Serious mistakes in NHS patient care uncovered by Norman Lamb

Surgical, diagnostic and care errors are on the rise in NHS hospitals, according to official NHS England figures obtained by Norman Lamb MP.

The last three years have seen more ‘serious incidents’ involving delayed diagnosis, staff failure to act on patients’ test results, poor care of seriously ill patients, and mistakes in surgery.

The figures, which were obtained via a Freedom of Information request by Norman Lamb and reported in The Observer, have sparked concern that unprecedented strain on hospitals and staff is putting patients at risk, amid growing fears that the NHS will experience its worst winter crisis since 2011-12.

The figures show:

  • The number of serious incidents involving ‘sub-optimal care’ for a patient whose condition is deteriorating more than doubled from 260 in 2013/14 to 588 in 2015/16.
  • Diagnostic incidents including delayed diagnosis and a failure of healthcare professionals to act on test results have also jumped by more than 40%.  There were 923 incidents of this nature last year, while in 2013/14 there were just 654.
  • Hospitals recorded a sharp rise in surgical errors. In 2014/15, 362 serious incidents involved a surgical error or wrong-site surgery, in which surgeons operated on the wrong part of a patient’s body.  This figure more than doubled last year, when 740 serious surgical incidents were recorded.

Speaking to The Observer, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Norman Lamb said:

“These figures confirm the stark and distressing reality that thousands of people are being failed in their hour of need because the NHS is under such intolerable pressure, with overstretched hospital staff unable to give patients the care and treatment they deserve.

“The Health Secretary has talked a lot about wanting to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world. But is that ambition realistic? These figures show worrying rises in the number of incidents which have a damaging and potentially fatal effect on patients.

“My worry is that the NHS is under such impossible pressure, with clinicians too often working under intense strain, that increases the risk of serious harm being caused to patients, which can have incalculable consequences for them and their families.”

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