Hazel McHaffie

Medical Defence Union

NHS successes and failures

Last week I had yet another full examination by a consultant as part of my follow-up cancer care. Meticulous head to toe inspection. I’m overwhelmed by the efficiency, skill and compassion I’ve experienced at first hand in the years since I had the primary tumour removed. It could not be bettered.

And who could fail to be awed by the detailed reporting by the BBC this week of the Pakistani conjoined twins, Safa and Marwa Ullah. Two years old and recently separated.

Vast teams of top ranking practitioners working to give those two little girls as good a future as possible. The sight of the grateful mother, a widow with seven other children, kissing the hands of the surgeons said it all.

But I’ve also seen things go pear-shaped – for relatives and friends as well as those I’ve read about. And according to the media, a new publication, the NHS Resolution report, provides a worrying picture of the rise in claims for compensation. In England alone, in 2018-19,10,678 new claims were made for clinical negligence. The costs in payouts increased by £137 million to almost £2.4 billion! (NB. this includes legal costs not just the money paid to the claimants.)  Mind blowing statistics, aren’t they? Furthermore some 10% of those claims related to perceived deficiencies in maternity care but, because these are extra costly, they represent a disproportionately high percentage of the total costs.

 

 

As the CEO of the Medical Defence Union said, this amount of money could have funded over 15 million MRI scans or 112,000 liver transplants. What a sobering reality check.

I feel a mixture of emotions: regret for those people whose care has fallen short certainly but also anxiety for those whose practice is called into question as well as for the NHS as a whole. Every example of negligence exacts a toll from the patients and families concerned. But the spiralling costs of compensating dissatisfied clients affects us all. Our world renowned health care system is buckling under the strain. Something has to give.

One of my ongoing files for a possible future novel is labelled RESOURCE ISSUES. My life-long aversion/allergy to numbers has kept it low down in the pile, but it might yet become a front runner if this state of affairs continues to escalate.

 

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