Lawyers Urge NHS Chiefs To Take Action After Dr Foster Report Flags ‘Catastrophic Catalogue Of Injuries’

Report Sheds Light On Care Across England

29.11.2010

Medical law experts have today called on NHS chiefs to act immediately on the findings of a hard-hitting report into medical care, saying it offered a rare insight into areas of NHS care where lessons learnt could save lives.

Lawyers at leading national firm Irwin Mitchell said the annual Dr Foster Report, which considers the performance of hospitals across England, revealed a ‘catastrophic catalogue of injuries’ endured by patients that could have been prevented.

Compiling the details of reported patient safety incidents throughout 2009/10, the report found that:

 Pressures sores were recorded on around 6000 patients
 30,500 people admitted to hospital were recorded as having pulmonary embolisms, blood clots in the lung
 13,000 women suffered an obstetric tear
 Almost 10,000 patients experienced an accidental puncture or laceration
 2000 patients were recorded as having suffered intestinal bleeding following an operation
 1,300 of patients undergoing surgery were also recorded as having sepsis

David Body, head of law firm Irwin Mitchell’s medical law and patient’s rights team said: “The catastrophic catalogue of injuries discussed in the findings of this report are of course a real cause for concern, but sadly they come as no surprise.

“I have acted for hundreds of people whose lives have been truly devastated by the after effects of basic procedural errors that lead to the life altering, and all too often, life threatening injuries highlighted by Dr Foster.”

The team at Irwin Mitchell, who act for the victims and their families throughout the UK, say that some of the patient safety incidents highlighted in the report reflect the calls for help they receive month after month.

Body continues: “All too often we are contacted for help by victims of all the issues highlighted in the report. Obstetric tears for instance are a real issue, where management and after care are key to securing the clients recovery. And infections as a result of bed sores contracted by patients of all ages and circumstances are a particularly emotive issue.

"It is important to maintain perspective. Many millions of treatments are carried out every year and most patients receive a superb service from dedicated medical teams.

"But better data capture and recording, and better use of that data, is absolutely key to the NHS reducing the number of errors and learning vital lessons from past mistakes to ensure they don’t happen again.”

And though Body acknowledged the suggestion that the high figures mean more incidents of patient safety were being reported, he stressed that until this figure reaches 100 per cent it is impossible to know if there has been progress.

“Since last year’s Dr Foster report there has been a vast improvement in the number of patient safety incidents being reported through the correct channels” he said. “But evidence suggests this is still not the full picture. Only by disclosing everything can lessons truly be learnt and improvements made.

"The real tragedy of medical negligence is that, time and again, we as lawyers see the same cases and the same mistakes being made - each one due to basic procedural errors leading to a victim's life devastated by the life altering and, all too often, life threatening injuries highlighted by Dr Foster. For every avoidable error that causes injury someone’s life is very seriously affected."

“Ultimately, patient safety is something that should never be compromised and this report highlights the importance of ensuring it is at the very top of every health professional’s agenda.”