Private Hospitals - Are They Equipped to Deal with Emergencies?


A recent incident in a local private hospital where an elderly gentleman went in for a routine hernia operation raises serious questions on whether private hospitals are maintaining high standards of care and whether they are under the same level of scrutiny and transparency as NHS hospitals.

A Routine Procedure Gone Wrong

The gentleman in question went to a privately run hospital after having spent quality time with his grandchildren only the day before for what was a very routine hernia repair. Though an NHS patient he chose to have the hernia repair privately thinking it would be safe and comfortable.

The operation went ahead, in fact it went well, but the gentleman suffered post-operative urine retention.  Urine retention can cause confusion and can be serious. The gentleman’s condition rapidly deteriorated resulting in seizures. He was transferred to an NHS hospital where he passed away from multi-organ failure due to brain injury from water intoxication and sepsis from pneumonia.  

The coroner found at the inquest that the management of the gentleman’s fluid intake was “haphazard at the very least” and there was reference to the lack of supervision and failure to observe the change in symptoms.  

Though the hospital have now put in place measures to ensure such a thing does not happen again how can the family come to terms with their loved ones death when he was meant to come out of the hospital within a day after this routine operation?

Is Private Healthcare Safer Than NHS?

It is estimated that around 6,000 patients a year are transferred to the NHS from private hospitals of which 2,500 are due to complications according to the Centre for Health and Public Interest (CHPI).

Private hospitals are expected to maintain the same level of care and standards as the NHS if not more so, but this incident does raise a question as to whether they are equipped to deal with emergencies of this kind. There is an argument to be had that had the patient been carefully monitored and the deterioration in his condition been noticed sooner, he could have received urgent care and may have survived.

NHS hospitals are obliged to report serious incidents including patient deaths and injuries to the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS).  This information is then available to the public whereas private hospitals are only required to report incidents to the Care Quality Commission.

Regardless of whether you receive treatment in a private or an NHS hospital you are entitled to the same level of patient care and treatment in all situations. All hospitals should be subject to the same level scrutiny and transparency.

If you or someone you know has been on the receiving end of poor or negligent treatment, contact our expert lawyers to see how we can help.

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