Human Exceptionalism

More Evidence of UK Medical System Meltdown

Hospitalized-care in the UK seems to be in a terrible meltdown: Hospital acquired infection is an ongoing crisis, waiting lists for surgeries, operating deficits, you name it. But a recent dereliction that may have cost a woman her life, might just take the cake. Patricia Prowse died after minor surgery to correct swelling in her shin after her medical charting was placed on Post-It notes and absorbent paper towels! Worse, doctors who were paged repeatedly by nurses requesting help in the case, never called. From the story:

Assistant deputy Plymouth coroner Mr Rob Newman said the chances of Patricia having a stroke would have been reduced by two thirds if she had been given the proper medication…

He said: “In the course of this inquest a number of failures on the part of those entrusted with this patient’s care have been identified. A number of failings relate to the recording, or not recording of information. There was not good communication between the nursing staff and doctors and part of that was the way in which messages were passed.

“It does not appear that on any of the occasions when nurses bleeped doctors to get advice about Clexane these were responded to while they remained on duty, even though in most cases that amounted to a number of hours.

“The other way messages were passed was through notes. Post-it labels were used twice, what seems to be a scrap of paper once, and a paper towel was used on another occasion. This was an absorbent paper towel. I asked if it was possible to write on it and was assured it is and it appears this was not the first time it happened.

“I conclude that the omission in failing to give this drug did make a contribution to the death. I would conclude however, that the failure to give it on three nights cannot be regarded as a gross failure because it is clear the patient was being given medical attention.” After the case Patricia’s granddaughter Kelly Day, aged 29, said: “The whole family is disgusted with the way my Nan was treated by the hospital. “There was a lack of staff because it was a bank holiday weekend and the communications just broke down.”

The coroner ruled this wasn’t gross negligence. But let me tell you, in the USA this inexcusable and unprofessional conduct would be considered more egregious than merely negligent. Licenses to practice medicine or nursing would be at stake. The hospital would have faced an enormous malpractice claim–and if the training was inadequate or the hospital administration knew that charting was so unprofessionally undertaken, which seems to be the case here–punitive damages.
Is this a consequence of socialized medicine? I don’t know. But it is an indication that something is very wrong with British health care.

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