Issues over quality of care and the question of trust were once again bringing pressure to bear upon the NHS as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt delivered a speech at St Thomas' Hospital, yesterday.
Following the announcement last November recommending that the name of a patient’s consultant should be visible above their bed, Mr Hunt says hospitals must now provide plans for "whole stay doctors", who will restore a “continuity of care” by looking after individual patients throughout their treatment.
NHS England say that admissions to A&E alone have risen to 60,000 every day, an increase by more than two million over the last ten years, with a potential impact upon the quality of the patient experience as continuity and communication come under pressure.
“Confusing and damaging”
According to Professor Norman Williams, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, there has been a “progressive fragmentation of care”, which is “confusing and damaging.” Referring to patients being “shuttled from one member of staff to another with no one individual taking responsibility”, Professor Williams also urges the introduction of “one named consultant in charge across a hospital stay”, which will “reassure patients that they are not lost in the system, with no-one overseeing the totality of their care."
The theme of “fragmentation of care” is undoubtedly a worrying development with implications for lack of accountability when issues surrounding patient negligence are raised in specific circumstances, which can filter down to GP level too.
One in five patients claim they never see the same doctor
A significant finding of the British Health Report, commissioned by Your Legal Friend to gain a better understanding of how both doctors and patients feel about the quality of NHS healthcare was the concern expressed over instances, which identified more than one in five patients claiming they “never” saw the same doctor twice.
It is encouraging to hear that Jeremy Hunt wants to tackle the "fragmentation of care experienced by patients in hospitals" and ensure patients are treated like people rather than numbers or problems. Sara Stanger, Solicitor and Head of Clinical Negligence at Your Legal Friend agrees with yesterday’s comments made by the Health Secretary, which highlight the need to “remember that every patient is a person.”
According to Sara, when patients are passed from one medical professional to another, “there is more room for error or things being missed.”
Sustaining the patient doctor relationship
The present period of undoubted change and reconstruction in Britain’s healthcare system has seen the traditional ‘family doctor’ slowly disappear from many regions of the country. It is therefore, vitally important that the continuity of the patient doctor ‘relationship’ should remain an intrinsic part of sustaining a patient’s treatment and care within the NHS.
Not only will this lessen the risk of further negligence but also go a long way to mending patient trust, security and sense of wellbeing, integral to a successful recovery."