Mr Francis QC has today published the results of his enquiry into mid Staffordshire NHS trust. It is now well documented that too many patients died as a consequence of failings at the trust and that those charged with its management failed to do anything about it.
The report suggests that there should be a “duty of candour” imposed upon those providing medical care. The duty would require them to own up to mistakes made so that the patients do not have to investigate whether their injuries were caused by medical negligence. The obvious hope is that such a duty would prevent widespread failings going unnoticed. For it to work there needs to be a changing culture toward open honest reporting.
Requiring NHS trusts to prioritise target achievement over patient care could be one of the factors that led those in charge of the mid Staffordshire NHS trust to lose sight of why they were there. As specialist medical negligence solicitors we have long felt that some trust managers place the NHS trust above the patients and forget whose interests they are there to serve.
Politicians, insurers and indemnifying organisations have spent the last 3 years informing the general public that legal costs are the problem. That has spectacularly missed the point. Successful claims can only be brought where avoidable injury or death has been caused by substandard or poor medical or surgical care.
Those costs increase when Trusts accused of substandard care elect to defend the claims brought against them. A duty of candour will make it very hard for anyone involved in health care to defend such claims unless they genuinely believe (and are confident that their peers would not disagree with their conclusions) that they have done nothing wrong. It can only be hoped that any duty of candour imposed upon the medical profession removes the need for victims of medical negligence to incur substantial legal bills proving what should have been admitted to in the 1st place.
Here at Price Slater Gawne we also hope that the duty of candour is also married to an improved use of NHS litigation authority data. The NHS litigation authority has been controlling all claims made against the NHS for over a decade now. They must have collected sufficient data to assist them in improving standards and reducing the number of errors made. Other industries have improved their safety record by learning from such data. Now it is time for the NHS to follow suit and hopefully less people will need our services.