2014: NHS & The Year Ahead

20 January 2014

2014: NHS & The Year Ahead

2013 was a difficult year for the NHS with public inquiries and intense media scrutiny highlighting the Stafford Hospital scandal, the publishing of ‘never events’ at a number of hospitals as well as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) closing in to put several trusts into special measures. As 2014 commences, headlines of a 7 day working week for GP surgeries, figures such as £1bn worth of required funding and the need for hundreds of thousands of extra staff are constantly circulating as solutions to an ever increasingly strained NHS.

Mistreatment.com has thought about what the NHS may require in 2014 to address the balance and make a real difference towards patient care and safety and in helping to reaffirm public trust in the organisation. 

Communication:

Communication is not just about hearing what patients have to say but also that NHS employees are also being heard and if issues about patient safety are flagged that this is prioritised as a requirement for action, and to not be buried under paperwork or dismissed altogether. Events at Mid Staffs made it abundantly clear why communication needs to be instilled in hospitals in a manner which is ‘bottom-up’ starting from the front line of services right up through to the boardrooms and that collective citizen and employee voices are heard when issues do arise. Furthermore it’s just as important that this communication is a genuine two way conversation-without fear of consequences. 2014 should be the year of listening and communicating-surely an ideal way to raise standards for both patients and employees.

Culture Shift:

Mistreatment.com has heard first-hand from members of the public of instances where certain hospitals have neglected their duty of care towards patients; not just where medical negligence has arisen, but where staff have not been clear and open with patients. One thing the Francis Inquiry made clear is that a definite culture shift is required in the NHS, where patient safety and care is placed as an overriding priority to make sure patients are cared for properly. Some hospitals are providing outstanding patient service and care but as the CQC has placed so many trusts into special measures in 2013, it is clear to see that there is a greater need for a culture shift within the NHS, to let patients know their safety is a vital concern.

Dealing With Understaffing:

2013 made clear that understaffing in the NHS-particularly amongst nurses-is a chronic problem which is directly impacting patient care. It is a major challenge and 2014 has to ensure adequate staffing levels are spread across the NHS. This is a particular problem in maternity wards which Mistreatment.com feels is particularly unacceptable and should be looked at urgently so that there are enough nurses and midwives to deal with patients. This problem of understaffing has also meant district nursing has been cut and so affects outpatient care.

A&E Requires Urgent Attention:

It’s clear that A&E departments throughout the NHS are struggling to withstand the pressure of patient demand, with millions of visits to A&E every year increasing in size. Capacity and resourcing is being pushed to breaking point and the problems highlighted in 2013 by Mistreatment.com included bed blocking, staff shortages and delays in referrals which delayed important treatment for patients. A&E is the front face of the NHS and 2014 requires particular attention in this area; it recently emerged that the amount of locum doctor spend has risen, but this has not been matched with a rise in experience and skills with the doctors often unsuitable replacements for a demoralised junior doctor workforce. In 2014 this must be addressed as the monetary spend on locums could be used far better to improve A&E services.

Patient Care Is A Full time Service:

Staffing problems and inefficient scheduling highlighted in 2013 meant that extremely ill patients lacked the skill and expertise of senior doctors and staff during the weekends. What this meant was that junior members of staff often had to treat such patients during the weekends when staffing was at its most depleted. The waiting for diagnoses and test results meant that healthcare service during the week was more effective for ill patients than during the weekend. Mistreatment.com has seen examples of how staff burnout can lead to medical negligence. In 2014 it is therefore important to distribute funds wisely across the NHS and ensure that junior members of staff are not left continually unsupervised during the weekends.

2014 is an important year for the NHS-certain areas require change and highlighting the most serious areas can only help to inspire the kind of innovation required to improve the image of the NHS and put patient safety and care at the forefront of the service where it belongs.

Mistreatment.com speak with patients and their families about their concerns regarding NHS treatment, whether they want to make a complaint or to make a medical negligence claim. The first step to finding out where you stand is speaking to an expert, and that is what Mistreatment.com is here for. If you have a question, concern or experience you require assistance with us, you can contact us below.