The Kirkup report provides yet another worrying insight into the mismanagement of a major NHS Trust.
In striving to achieve Foundation Trust status, the health bosses committed to cut expenditure by 15% year on year. This lead to patients suffering avoidable harm, including severe bedsores (down to the bone), the wrong teeth being pulled out, and, in HMP Liverpool, lives were unnecessarily lost.
Patient safety was compromised – when staff and patients raised concerns, they were met by a culture of denial from the Trust bosses. In some instances staff were bullied and harassed – a culture of fear was created, and nothing was learnt from mistakes that were being made.
We do have a duty of candour in this country – it is a statutory duty to be open and honest with patients and families when something goes wrong that appears to have caused or could lead to significant harm in the future.
It applies to all health and social care organisations registered with the regulator (Care Quality Commission in England), and has done so since November 2014 for all NHS bodies) and April 2015 for all other organisations.
This means that an organisation must tell you about an incident where the care or treatment may have gone wrong, which appears to have caused significant harm or has the potential to result in significant harm in the future.
If they fail to do so, they could face regulatory action from the CQC, and, in persistent cases, even criminal prosecution.
It is hoped this duty will make what happened both in Liverpool, and of course mid-Staffs, a story of the past. But the early signs are not encouraging. Despite this law having been in force over 3 years, I, as a clinical negligence lawyer acting on behalf of claimants, haven’t seen any evidence from my current caseload that this duty is being observed.
Far too many of my clients, injured by medical mistakes, have had to seek legal advice because they are not told about when something has gone wrong, and are not told what if any action will be taken to prevent such a mistake being made again.
If the NHS is truly going to become “an organization with a memory” it needs to ensure that it encourages an open and honest culture, where patient safety is always the first priority.