NHS has higher than average number of avoidable deaths

A recent international study has highlighted that the NHS performs worse than a number of other developed countries in terms of saving lives from a number of common diseases and the rates of avoidable deaths. This raises questions about the potential occurrence of medical negligence and whether this had led to avoidable deaths.

The research which was carried out by The Nuffield Trust, The Health Foundation, The Institute for Fiscal Studies and the King’s Fund has shown that the NHS has fewer doctors, nurses, hospital beds, CT and MRI scanners than 18 other comparable developed countries.

In addition, the NHS had a lower average number of staff across all professional groups, except for midwives. This equated to one doctor for every 356 people in the UK, compared to the overall average of one doctor for every 277 people in other countries. A lower number of healthcare professionals in proportion to the population may lead to delays in initial treatment and diagnosis of serious conditions, in these instances patients may be inclined to pursue a delayed diagnosis claim should they have suffered as a result.

The comprehensive study revealed that the NHS performed worse in treating eight out of the 12 most common causes of death such as deaths within five years of being diagnosed with breast cancer, rectal cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer as well as the number of deaths within 30 days of having a heart attack. This may lead to an increased number of patients wishing to pursue a hospital negligence claim should their care have been negligent.

Worryingly the report also highlights that the newborn death rate is higher than elsewhere, with seven in 1,000 babies dying at birth or in the week after birth, compared to the average of 5.5 in the different countries compared for the report. The causes behind the higher than average newborn death rate are unknown but it may result in an increased number of people pursuing a birth injury claim or midwife negligence claim should their child have suffered injury or death as a result of poor care.

In addition, the report illustrated that mothers typically have a shorter hospital stay following childbirth with an average stay of 1.5 days compared to 2.7 elsewhere. This could be for a number of reasons however it does raise the possibility that new mothers will return to hospital at a later point should they have been discharged to soon.

The report is thought to be the first of its kind to directly compare the healthcare of 18 developed countries against the NHS including: Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Japan and Australia against a number of common causes of death. It is hoped that learnings can be made to contribute to the improvement of healthcare provisions in the NHS and on a wider scale.


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