Controversial NHS overhaul “must not affect patient care”

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Controversial NHS overhaul “must not affect patient care”

12th July 2010

As the Government's recently announced shake-up of the NHS is met with caution and continued speculation by the UK's media, a medico-legal expert has warned that above all else patient care must not suffer.

Daniel Lee, a clinical negligence specialist with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said that as the plans announced on Monday were still in their infancy it would take years before the success or failure of the proposals could be judged. Although the bigger picture is one of reform, we need to ensure that the immediate impact on patients over the coming months and years is minimised," said Daniel, a partner with the firm. "While plans and intentions can be born from good faith, we need to ensure that we safeguard patient care and do not, however inadvertently, cause adverse or disastrous delays in people receiving health care or undergoing treatment."

The proposals unveiled by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley promise patients and doctors a more substantial role in health services. GP practices will join forces with one another to commission treatment directly from hospitals, and will be responsible for much of the multimillion-pound budget currently handled by primary care trusts (PCT), which will be abolished along with strategic health authorities.

Hospitals will also be permitted to move outside of the NHS to become "not for profit companies," and an independent NHS Commissioning Board will oversee the new regime with local councils taking over the public health element of PCTs' work.

Daniel, who for many years has worked on behalf of those who have suffered injury or infection as a result of clinical negligence, said the most important factor to consider now was the thousands of people about to undergo hospital treatment, and the hundreds of thousands who will seek medical attention during the period of the shake-up.

"Clearly this is a huge undertaking, and as with all major overhauls of this kind the results can not be predicted with 100 per cent accuracy," said Daniel. "But naturally our first concern must be how this is likely to affect the patients.

"Mr Lansley's proposal includes the suggestion that under-performing "companies" will not receive help if they fall into difficulties, and could be allowed to close as any other business. But what of the patients who are scheduled to receive treatment at that hospital?" he said. "Will they have to travel many miles to receive care and treatment that had until recently been available just a short distance away? Will that not lead to an over-subscription of patients to hospitals?

"Will we in fact be faced with a situation where not only are there not enough beds for patients, but there are not actually enough hospitals for the beds?" he said.

"Many of our cases involve patients who suffer significantly because their diagnosis or treatment has been delayed, because staff are being asked to care for too many patients, or because of a lack of proper facilities," said Daniel. "While we welcome any move that will improve the level of patient care, we must remain resolute that we ensure any changes do not impact on the provision of treatment to those in immediate need."

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims relating to clinical and medical negligence.

If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Source: BBC, Sky News, Guardian