Patients and their families should be more ready to offer “constructive criticism” when the new regime of hospital inspections comes into force, suggest medical negligence solicitors Coles Miller.
Larger teams of inspectors will tour the wards but visits will be much shorter than at present so patients may have to be more vigilant, say the lawyers.
The Care Quality Commission is reviewing its hospital inspections system after criticism following the scandal at Stafford Hospital.
But clinical negligence solicitors at Coles Miller fear that shorter inspections may make it easier for hospitals to “cover up” failings.
Coles Miller Partner David Simpson, who leads the firm’s team of medical negligence solicitors, said: “We need to move away from the British habit of not complaining.
“In hospitals, you have to be more ready to complain, not with a view to making a nuisance of yourself but to help the hospital improve care for other patients.
“Patients, families and the hospital staff are all in this together and they need to help each other,” he added.
Proposals for the new system of inspections include:
- focusing on the whole hospital (with special emphasis on A&E), not just specific areas such as nutrition
- new education-style ratings of “outstanding”, “good”, “requires improvement” and “inadequate” rather than the present system of 16 essential standards
- 150 key indicators rather than the current system of 1,200.
Coles Miller’s clinical negligence lawyers are concerned that some of the changes being proposed may be a retrograde step.
Mr Simpson said: “Reducing the indicators from 1,200 to 150 must mean that some matters will not be assessed.
“I also understand that the new system has not been finalised - it is a work in progress, which is a matter of some concern.”
But there were some benefits: “The inspection teams will be using practising doctors and nurses. That must be an improvement,” he added.
The announcement of new hospital inspections follows criticism of the NHS in the Keogh and Berwick reports.
Also, the Commons Health Select Committee is recommending that hospitals should publish whether or not they have enough nurses on duty in the wards.
It comes after the Safe Staffing Alliance warned that hospitals were regularly failing to meet the recommended ratio of one nurse for every eight patients.
Coles Miller has regularly seen instances of poor hospital staffing levels. The firm has identified this in a significant number of medical compensation claims that it has handled.
Mr Simpson said: “Hospitals being more transparent about their staffing levels must be a good thing. However, they should publish the information in a way that people can easily understand.”
Dorset-based Coles Miller acts for clients with clinical negligence claims from all over the UK. Cases include:
- failure of timely and accurate diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of medical conditions
- surgical and other clinical errors.
Coles Miller has seen the number of medical claims it handles more than double over the last 12 months.
Greater publicity over the issue has led to increasing numbers of patients phoning or emailing the firm and asking how to claim for medical negligence.
For further information about making and funding a clinical negligence claim, please contact Coles Miller Solicitors Partner David Simpson, 01202 338889.