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Health secretary demands that NHS workers apologise for poor care

Posted in: Medical Negligence NHS Claims 

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that doctors and nurses must start apologising directly to patients if things to wrong. He said that a ‘culture of defensiveness’ has developed, which is no longer welcomed by the NHS. Doctors and nurses will be encouraged to be honest with patients when accidents occur, taking a step towards patients regaining trust in the NHS.    

It has been found that staff across England and Wales are reluctant to apologise to patients following medical negligence through a fear of admitting legal liability or ‘making the situation worse’. However, it has been made clear to health staff that ‘saying sorry is the right thing to do’ if things go wrong regarding patient care.

Sir David Nicholson highlighted last year that the NHS was developing a defensive attitude, following numerous care scandals whereby thousands of patients were subjected to appalling standards of care. The outgoing head of NHS England also commented on the health service’s denial with regards to dealing with patient complaints.

Booklet entitled ‘saying sorry’

To address these concerns, the NHS Litigation Authority – the body that handles claims made against the health sevice – has printed a four-page booklet dealing with the notion of ‘saying sorry’. It recommends that face-to-face apologies become a fundamental aspect of handling negligence, to be followed by a written apology detailing how sorry the healthcare organisation is for the substandard care.

With more than £22billion set aside as compensation for thousands of people affected by poor care, improved communication between health staff and patients seems to be a positive step towards improving the public’s view of the NHS: with the hope to decrease complaints and claims when things go wrong.

Catherine Dixon, chief executive of the NHS Litigation Authority, said: “We actively support organisations being open, transparent and candid with their patients. We have seen some cases where that hasn’t happened in the NHS. It’s important that we create and support the right culture. It can win back people’s trust.

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