NHS out-of-hours care putting patients at risk

ITV Expose refA recent ITV programme revealed shocking failures in patient care by an NHS out-of-hours service run by a private urgent care centre in Ealing, West London.

Birchall Blackburn Law says this is not an isolated case and many other out-of-hours providers working within the NHS are risking patient’s lives.

The ITV ‘Exposure’ programme aired over the summer and featured two reporters who went undercover within the centre run by Care UK. One of the journalists took a work experience placement and the other attended the clinic as a patient.

The reporters’ investigation revealed that doctors were not fully trained, targets were manipulated and patients were asked to do the jobs of nurses. The journalist who took the work placement was not asked for any identification documents and no references or background checks were followed up. The centre’s clinics were understaffed and dealt with 50% more patients than they could properly managed. Medicine supplies were also under stocked.

At one point within the programme, a staff member tells the reporter that doctors working on X-rays were not trained to do so and that patient assessments were changed in order that the centre met financial targets.

The programme makers also spoke to a GP who used to work at the centre. Dr Mike Smith said: “I feel we have reached a point where the disregard for basic processes that ensure patient care has led me to believe we are going to reach a point where significant harm will come to a patient.”

Susan Liver, Clinical Negligence specialist and a partner at Birchall Blackburn Law, says: “The problems stem from 2004 when the Labour government allowed GPs to opt out of out-of-hours care and the coalition government later widened the scope for private firms. Since then private involvement in NHS out-of-office care has grown significantly. In the past 12 months, £6 billion worth of NHS contracts have gone to private companies who often put profit and shareholders before patient care.”

According to NHS England’s GP Patient Survey 2014-15 more than one-in-ten patients (13.6%) say they tried to call an out-of-hours GP service in the past six months. Of these, more than two-in-three patients (68.6%) rate their overall experience of out-of-hours GP services as good and four-in-five patients (80.7%) say they have confidence and trust in the out-of-hours clinician. On the other hand, the figures suggest that potentially one-in-three patients have an issue with the service they received and one-in-five are not confident in out-of-hours clinicians.

Susan adds: “We are currently acting for a number of clients suffering because of a serious failure of care by NHS out-of-hours services. Indeed, the worst scenario is the death of a young person after the out-of-hours doctor was clinically negligent and failed to refer the patient to hospital. It is essential that the NHS out-of-hours service provide appropriate care as the consequences of a failure can be catastrophic.”

Should you or a member of your family feel that NHS out-of-hours services have failed in its duty of care and resulted in clinical negligence, please contact Susan Liver on 01772 552 278 or email svliver@birchallblackburn.co.uk. Our specialist Clinical Negligence lawyers are here to help and understand the worry and pain that medical mishaps can cause. We will always handle your case sympathetically.