Private Healthcare Providers Accused Of Letting Down Patients


The Law Of… Reporting Never Events

A recent Panorama investigation shone a light on the shortcomings of private healthcare providers when it comes to reporting serious incidents. Alison Hills, a Medical Negligence Solicitor at Simpson Millar, reports on a worrying trend within the private sector.

Serious Incidents Go Unreported

The BBC's flagship Panorama programme looked into concerns first raised by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), regarding failings that were allowing serious incidents to go unreported.

The President of the RCS, Professor Derek Alderson, highlighted the fact that 'Never Events' occurring under private providers were not being entered onto the national databases, as required. He also drew attention to the fact that clinical audit data was severely lacking from the private sector.

What Is A Never Event?

A Never Event is defined in NHS policy as a 'serious incident that is entirely preventable [with the] potential to cause serious patient harm or death'. A Never Event should not occur where the relevant measures are in place and have been adhered to.

NHS guidelines state that a Never Event should be reported to the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) and the Strategic Executive Information System (StEIS) within 2 working days of the incident taking place. The systems, set to be superseded by a single, integrated scheme, are presently used for the recording and management of serious incidents.

This is the case, even where a Never Event is only suspected and yet to be confirmed.

Unfair Disparity Between Private And NHS Claims

The concerns regarding the reporting of Never Events and clinical audit data in private healthcare were brought to light earlier in the year, following the trial of a rogue breast surgeon.

The disgraced practitioner received a 15 year prison sentence – increased on appeal to 20 years – for performing a number of unnecessary mastectomies on patients who didn't have breast cancer.

That case also underlined the unfair disparity between pursuing a medical negligence claim against private healthcare providers and the NHS. As the surgeon in question had been an independent contractor and considered outside the scope of their insurance, both the Medical Defence Union (MDU) and the Spire hospital where the surgery had been performed initially refused to fund the claims on behalf of the patients who'd been harmed.

Since then, the Department of Health has stated that new standards have set out clearer requirements for the delivery of safe care, with the proposed enabling of tougher enforcement action against providers who fail to uphold this.

Alison comments:

"It is clear that tougher enforcement is needed where private clinics are concerned. Firstly in regulating the medical practitioners who use their premises and secondly in allowing access to justice for victims of medical negligence."

"Only with strict regulation and enforcement, mirroring that of the NHS, will private healthcare providers be able to learn from their mistakes and avoid similar incidents occurring in the future."

"It simply cannot be justifiable in the modern day to allow access to justice and accountability for NHS patients, but not for private ones."

If you have been a victim of medical negligence at the hand of a private healthcare practitioner, contact Simpson Millar today.

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