How can negligent care be prevented?
Each year, the NHS receives an average of around 10,500 clinical negligence claims each year. While a small percentage of these cases result in a ruling against the NHS, the volume speaks to institutional issues with healthcare in the UK. So, what can individual healthcare professionals do to prevent negligent care on their watch?
The Commission on Education and Training for Patient Safety released a recent report detailing the importance of training to patient safety, with some key recommendations for Health Education England to mitigate incidences of poor patient safety. While these recommendations are systemic, there are individual considerations that can be made by practitioners to ensure their colleagues are well-trained and prepared as can be. Department managers can ensure that all staff members are up to date on general health and safety measures at NHS sites, while doctors and nurses can refresh their understanding of certain practices in order to ensure patient safety on a day-to-day basis.
Contrary to the image put forward by high-profile court cases relating to medical negligence, negligent behaviour is not often attributed to a single bad actor. Cases such as that of the NHS surgeon branding his initials in patients during surgery are thankfully outliers, and not at all representative of the majority of cases brought forth against the NHS. Rather, the leading reasons that people seek the services of a medical negligence solicitor actually stem from miscommunication between practitioners, whether doctors and administrative staff or the sharing of information between departments. This issue is one that has also been raised by recent audits of the NHS, as a systemic issue with unfortunate individual consequences. While communication issues are a problem that can only be solved systemically, doctors and staff can somewhat mitigate the chance of miscommunication contributing to negligence by endeavouring to follow up on patient actions and recommendations.
One less talked-about region of medical malpractice lies in the practice of prescribing medicine. There are numerous ways in which prescription can lead to negligence, from the overprescription of medicines resulting in conflicting and harmful side-effects to the prescribing of dangerous dosages. Overprescription is an issue which has been on the government’s radar in recent years, resulting in the release of a report on the widespread nature of the phenomenon. GPs can seek to reduce the likelihood of endangering patients through prescriptions by carefully studying the files of the patients they receive and undertaking personal research to better understand the interrelationships of common prescriptions. Improvements to communication and training can also have a knock-on effect on the reduction of over- or mis-prescription cases.