Clinical negligence solicitor, Michael Clarke, considers a new survey on the state of the NHS
The Care Quality Commission (CQC), the watchdog over the NHS, has provided the most in-depth analysis yet of the performance of all the 161 acute hospital trusts in England- and the findings are a worrying confirmation of what many members of the public, not to mention many medical negligence lawyers, have felt in their bones for a long time.
A shockingly large number of NHS hospitals in this country are in serious trouble. Of the 161 trusts surveyed, the CQC has said it is worried about aspects of care at 44 of them- in other words, over a quarter. The commission has stated that performance in some areas is so poor that it poses a risk to patients.
It may take a moment or two for the sheer numbers involved to sink in. This is not just a handful, a dozen or so; still less is it a core of known troubled trusts.
Nor is it a matter of nit-picking as an excuse to bandy about some scaremongering statistics for political purposes. The survey was based on the sort of standards which everyone in the country would consider important when thinking about hospital care, including:-
- waiting times for treatment in A&E;
- waiting times for cancer investigation;
- patients’ trust in the doctors and nurses;
- rates of hospital-acquired infections;
- urgent scanning and assessment of stroke patients;
- patient safety incidents and “never” events (incidents such as amputating the wrong limb that should never happen);
- management of patients’ pain;
- dignity for patients, such as how much help was provided to someone to help them eat their meal.
In all, 150 indicators of “quality” were considered and the trusts were then placed into bands, according to their results. There are 6 bands, with 1 being the most worrying and 6 the least. 24 trusts appear in band 1; and 20 in band 2- and it is these 44 that the CQC is most worried about.
The 44 includes 14 trusts already put in “special measures” after an earlier investigation this year, partly prompted by the scandal at the Mid Staffordshire Trust, but even so, an additional 30 is hardly a result to write home about.
Looking at the results a different way, it is only in band 6 that any hospital score above the expected minimum standards overall. Every other band is below the expected norm- the only question is by how much.
Katherine Murphy, the chief executive of the Patients Association and a former NHS nurse and manager, said:
“It’s hugely worrying that there’s such a high number of trusts where the CQC has concerns about the quality and safety of the care being delivered. But it doesn’t come as much of a surprise because we know from our work that elements of poor care are widespread in the NHS. We don’t think there’s any hospital that’s providing 100% high-quality, safe care. ”
She went on to say that patients regularly contact the Association because of concern with misdiagnosis, cancelled operations, poor care when in hospital, and patients (often elderly) not being treated with the compassion and dignity they deserve.
Such complaints are daily listening for medical negligence solicitors like us and most would probably heartily endorse what Ms Murphy says. It is particularly sad when there are without doubt some very committed and caring people in the system; some of them must now be wondering how much longer they and their work can survive being dragged down by the rest of the hulk.
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