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NHS doctors who make 'honest mistakes' to get more protection

Posted on 11/06/2018 by

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Doctors who make honest mistakes will be given more protection under NHS plans to prevent blunders being covered up.

Under the plans, launched on Monday by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, doctors accused of making errors will no longer be forced to disclose personal case notes.

The General Medical Council watchdog will also lose the power to appeal the outcomes of their tribunals. 

Mr Hunt said the plans were a promise to doctors that “the NHS will support them to learn rather than seek to blame”.

Doctor will also be instructed to investigate every new death in England, as part of efforts to improve safety. 

There are more than half-a-million deaths a year in England and Wales, of which around half are referred to a coroner for further investigation.

The new measures mean every case will be scrutinised in future by independent medical experts, so that medical errors  are less likely to be repeated. 

It follows an outcry over the case of a junior doctor who was convicted of manslaughter of a child due to gross negligence.

The health and social care secretary said he was "deeply concerned" that the threat of prosecution could stop doctors admitting making mistakes.

He said: “When something goes tragically wrong in healthcare, the best apology to grieving families is to guarantee that no-one will experience that same heartache again.

“I was deeply concerned about the unintended chilling effect on clinicians’ ability to learn from mistakes following recent court rulings.”

Trainee paediatrician Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba was sentenced to two years in 2015 over the death at Leicester Royal Infirmary of six-year-old Jack Adcock after he developed sepsis. 

A tribunal ruled she should remain on the medical register despite the conviction.

However, she was then pursued by the General Medical Council, and was struck off the doctors’ register as well as the two year sentence.

The case caused a backlash among medics, amid fears doctors could be struck off for cases involving honest mistakes, and where their own openness counted against them. 

Many doctors complained important issues raised by the case - including dangerous levels of understaffing, failures of IT systems, and staff being required to work in inappropriate conditions - had been ignored.

The Health Secretary has accepted the main findings of a review into the use of gross negligence manslaughter following the case. 

Mr Hunt said the plans were a promise to doctors that “the NHS will support them to learn rather than seek to blame”.

The system, already underway in pilot schemes covering hospital deaths, will be rolled out to patients who die under the care of GPs or paramedics.

The changes will see the creation of a new programme offering NHS consultants confidential data on their own clinical results and how they compare nationally to support them to learn and improve. The National Clinical Improvement Programme will give consultants in England access to their clinical results via an online portal. 

Prof Sir Norman Williams, who led the review, said: “These recommendations will, we hope, reassure the families and loved ones of the bereaved that lessons have been learned from their tragic experiences.

“Where things go wrong and a patient dies, the family and loved ones will be treated fairly and with respect and will be given an honest explanation.”

Hospital trusts are already compelled to publish numbers of deaths which are thought to be caused by poor care.

Source: Telegraph