The NHS: Overuse, Underuse and Misuse


It has been revealed by the medical director of NHS England, Sir Bruce Keogh, that the NHS is spending £1.8 billion on medication and procedures that are unnecessary.

The NHS: Overuse, Underuse and Misuse

A new report titled 'Better Value in the NHS' also shows issues of inappropriate care not only in the form of over treating patients, but with misusing and underusing treatment, leading to preventable harm.

Billions Wasted Administering Unnecessary Treatment

Billions of pounds are being wasted on hospital procedures that aren't needed, with as many as 1 in 7 hospital procedures undertaken unnecessarily. Sir Keogh, who has been quoted by The Telegraph, branded the level of overtreatment as "profligate" and said that "a substantial proportion" of NHS money is wasted.

Sir Keogh said that up to 15% of surgical and medical treatments should not have been performed. It also found that around 6,000 hysterectomies are carried out each year on women that don't actually need the procedure.

Furthermore, people are being over-diagnosed with conditions that they don't have, such as chronic kidney disease, attention deficit disorder (ADD), asthma and prostate cancer.

This results in over-prescribing, as patients are being prescribed medication that they don't necessarily need. For example, it was raised that antibiotics are being administered for common colds. The report says this is not only ineffective in treating the cold but also means some people are dangerously building up a resistance to antibiotics, exposing them to harm in future when antibiotics are actually needed.

The report also recognised that despite community end of life care being cheaper, and something that people prefer, acute hospital services are being overused instead. This comes after the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman report earlier this year titled "Dying without Dignity" found NHS end of life care to be subjecting many to unnecessary negligence and suffering.

Helen Donaghy, our Partner and Assistant Head of Medical Negligence, comments:

"The current financial strain on the NHS is worrying. Not only is money being wasted that is desperately needed elsewhere, patients are being put through treatments where the risks outweigh the benefits. This puts patients at risk of avoidable suffering, and the NHS will be footing an even larger bill paying compensation to right this wrong."

Underusing and Misusing Treatment

The report also acknowledges that there are huge variations in treatment and accepts that sometimes patients aren't getting enough care, or the care they receive is negligent. For example, it was highlighted how many people with diabetes are not receiving the right recommended care that could improve their health.

This admission comes at a time when the Government is planning to cap legal costs in medical negligence cases, meaning some people may not even be able to get recompense for harm they have suffered due to negligent treatment.

If you have been harmed by negligent medical treatment or have been subjected to a procedure that you didn't need, it's important to get legal advice. Our medical negligence solicitors at Simpson Millar LLP can help you find out whether you are entitled to compensation for the harm you have suffered.

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