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Bill for Hospital Mistakes is £2.5bn

Published on: April 2, 2015

According to a new report, the NHS could afford to employ thousands of new medical staff if it stopped making basic mistakes which are costing £2.5bn a year.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted that top of the “waste and expense” list is poor hospital care, which leads to longer stays for patients and costly complications. The research, published in October 2014, suggests that the £2.5bn spend treating patients harmed by avoidable mistakes could fund the salaries of 60,000 nurses.

The research was done by Frontier Economics, a body completely independent of the NHS, and found that 1 in every 20 patients who go into an English hospital suffer the consequences of an avoidable mistake. That’s right – you did read it correctly. A full 5% !

At the launch of an internal NHS poster campaign to raise awareness of the cost of errors, Mr Hunt said that instead of investing in new staff, the NHS was having to pay the cost of putting things right after mistakes were made. Mr Hunt had earlier called for an overhaul of the culture of the NHS and appealed to managers to make investments in safety.

The Health Secretary has previously launched a campaign in the wake of the scandal at the Mid Staffs Trust to encourage NHS staff to come forward when patient safety is compromised. The Department of Health argues that improvements in patient care have to go hand in hand with changes to working practices and creating an open culture.

This drive for a more transparent NHS will see the publishing of figures showing how much preventable problems like blood clots, drug errors, bed sores and infections actually cost the health service. Data shows that a patient who develops bed sores costs the NHS an additional £2500 and adds 12 nights onto their hospital stay.

Jeremy Hunt appealed directly to people working at all levels in the NHS to make safety a top priority. He asked directors of every NHS Trust to look at the impact that mistakes are having not only on their budgets, but on their patients too.

The government thinking that lower costs and safer care is the same thing is a refreshing approach. We’ve had years of endless apologies for poor patient care and substandard medical staff and hospitals which pass the buck and say it’s never their fault and that everything is down to restrictions on their budget. It’s now obvious that this is completely untrue. There are some good examples of hospitals which have very high standards and receive their funding in the same way as hospitals which are failing. However, what’s not surprising is that Dr Peter Carter, who heads up the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) met the new research by simply calling for more funding to help patient care standards increase.

The government intends to send a pack with posters and leaflets to every NHS Trust in England and Wales, showing staff how safer care helps save money and gives them more time to care for their patients. The £2.5 billion which is the annual bill for poor care in the NHS is on the rise as costs for legal action taken by victims of NHS are taken into account. Since 2010, the amount paid out to settle cases by the NHS Litigation Authority has doubled to £1.3 billion.

The staff poster campaign breaks down the costs and extra time spent in hospital for patients who falls victims to the most common sort of NHS mistakes such as bed sores, falls, urinary tract infections caused when catheterised and blood clots.

Let’s hope that the medical establishment take the latest figures seriously – they’re always crying out for more funds, but outcomes don’t seem to be improving. If they really want to improve standards and make more funds available, the first place to start is cutting back on the huge number of medical errors and medical negligence that our National Health Service seems plagued with.

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