By Simon Wilson, medical negligence expert and senior solicitor at Neil Hudgell Solicitors
A new NHS website is being launched which allows patients to research data on the performances of surgeons and hospitals across the country.
Using the new MyNHS website, patients can look up consultants by name, hospital and location, with data for almost 5,000 surgeons available to study, including mortality rates for individual specialists.
As specialists in handling many cases involving medical negligence across the UK each year, our experts at Neil Hudgell Solicitors have long called for greater transparency in the NHS, and therefore we welcome this move.
Too often we deal with clinical negligence cases where serious errors have led to patients suffering life-changing or life limiting injuries, and in the past there has sadly been an overriding culture of denial across the NHS.
However, changes currently being spearheaded by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, including this new website, appear to be moving the NHS in the right direction.
Greater transparency, increased scrutiny, more accountability and total honesty can only lead to vital lessons being learned and ultimately improved practice and care across the health system.
“Transparency is about patient outcomes, not process targets,” said Mr Hunt. We couldn’t agree more.
Already some surgeons are claiming the data may be “crude and misleading”, but NHS England’s national medical director Sir Bruce Keogh insists the increased transparency will focus surgeons’ minds.
“Surgeons all feel a personal responsibility for their patients – they take it very seriously, they have their patients’ best interests at heart,” he said.
“But previously the risk in a high risk operation has only been taken by the patient. Now it’s shared between the patient and the surgeon and that really focuses the mind about the appropriateness of surgery for that particular individual, and well-functioning surgery groups will share between them that risk and ensure that the most appropriate surgeon does the operation.”
This move towards greater openness and transparency comes as a result of the Francis inquiry, which looked into failings at two hospitals in Mid Staffordshire between January 2005 and March 2009, where hundreds of hospital patients died needlessly as a result of substandard care and staff failings.
In total, 209 recommendations were made to ensure proper accountability, and a zero tolerance approach to breaches of “fundamental standards”.
Ultimately it aimed to develop a common culture of putting patients first. If that remains the focus of all changes going forward, the NHS cannot fail to deliver a better service to all.