Errors by NHS staff have left patients infertile, children suffering from brain damage, and have even caused the untimely death of patients, a new report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has found. The investigation looked in depth at 126 cases, and found that errors were made in the care of patients of all ages, and took place in hospitals, care homes and GPs surgeries.
Amongst the cases investigated by the Ombudsman was a one day old baby left brain damaged when staff at Barts Health Trust, London, administered a blood transfusion and took out more blood than they put in.
In Mid Essex, a man diagnosed with cancer was told by the NHS that his prognosis was terminal. He was refused a second opinion and offered end-of-life care. Instead, he sought tests at a private hospital at a cost of £12,000 and is now in recovery. The NHS has since refunded him the costs and paid £500 in compensation for “inconvenience and distress”.
And in North West London, a woman was left infertile when doctors, suspecting an ectopic pregnancy, removed her remaining fallopian tube instead of simply administering medication.
Dame Julie Mellor, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, told the Telegraph: “These investigations illustrate the devastating impact that failings in the NHS can have on the lives of individuals and their families – they cover from the very young to the very old, and they cover all types of health care, hospitals, GPs, and dentistry.”
This is the second report by the Ombudsman into failings by the NHS, and only covers complaints made between April and June of this year. Earlier this year Dame Julie promised to release regular detailed reports into NHS complaints amid fears that the NHS was failing to learn from mistakes.
Commenting on the recent report, Dame Julie said that she had concerns about a lack of “care and compassion” in some cases, whilst in others, basic errors were made that had devastating results. She also highlighted a particular concern about early hospital discharges, saying “We are increasingly concerned about patients being discharged unsafely from hospital. Unplanned admissions and re-admissions are a massive cost to the NHS.”
Discharges such as that of an 84-year-old woman who was sent home to an empty house with no medication, and with a catheter still in place. She was found by a neighbour who reported that she was “very confused”. Another man was sent home with internal bleeding, whilst at Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust staff refused to arrange transport home for a woman who had just undergone surgery, threatening to send her to a homeless shelter if she didn’t arrange her own transport.
Lack of care was also apparent on wards. In one case, an 80 year old woman who had fallen from her bed and broken her leg was left on the floor for six hours. Nurses refused to move her because they were afraid of doing more damage, and no doctor could be found. The woman died two weeks later. Her family complained, but even after an NHS inquiry into her care found failings the trust responsible for her care refused to apologise or identify the failings, although it has since done so and paid £500 compensation to her family.
A spokesman for the Department of Health last night said that the NHS was “the most transparent it has ever been”.
He added: “We’re focusing on confronting poor care like never before. That’s why in our response to the Francis Report on Mid Staffs we made it clear that we want the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman to investigate more cases so lessons can be learnt and patient care improves.”
Although the NHS is often touted as being ‘free’, the average earner contributes around £1000 a year towards the NHS budget. In comparison, a healthy woman in her thirties can expect to pay about half of that for a private health insurance policy per year.