The scale of failings revealed in the cardiac surgery department of the UK’s best known hospitals is both shocking and frightening. A Care Quality Commission (CQC) report has revealed that repeated warnings and evidence of too many heart patients dying after surgery intended to save their lives were ignored at the Queen Elizabeth medical centre in Birmingham.The report says that although concerns about unusually high death rates were first raised in 2013, the University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Foundation Trust did not address them until late last year. Perhaps more shocking is the suggested that ‘bullying’ prevented concerned staff from speaking out. Medical Negligence Specialists The list of failings identified from the CQC inspection included;
Medical Negligence Specialists
The list of failings identified from the CQC inspection included;
- Nurses not knowing how to use specialist equipment.
- Nurses struggling to get hold of on-call surgeons or anaesthetists at night or when complications occurred during surgery, leading to ‘a number of near misses and unexpected patient deaths in critical care’.
- Heart surgeons not always undertaking basic pre-operative checks designed to reduce the risk of harm to patients.
- Consultant surgeons sometimes failing to supervise trainee surgeons while they were carrying out procedures.
- Consultant cardiac surgeons not consistently undertaking ward rounds on the cardiac surgery ward, and not always being in theatre at appropriate times.
- The Trust failing to monitor the risks being run by patients whose operation was cancelled or who had been waiting longer than they should have been.
Hospitals must be accountable for errors
In our work as specialists in handling cases of medical negligence, we at Hudgell Solicitors believe greater transparency and accountability for errors made on hospital wards are crucial if improvements to services – which could be the difference between life and death – are to be made.
But firstly, there has to be a willingness for the people running these health facilities to be honest with the people they are there to look after.
In this situation, it is perhaps not the completely unacceptable errors and lack of following procedures which is the most alarming aspect, but the refusal to admit and tackle repeated failings, which The Guardian newspaper has claimed may have cost 17 lives over the past three years.
Staff told the CQC inspectors of “a bullying and blame culture in theatre and critical care” which made them afraid to raise concerns and report safety incidents.
Inspectors also discovered in December that the Trust“had only recently started a quality improvement programme, despite concerns being identified in 2013 during an internal review and consultants approaching the executive team in 2014 with concerns around patient mortality and morbidity.”
Our hospitals are there to help people recover from serious injury and illness, and to save lives, but in this case, there has been a shocking lack of regard to patient safety. There appears to have been a greater motive at senior levels to brush life-costing errors under the carpet, and to protect themselves from scrutiny and accountability.
Free legal advice can help question standard of care
All patients deserve to be fully in the picture as to the standards of performance of hospitals, particularly when such significant concerns have been raised.
This issue also highlights the need for patients, and their relatives, to question any perceived standards of care, should they be unhappy with the treatment received in hospital.
We know many people feel intimidated when challenging medical professionals, and it is why our experts provide free legal advice and support in medical negligence claims.
Questions must always be asked, investigations must be carried out, and hospitals making such mistakes, must be held responsible.