By Sean Gordon, Senior Solicitor, Neil Hudgell Solicitors
WORRYING new reports have highlighted a mounting financial crisis across the NHS – as UK hospitals struggle to manage a relentless increase in the demand for care.
Some hospital chief executives are describing the NHS’s current financial position as “a car crash” and “an absolute disaster” – with NHS leaders calling for an urgent cash bailout from the Government.
These are clearly difficult days for health secretary Jeremy Hunt. He has already handed over more than £1bn of extra funding to hospitals over the past year, but the national backlog of operations still stands at a six-year high.
By the end of the financial year, it is being predicted that as many as three-quarters of all England’s hospitals could be in the red. The NHS could well be £1bn in deficit in total.
Warning they can no longer provide services of the quality expected without incurring ever larger deficits, hospitals are hardly sending out a comforting message to patients and their families across the UK.
In fact, they paint a worrying picture of under-staffed, over-stretched facilities at breaking point.
All this comes against a backdrop of hospital chief executives saying they need to hire extra staff to maintain care standards in the wake of the Mid Staffs scandal, face an increasing demand for A&E care, and have suffered from cuts to the fees they receive for treating patients.
As specialists in handling cases where people have suffered through medical negligence, despite these clear financial pressures on NHS Trusts, we remain fully committed giving patients, who are the true victims of this poor situation, they very best legal advice and support.
Something has to change. We see too many examples of hospital staff being placed under immense pressure and being overstretched, leading to basic errors.
Such a situation was highlighted in a recent case handled by Neil Hudgell Solicitors, in which 63-year-old patient had her operation cancelled as she lay in wait in theatre, simply over a failure to ensure the correct bloods were on site. Poor treatment, but a basic and entirely avoidable error which led to months of further pain, worry and discomfort for the patient.
Representing her on a no win no fee basis, we secured a substantial compensation figure, as well as a full apology from the Trust. However, she’d much rather have had the hip operation in January as had been planned, and now be active once again.
We strongly believe that only by continually highlighting and challenging poor health care, and by holding people in influential positions to account (both at hospital trusts and The Department of Health) will we see a changes for the better.
With greater accountability and scrutiny, increased transparency, a willingness to make change and hopefully an appropriate amount of resource, we can hopefully work towards securing a better health service for all in the long term.