Last November, the United Kingdom was hit with a shocking statistic. The Daily Mail newspaper reported that in the past year, more than 3,500 people died in hospitals run by the country’s National Health Service.
The cause? Surgical errors, mistakes in medication, and overworked staff.
The number of deaths due to hospital error and negligence rose 25 percent in 2013, from 2,864 in 2011-2012 to 3,588 in 2012-2013.
These numbers do not even include the hundreds of patients in national mental health institutions who have died by their own hands, apparently suffering not only from psychological instability but also from insufficient or neglectful supervision.
The deaths being counted within the statistic include cases where patients were prescribed either the wrong medicines or improper dosages, and victims of lethal mistakes in surgery. Some died because their health deteriorated beyond the point of help, without any hospital staff noticing it.
Medical experts shaking their heads over the report agree that it is principally the result of NHS hospitals being much too full. Clifford Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine and a leading physician in Accident and Emergency is quoted as calling the condition one of “toxic overcrowding.”
He added that the overcrowding is destined to have an additional effect of turning away patients in need of care, simply because no beds are available in the hospital.
The safety failures are not limited to just patients. A career paramedic recently reported that he sustained injuries during the performance of his job, trying to save lives, whether by falling down in the act of rushing a patient to hospital, or being flung around the back of an ambulance while trying to perform CPR.
The statistics are shocking for more than their sheer number. Half the reported hospital deaths in the UK are reportedly due to errors in treatment and care. Even more shocking is that the hospitals with the greatest number of deaths due to negligence were not even counted within this statistic.
Dr. Mike Williams, a former hospital chief executive with the NHS, is quoted as saying, “What is recorded is just a small amount of what happens. I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Don’t Let Error Ruin Your Life for Good
The statistics within the UK are shocking, but they reflect a harsh reality of medical practice: irresponsibility and error in the context of healthcare have devastating consequences. No matter where you live, the last thing that should be on your mind in a hospital is the possibility of increased injury or death due to surgical error.