7,679 people joined in the online debate throughout June and July using social media platform Facebook. Among them, 606 NHS workers offered insight into their views on the service, the way it functions and how it is perceived. The results revealed that more than half of NHS staff want colleagues who have caused harm to patients through either negligent treatment or care to face legal action.
Of the NHS staff surveyed, 52.4 per cent agreed that litigation in cases of medical negligence would help to lift standards overall, however there was an emphasis that legal action should occur with a degree of restraint and consideration for the system. 68.3 per cent of all people surveyed overall felt legal action would have an overwhelmingly positive effect on care within the NHS.
When questioned about the pressures of their workplace and the wider community, 17.8 per cent of NHS staff surveyed agreed that critics should leave the NHS to do its job; a feeling echoed by just 4.5 per cent of the general population.
The survey highlighted a familiar divide on attitudes surrounding healthcare accountability but, significantly, the results point to the frustration of frontline NHS staff that it is a minority of workers that bring the entire institution into disrepute through publicised instances of grossly negligent care.
Despite supporting the notion of penalties against workers found responsible for negligent care, 29 per cent of NHS workers thought that legal action could harm the NHS by diverting vital funding away from patients and hospitals, or by encouraging a culture of legal opportunism. The message here is clear – that we cannot support a culture of litigation any more than we can support a culture of silence that prevents patients and staff from speaking out against poor practice.