Damming statistics have been released that show errors by NHS staff are increasing each year, needless deaths are occurring due to misdiagnosis, and hospitals are full to the extent that nurses and doctors are struggling to maintain the safety and quality of patient care resulting in almost 3,000 deaths each year and 7,500 being wrongly diagnosed, administered with wrong drugs or poorly cared for.

Titled ‘How Safe Is Your Hospital?’, a documentary was screened last night on BBC1 at 8.30pm for  Panorama showing just how huge pressure from increasing demand, limited finances and the biggest reorganisation in its history, is leaving thousands of patients at huge risk.

BBC Reporter Declan Lawn was documented exploring numerous serious problems in trusts across England and the latest figures of death rates will be seen.  In particularly, during 2011/12 it has been revealed that a shocking 2,864 patients died after mistakes were made by NHS staff. During 2010/11 there were 2,726 deaths due to similar reasons, representing a 5% increase. Viewers last night were shocked to learn that some of the mistakes made included elderly patients being misdiagnosed as having cancer when they in fact had heart failure, and thus receiving unnecessary and pointless treatment as their health declined.

Other errors that have been made include nurses failing to notice chest infections in new-born babies that may have been cured with adequate treatment such as antibiotics.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt reacted to the worrying statistics and acknowledged that there could be ‘pockets’ of poor care, similar to that seen during the 2008 Stafford Hospital scandal which erupted after an investigation by the Healthcare Commission following the Commission receiving news that there was ‘apparently high mortality rates in patients admitted as emergencies’ between January 2005 and March 2009. Approximately 1,200 patients were believed to have died as a result of varying examples of incompetence and mainly due to the scandal, the mortality rates of every NHS hospital are now able to be viewed online.

In a statement given for the Panorama documentary, the Health Secretary said: “Whilst failings in care at Mid-Staffordshire  NHS Foundation Trust have shocked many, we cannot say with confidence that some of those failings do not exist in pockets elsewhere in the NHS. Whilst the majority of patients receive excellent care from the NHS, we still have much to do to ensure quality of care is considered as important as quality of treatment throughout the system.”

Dr Mike Williams, of the University of Exeter, has conducted recent studies regarding hospital safety and says: “Doctors, nurses, and managers do not realise the level of harm that’s going on hospitals. Most hospitals are now having more and more patients coming through the front door. The money is at standstill, if not reducing. The number of staff are therefore at the same level, they’re having to do more work – and work harder and faster. The research is very clear that where staff have to work extremely hard they are much more likely to make mistakes.”

The BBC documentary into the NHS comes in the same week it has been revealed that hospitals are fully crammed with patients, leading to a decline in the quality of care that is available. Healthcare information firm Dr Foster – partially owned by the government – shows that bed occupancy rates are well over 85% on many occasions. This is the limit that is recommended in order for patients to receive good care and also not exposed to health risks.

The NHS themselves have previously stated that 85% or above puts them in a difficult position to provide high-quality care and keeping the rate below this can help to limit the chances of patients  contracting an infection within the hospital as well as ensuring that staff do not make any errors when dealing with patient’s medication.

Worryingly, it seems the problems could get a lot worse. More and more hospitals are on ‘red alert’, meaning they do not have many beds to spare. Others are even worse off though, declaring themselves on ‘black alert’, having to refuse any new admissions and direct patients elsewhere.

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