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A recent report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found that two fifths of private hospitals in England are failing to meet expected health standards, raising concern over the potential for medical negligence.
The report found that of the 206 independent acute hospitals inspected by the CQC, 62% were provided with a “good” rating overall and 8% were deemed outstanding. However, most alarmingly 30% were considered to require improvement.
What is more alarming is that 41% of the private hospitals were deemed to require improvement in relation to safety. In particular, when it came to surgical procedures, the CQC found that the World Health Organization surgical checklist was not always being followed rigorously and then was not sufficiently challenged by staff within the operating theatre. In these instances, where negligence occurs as a direct result of formal procedures not being followed it may be possible for those who have incurred injuries or suffering to seek compensation through a surgical error compensation claim.
In addition, the report showed that in some instances the private hospitals showed a lack of preparedness for patients whose condition could deteriorate. Given that private hospitals do not have A&E departments in the same way that NHS hospitals do, a lack of preparedness has the potential to cause major issues should a patients condition deteriorate rapidly.
The report also examined how within certain private hospitals, safety was often seen as the responsibility of an individual clinician rather than the responsibility of the medical team or the organisation. In these instances, this could be seen to increase the risk of medical errors occurring and therefore increase the potential of a hospital negligence claim being brought should an error have taken place.
In particular, it was also viewed that hospitals were not always monitoring the work of consultants who work under practicing privileges, whereby they are completing work within the hospital but are not viewed or treated as direct employees. This means
The report is thought to be the first of this scale specifically looking into independent acute hospitals and the level of care provided by them, who are unlike the NHS, not required to provide such levels of patient data and care information.
Commenting on the report, Professor Ted Baker, Chief Inspector of hospitals at the CQC said:
“Much of the care and treatment we have seen at independent acute hospitals is good – and we found that effective leadership at a local level, good staff engagement and a close oversight of the services being provided played a key role in ensuring high quality care. “However, our inspections also identified concerns around the safety and leadership of some services, often as a result of a lack of safety checks and poor monitoring of risks. Too often, safety was viewed as the responsibility of individual clinicians, rather than a corporate responsibility supported by formal governance processes. Where we found failings, we have been clear that improvements must be made, using our enforcement powers where needed to protect people.”