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Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Doctors 'must own up to blunders' says Steve Walker, chief executive of the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA)

Doctors 'must own up to blunders'

Extract from The Observer:

"Doctors have been told to own up and apologise if they make mistakes, in a bid to reduce the £613m in compensation paid each year to victims of blunders such as wrong diagnoses, botched surgery and delays during childbirth.

A new culture of honesty and openness should see such patients receive a personal apology from the doctor concerned and a detailed explanation of what went wrong, a senior official said.

Steve Walker, chief executive of the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA), said that patients and their families can feel hugely frustrated when hospitals are reluctant to acknowledge and explain cases of negligence. He believes that a more candid and speedy response could reduce the £613m paid out in damages each year. He made his comments in the week that Leslie Ash was awarded £5m in damages after contracting MSSA, a variant of the MRSA superbug.

Negligence lawyers say that the main reason a number of victims take legal action is to obtain more information.

'The message to doctors is: if you're aware of an error, or a shortfall in what's been delivered, you should feel free, indeed you should feel under an obligation, to tell your patients and to apologise and to explain, either verbally or in writing, even if the patient is likely to sue,' he told The Observer. 'The explanation bit is really important to many, many claimants. It doesn't matter if it heads off a claim or encourages a claim, people as human beings and patients are entitled to this and they should be getting it."

I think the culture of lying, evasion and cover-up of clinical negligence by doctors, along with collusion by the Department of Health and the Health Authorities, and partiality from the criminal justice system, has been allowed to go on too long for any meaningful change to come about without employing legal sanctions...)o: - And the uselessness of the GMC and similar bodies in protecting patient safety, rather than doctors' reputations, is well-known and notorious... - Routinely, when patients or their relatives complain about clinical negligence they are given further distress rather than a scrap of help or any sincere words of regret, apology or explanation.

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