Medical negligence as hospitals fail to give patients vital medicine

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Recent statistics show that every hospital in England and Wales fails, at some time, to give patients the medicines they need, leading to a rise in medical negligence compensation claims.

The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) says it has evidence that thousands of patients didn't receive their prescribed medication, or were given it late. Shockingly, this has led to 27 deaths from September 2006 to June 2009.

Also in that period there were 68 cases of severe harm, including permanent disability, and an incredible 21,000 cases of clinical negligence where medicine had not been given or was given late.

The figures for medical negligence could be an underestimate. In fact, the NPSA fears that up to one in five patients in hospital may not be getting the medicines they need.

Reasons given were that the drug was unavailable on the ward, but in many cases it seems that nurses are simply 'forgetting' to give patients their medication. In one case, where a doctor had ordered antibiotics to be given immediately, the nurse claimed she had been "too busy to listen". The drugs weren't given and the patient died showing a clear disregard for the duty of care to the patient, opening up a claim for clinical negligence.

The NPSA says that patients who do not receive antibiotics or anti-coagulants prescribed for them are at most risk of harm and not receiving which again could give rise to a claim for clinical negligence.

Professor David Cousins, head of medicine safety at the NPSA, said: "This is happening in every hospital…….We are very worried about it."

The NPSA is writing to every hospital in England and Wales to urge them to review their practices and carry out regular audits.

The chief executive of Action Against Medical Accidents, Peter Walsh, said: "We hear about these problems all too often. It is a major problem which can cause suffering."

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