All Out War between Government, Doctors and Patients


Overworked Doctors are Putting Lives at Risk

The Daily Mail reported this week how Doctors have been told to draw up emergency plans to slash their budgets.

These include cutting staffing levels. The bosses of all hospitals were sent a letter by NHS Watchdogs warning them that their day to day running is "simply unaffordable". It tells them to leave "no stone unturned" in identifying ways to ensure the "money we have goes as far as possible". The measures are further evidence of the emerging financial crisis within the NHS which is struggling to meet the needs of the ageing population. The letters were sent out by Monitor, which is the watchdog for Foundation Trust Hospitals and the NHS Trust Development Authority. Sent to the Chief Executives of Foundation Trust Hospitals from Monitor’s Chief Executive Dr David Bennett, the letter reads "As you know, the NHS is facing an almost unprecedented financial crisis this year. Current plans are quite simply unaffordable".

Doctors Declare War

The Independent reported at the weekend how Doctors have declared war on Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt over a 7 days NHS work week. 88% of Consultants are already working at weekends and the Independent quotes a Consultant Cardiologist from the North West who speaks of "intensive working patterns affecting health and life outside work".

Alarming Threat to Patient Safety

In March 2013 The Telegraph reported on an "alarming" threat to patient safety posed by the "unmanageable workload" that hospital Doctors were having to deal with according to a report published at the time by the Royal College of Physicians. According to the report the situation needed to be"urgently addressed" if frail, elderly patients are not to be put at further risk. Matters were said to be worst in England’s provincial hospitals, according to the College, because they struggled to recruit and retain hospital Doctors. It found a "worrying correlation between low Consultant staffing levels and high death rates". The report had come shortly after Jeremy Hunt announced a review to examine high death rates in 14 Hospital Trusts. The Royal College found that medical Registrars – the grade below Consultant level, were being excessively overworked. One was quoted as saying "I have 30 patients to review. It was a ridiculous number. I was unsafe… I can put my hands up. I think that is because of the work. I think medicine is unsafe at the moment". Another said "We are already working 200% of our capacity, we haven’t got enough flexibility. The biggest problem is massive workload".

96% of medical Registrars who responded to the College’s survey described their workload as either "heavy" (59%) or "unmanageable" (37%). The problem was noted to be most serious at nights and weekends in District General Hospitals where researchers mapped Consultant staffing levels and death rates and found "a worrying correlation between hospital Consultant staffing levels (per head of population) and hospital standardised mortality ratios".

Specialist Clinical Negligence Lawyer at Simpson Millar says overworked Doctors posing an alarming threat to patient safety is not a problem limited to the UK. Data from a study by salaried Doctors in Queensland in 1999 found that overworked Doctors were worried that they were killing patients. Instances of 100 hour weeks was said to be common and it was not unusual for Doctors to work up to 40 hours continuously. Some Doctors were worried that they were working so hard their exhaustion was causing them to make errors and lose patients. News reports at the time said Doctors had admitted to many instances of patients being seriously injured or killed due to Doctors exhaustion. This should surprise no-one. We can all make mistakes when we are tired and exhausted by overwork and why should Doctors be any different? They are human like the rest of us. The problem is that when a Doctor makes a mistake it can result in serious injury or death to a patient.

Catalogue of Patient Injury and Death

Bowel falling out because a caesarean wound was not stitched properly, a patient waking from a minor surgery to discover their legs had been amputated and a young child left blind and brain damaged because of a failure to recognise a blood disorder. For years we has helped hundreds of patients obtain access to justice and has encountered hospital cover ups, altered and lost medical records and disappearing Doctors. We have helped families of children left seriously disabled because of negligence at birth and over the past 5 years has obtained damages for victims of hospital blunders worth a staggering £85 million!

The list of injuries caused to patients is endless. Surgical equipment left inside a patient after an operation, organs mistakenly removed and arteries severed. Patient death and injury is now a daily occurrence in an NHS overstretched by lack of funding and under staffing.

In April 2014 The Mail reported that overworked Doctors were "forced to look after up to 70 elderly patients during single shift and are missing vital signs of illness". The Mail report said overworked Doctors were looking after up to 70 elderly patients during a single shift making it "impossible" to provide adequate care. Sir Richard Thompson, head of the Royal College of Physicians was quoted as saying at the time that patient safety was being put at risk because Doctors are so stressed and over stretched. He complained that some Doctors can only spend 5 minutes navigating each patients symptoms – far below the recommended 15 minutes. Launching a strongly worded attack on the Government for cutting the NHS budget, is said that Doctors "missed things" as they are working under constant "strain and stress". He added "The NHS is under doctored, under nursed, under bedded and under funded. There are too few Doctors to do the increasingly large job to a high standard and safely and compassionately".

In May 2015 The Mail reported how GP’s were warning they are so overworked that standards of care are "dangerous" as they are prone to missing serious illness. Many GP’s are retiring early or moving overseas and not being replaced by younger trainees. But demand from patients is increasing due to the growing and ageing population, with many more developing long term illness.

No Confidence in Health Secretary

The Independent recently reported how Jeremy Hunt has "pedalled myths" about medics workloads and demoralised the NHS workforce over plans for more 7 day services, the leader of the country’s Doctors claimed, as a survey revealed 9 out of 10 Consultants are already on evening and weekend rotas. Mark Porter, the Chairman of the Doctors Union the British Medical Association (BMA) was quoted as saying the profession was "furious" with the Health Secretary, who told it last month to "get real" over the need for a "proper 7 days service in hospitals". Mr Hunt’s comments have led to a backlash among Doctors and a petition to Parliament proposing a vote of no confidence in the Health Secretary has attracted more than 200,000 signatures. Doctors across the Country have been protesting against Mr Hunt by posting photographs of themselves at work on Twitter.

Death and injury caused to NHS patients because of overworked and over tired Doctors has become so costly that the Government has decided to fight back, not by improving working conditions for Doctors or helping victims of medical blunders when disaster strikes, but by forcing Doctors to work ever increasing hours and then stabbing victims of medical blunders in the back by adopting a policy which will prevent victims of medical negligence, including injured children, from obtaining access to justice when injury occurs.

It recently came to light that over the past 5 years the NHS has wasted £1bn fighting claims by patients who have been the victim of medical negligence which should have settled. The Governments latest proposals for capping costs of victims of medical blunders is likely to be a final death blow for access to justice for injured patients, their families and loved ones. The Government has lost all sense of reality. Everyone agrees it is ludicrous for a hard pressed NHS to spend £1bn on litigation costs but when one takes into account a victim only recovers his or her costs if they win their case, this situation has clearly been caused by the unreasonable conduct of the NHS insurers and lawyers in fighting valid claims which should have been settled.

What is the Government doing about the situation? Is it going to explore new ways of implementing policy which will reduce the workload for Doctors and ensure that Doctors are not forced to work when tired and exhausted? Will it take steps to make the NHS more open and honest when mistakes occur? Will it expect NHS Trusts in future to make early admissions of liability when appropriate? Will it ask the NHS and its insurers to make early offers of settlement thereby avoiding protracted litigation and ever spiralling litigation costs? The Government has instead come up with the idea of forcing Doctors to work longer hours and capping a patients costs to a percentage of any damages they win when disaster strikes! That way, the Government knows, many thousands of victims of medical blunders will find it impossible to get a lawyer to represent them. The Government wishes to deny patients access to justice and in order to do that has decided to fix justice with a price. It is a bit like trying to pay for a much needed wheelchair for a patient costing £5,000 with a £50 note! You can't do it!

The Government is failing to assist Doctors in creating a work environment that will lead to Doctors being less stressed, over tired, and over worked thereby avoiding thousands of medical blunders each year which would ultimately save the Tax payer millions of pounds and instead is proposing to do nothing except leave things as they are, possibly make the situation even worse, and do whatever it can to stop patients making claims when disaster strikes! The Government is hell bent on creating a two tier system of justice in the UK, one for the rich and one for the poor. It has already withdrawn legal aid from the majority of Medical Negligence cases, including cases of children injured by medical blunders, and increased Court fees to a staggering £10,000 which is now payable in cases where children have suffered brain damage because of obstetric negligence and in those cases where patients have suffered catastrophic injury and need lots of care.

The Government, is now at war with both Doctors and the patients they treat.

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