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Five ways the NHS can reduce its legal bills

24th May 2013

Simple steps could improve the way the service manages claims, as well as to better its overall function so that lawsuits need not be filed. Finding ways to reduce the legal bills generated by action against the NHS is in the public interest.

Here, Fletchers Solicitors explore the options facing our national health care provider:

Better education
The implementation and evaluation of regular training sessions at all levels of the NHS could aid in minimising patient harm. Funds may be stretched, but closer monitoring of individuals and departments will ultimately better patient care.

Reinstating care
The Francis report highlighted the need for basic compassion in hospital care. The report suggested the entire culture of the NHS was at fault in the atrocities revealed at Mid Staffordshire. Encouraging a culture of care may not only serve to prevent problems in the first instance, it should also mean action is taken as mistakes happen, reducing their severity and likely repercussions. In this way, care could play a significant role in reducing legal action against the NHS.

Mandatory reporting
In response to the Francis report, the proposed introduction of a Duty of Candour would signify an obligation for both hospital management and staff to report failings within the NHS, irrespective of patient concern. This means instances of potential and actual patient harm may be investigated whether or not they become a claim, with the overall aim of addressing problems as they happen, instead of once they have escalated.

While enforcing the obligatory reporting of technical faults, human error, or other instances in which patient safety is compromised will go some way in helping to reduce litigation, it’s believed further measures will be needed to encourage staff to speak out given the evidenced culture of silence within the NHS. Formal support for hospital staff and management would likely to assist here. This might include the introduction of mentoring programmes, as well as dedicated times to report on problems or areas of concern.

Avenues for counselling and even job protection for individuals who assist in the investigation of serious failings could also offer support.

Open communication
Exploring and nurturing channels of communication between management and staff will help to quickly identify problems, as well as to share vital knowledge and propagate best practice for patient care. Maintaining standards and continually evaluating protocol to better procedures will be key in reducing mistakes made, and subsequent litigation claims.

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