Friday, 3 July 2009

Patient safety 'still threatened'

Basic changes recommended after a cancer drug slip-up that killed a teenage boy have yet to be implemented, eight years after he died, MPs say.

The House of Commons Health Committee warns targets "too often" come before patient safety and highlights inaction on measures which could save lives. Wayne Jowett died in 2001 after drugs were injected in his spine not a vein. Changes to spinal needles to stop the same mistake happening again were drawn up, but have yet to be introduced.

"It is totally unacceptable that an identified and simple solution to a catastrophic problem should take so long to be put into practical use," the health committee wrote in their 100-page report on patient safety failings. The MPs also suggested that a fear of litigation and a "blame culture" was preventing healthcare workers from being open when mistakes occurred. The committee heard from one mother who said doctors continually changed their story about why her daughter had bled to death on the operating table.

The committee said it was appalled at the failure to introduce the NHS Redress Scheme, designed to encourage openness by removing the threat of lengthy and costly litigation, three years after parliament passed the necessary legislation. As well as the distress it causes to patient and family, medical harm - from errors in medication to patients falling out of beds without bars - may be costing the NHS billions each year, according to estimates collected by the committee. This sum includes millions paid out by the NHS Litigation Authority to settle clinical negligence claims, and potentially similar amounts to reverse the damage caused by medication errors.

But despite the costs, the Health Committee's annual report said there were NHS boards across the country who had simply "never considered patient safety at all"...
Source: BBC

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