Clinical Negligence – Time to turn to the tide

A new year and a new decade find many NHS trusts facing the same problems. In January this year the BBC released an article addressing the huge legal fees the NHS faces. The fees are to settle outstanding claims of clinical negligence, once again highlighting the failure of many organisations around the UK to tackle patient safety challenges. These fees often result from very unfortunate and even fatal events where hospitals are liable for inadequate treatment of patients.

The article in question goes into detail of the case of Hayden Nguyen who died from heart failure brought on by a virus. After three years of fighting, the Nguyen family finally received admittance from the trust which recognised its liability in his death. It was yet another fatal example of clinical negligence.

Clinical negligence claims cause huge distress to the families involved and great expense to the organisations who are liable. The total cost of legal fees for the NHS in the 2018-2019 budget period was £4.3bn, which represents 3.3% of the total budget of £129bn. This is a huge price to pay. The Department of Health believes that costs will only rise, as it pledged to tackle “the unsustainable rise in the cost of clinical negligence”. The worrying statistics show that annual legal fees are on the rise year on year, and more must be done to address this problem.

Chief Executive of Action Against Medical Accidents Peter Walsh points the finger at NHS organisations. “The NHS is not investigating incidents properly, recognising when it is harming patients and seeking to compensate them fairly and promptly,” he told the BBC. This statement highlights a small part of the problem but points to where we, here at Eva, understand how to make a real difference.

To truly implement change, there needs to be a change within the system – change in practice and a change in the way we approach patient safety. It is not enough to continue with the same practices of approaching the improvement of patient safety when it still leads to preventable harm. There has to be a solution that offers not only viable alternatives but one that can be adopted by numerous personnel, with little resistance and hesitation.

At Eva we believe that change lies in technology.

Many of us are resistant to changing the software we’ve learned and used for so long. To be told to work in a different way can at first seem daunting, and many of us and our organisations shy away from new software adoption when we are told to do so. This phenomenon is prevalent in healthcare, with outdated systems still used by the NHS including the continued installation of the outdated Windows 7 and a heavy reliance on fax machines.

Additionally, and most importantly, outdated systems extend to serious incident investigations. With no viable solutions to the current outdated systems, NHS staff are left with an old process that offers few resources to properly react to the failures within the system.

At Eva we’ve heard too many stories similar to Hayden’s. Incidents that could have been avoided if hospitals had effectively learnt from mistakes and mitigated against further failures. Unfortunately, the margins for error can be fatal and we are seeing the situation worsening; we must therefore use solutions that can offer real change that help to minimize patient safety incidents.

The Eva Investigation tool lightens the burden of investigations for organisations, clinicians and staff working in patient safety teams. From standardising and simplifying the investigation process, the tool makes it easier for relevant individuals to report incidents. By digitalising the data, we open up a range of reporting and analysis tools that help inform strategies to mitigate risks and avoid future failures.

Eva will improve organisations’ ability to alert staff and personnel of mistakes made in the past. If we can make improvements in patient safety across the UK, then we will be making progress to ensure the eradication of avoidable harm. As Peter Walsh rightly says, “it is of course vitally important that we learn from harm in order to improve patient safety”.

For more information on Eva please get in touch by emailing [email protected] or calling 020 7494 5676


Written by William Fordham.

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