England’s National Health Service (“NHS”), the world’s largest publicly funded health service, has seen a recent unhealthy uptick in infection rates and in medical malpractice claims involving infections. The National Institution for Health and Care Excellence (“NICE”) estimates that one in sixteen patients treated in the NHS system in England suffer an infection, which translates to about 300,000 people sustaining an infection every year. These healthcare associated infections include pneumonia and infections of the lower respiratory tract (22.8%), urinary tract infections (17.2%), and surgical site infections (15.7%).
In stressing the need to “redouble hygiene efforts” to reduce “unacceptable and avoidable” infection rates in the NHS, the Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at NICE stated, “It is unacceptable that infection rates are still so high within the NHS. Infections are a costly and avoidable burden. They hinder a patient’s recovery, can make underlying conditions worse, and reduce quality of life. Although there have been major improvements within the NHS in infection control, particularly in relation to Clostridium difficile and MRSA bloodstream infections in the last few years, healthcare associated infections are still a very real threat to patients, their families and carers and staff.”
Most infections are avoidable: two common causes of infection can be avoided by using proper hand-cleaning methods and by safely using catheter and vascular access devices. NICE has set its sights on improving the effectiveness, quality, safety, and experience of care that people get in the NHS system, which includes specific qualify standards involving procedures for cleaning hands, assessing the need for a catheter, using a lubricant when inserting a catheter, using sterile procedures when inserting a vascular access device, emptying the catheter drainage bag when necessary, and removing catheters and vascular access devices as soon as they are no longer needed.
Medical negligence claims involving the NHS have increased by 80% since 2008 (20% in the past year alone). Compensation payments by the NHS for medical negligence have amounted to almost 19 billion British pound sterling (nearly $10 billion in U.S. dollars).
One explanation for the increase in medical negligence claims involving the NHS is that patients are becoming more willing to make claims against NHS because inefficiencies in the NHS system are frustrating patients who previously would not have made claims (people tend to make claims for compensation for medical malpractice in the NHS only if all of their other options have been exhausted).
It appears that patients in England and patients in the United States face some similar issues with healthcare associated infections and the efforts to reduce the incidence of such infections. Common to both countries are increasing emphasis in improving hand washing among health care providers and improving catheter care, which have shown some positive results so far.
If you or a family member have suffered injuries (or worse) as a result of possible medical negligence in the United States, you should promptly seek the advice of a local medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice lawsuit, if appropriate.
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