- Medical staff not reporting mistakes because they fear the ‘finger of blame’
- This is despite repeated attempts by ministers to make the NHS more honest
- A damning report warns that measures introduced to improve care and encourage staff to be more honest have not addressed the problems
Doctors and nurses are still not reporting mistakes because they fear the ‘finger of blame’, MPs warn today.
Despite repeated attempts by ministers to make the NHS more honest, they say staff are unwilling to talk openly about errors.
In a damning report, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee warns that measures introduced to improve care and encourage staff to be more honest have not addressed the problems.
Doctors and nurses are still not reporting mistakes because they fear the ‘finger of blame’, MPs warn today
They included installing whistleblowing guardians at all hospitals with whom doctors and nurses could raise their concerns and were brought in following the 2013 report into the Mid Staffordshire scandal that linked hundreds of needless deaths of patients between 1995 and 2000 to a deep-rooted culture of fear.
Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the committee, described the failure as unacceptable.
‘There is an acute need for the Government to follow through on its commitment to turn the NHS in England into a learning organisation; an organisation where staff can feel safe to identify mistakes and incidents without fearing the finger of blame,’ he said.
Last year, the Government went further by announcing the launch of the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, which will come into force in three months’ time.
It is intended to be an independent body similar to the Air Accident Investigations Branch which will take up the most serious mistakes in hospital.
Crucially, any doctor or nurse who gives evidence to the branch will be protected from legal action, whilst the investigation is underway.
If the body decides they weren’t to blame, and it was the fault of the system, for example, they wont be sued.
But if the doctor or nurse was deemed to be in the wrong they will be referred to their professional watchdog – and could still face legal action.
Today’s report warns that the branch does not have the powers to be fully independent, and therefore carry out proper investigations.
Julie Mellor, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman said: ‘We know from our casework that families who complain to the NHS want lessons to be learnt so that future mistakes are avoided.
Last year, the Government went further by announcing the launch of the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, which will come into force in three months’ time
‘The NHS still has a long way to go to provide staff with the relevant skills to carry out fair, high-quality investigations into avoidable harm.
‘The Government and NHS leaders must commit to providing training, national standards and accountability for the NHS, to make it safer for all.’
Previous research has found that up to 12,000 hospital deaths in the UK a year were unavoidable.
A Department of Health spokesman said it was introducing further measures to ensure the NHS becomes an organisation ‘that learns from its mistakes’ and added that it was committed to ‘pursuing legislation’ to strengthen the new HSIB.