Medical Mistake Claims - Simpson Millar LLP

Surgeons and Patient Complaints Taken to Task

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 21/11/2014

Surgeons have had their mortality rates published online this week whilst the NHS Ombudsman, the parliamentary body that deals with patient complaints, has been labelled "ineffective".

Every week we hear about the failings of the NHS, does this mean there is change looming?

surgery mistakes and negligence

Surgeons and Transparency

The NHS wants to increase patient safety through increased transparency in the system and has begun publishing performance data online. It's thought that because of this bold step, fewer surgeons will take on the more difficult cases for fear that the full circumstances will not be taken into account for each operation.

Surgeons are obviously concerned that the information can be misleading, especially when a number of difficult cases are ‘high risk’ in any event, with the potential for a fatal outcome.

Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of the NHS England, recognised that his choice to press on with this decision was not popular, but it was an issue that needed to be dealt with head on. However, one concern is that by forcing Surgeons to publish this data it will deter them from taking on difficult cases or attempting pioneering procedures.

The Royal College of Surgeons said that as a profession, surgeons were open to sharing data, something only heart surgeons have been doing up until last year. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that those that do not participate will be named publicly. Sir Bruce has warned that the NHS would consider penalties to force surgeons to publish their performance data.

NHS Ombudsman "Failing Families"

Surgeons publishing their mortality rates is only the start of an NHS shake up. The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), the independent service responsible for dealing with patient complaints, has come under fire, being called "ineffective" and criticised for "failing families". The link between medical negligence and complaints is strong, and many clients that we see will unfortunately have been the victim of poor surgery.

The Patients Association, the service who give a voice to wronged patients and their loved ones, say they have stopped directing those who call them to the PHSO because they have, "lost faith" in their ability to deal with complaints. They want to see an overhaul of the PHSO, which sees the service become more effective and helpful to those who need it.

Both of these issues touch on an aspect of medical negligence, something the NHS has historically failed to manage. Everyone needs to be held accountable in the process and when something does go wrong, no undue suffering should result from the complaints process that follows. Changes are being made to improve the NHS and how patients are being treated. There's always room for improvement, but mistakes will inevitably happen in an organisation of its size.

There is no guarantee that the Ombudsman will accept your case and they are only approached if a local resolution cannot be achieved. "We would be willing to consider the matter and perhaps advise in relation to the content of a letter of complaint" says Helen Donaghy, Associate in Simpson Millar LLP's Clinical Negligence Department. "We can ensure that a full and appropriate response is received from the Trust which may eliminate the need to involve the Ombudsman."

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