Litigation and Affected person Security: The Significance of Good Communication Methods

By John Tingle

Good document protecting and communication practices are important conditions for protected and correct affected person care. Critical affected person damage, together with loss of life, may end up from poor document protecting and different communication failures.

A basic situation in England’s Nationwide Well being Service (NHS) affected person security tradition growth, nonetheless, is whether or not well being care workers implement the required communication modifications in gentle of  adversarial well being care occasions. The truth is, failure to be taught from errors is a persistent affected person security theme that has featured strongly in numerous well being regulatory, affected person security, and disaster inquiry experiences going again over 20 years.

The issue of poor lesson studying from well being care supplier error within the NHS was highlighted as early because the yr 2000 within the seminal affected person security publication, An Organisation with a Memory.

The report states:

“Most distressing of all, such failures typically have a well-known ring, displaying robust similarities to incidents which have occurred earlier than and, in some instances, virtually precisely replicating them. Many may very well be averted if solely the teachings of expertise have been correctly discovered.”

Communication Errors and By no means Occasions

Communication errors underpin many By no means Occasions, the place, for instance, the incorrect affected person is operated on, or there may be surgical procedure to the incorrect limb. In the NHS between April 1, 2022 – July 31, 2022 there have been 134 critical incidents that appeared to fulfill the definition of a By no means Occasion given within the NHS checklist. In the section of the report on incorrect web site surgical procedure, there have been 57 By no means Occasions recorded, together with:

“-Incision to wrist moderately than finger (1)

-Incision to incorrect facet of groin (1)

-Injection to incorrect breast (1)

-Injection to incorrect eye (2)

-Injection to incorrect finger (2)

-Injection to incorrect hip (1)

-Knee injection supposed for an additional affected person (2)

-Lumbar puncture supposed for an additional affected person (2)

-Process not required as already carried out (1)

Elimination of each ovaries when surgical plan was to take away one among them (1)

-Elimination of ovaries when surgical plan was to preserve them (1)”

These By no means Occasions are profound examples of failures within the communication course of and are unforgivable by any measure of the phrase. Well being care givers can be taught from experiences of By no means Occasions and closed claims evaluation. These experiences can reveal necessary tendencies, in addition to enchancment methods.

A Cussed Drawback

Sadly, the experiences into By no means Occasions, closed authorized claims, and different affected person security occasions don’t appear to be sufficient to alter practices. By no means Occasions stay a cussed and protracted drawback within the NHS. The Care High quality Fee (CQC), Chief Inspector of Hospitals stated:

“Regardless of this preventability, the variety of By no means Occasions has not fallen. About 500 occasions annually we aren’t stopping the preventable. That signifies that round 500 sufferers are struggling pointless hurt. This failure to scale back the variety of By no means Occasions is sending us an necessary message.”

NHS Resolution is a particular NHS Well being Authority that manages litigation claims made in opposition to NHS hospitals and different kinds of well being organizations, amongst a number of different capabilities. They usually publish glorious experiences on affected person security and litigation themes from previous authorized claims. They lately have revealed three experiences on scientific negligence claims in Emergency Departments in England. Report 1 is on high value and fatality related claims. Report 2 is on missed fractures. Report 3 covers hospital acquired strain ulcers and falls. The experiences have sections giving the variety of claims, their value, rising themes, and suggestions. Key conclusions throughout all three experiences are said in Table 1 and embrace:

“ – Diagnostic errors together with lacking indicators of decay, significantly for spinal and cerebral damage

 – Failures within the investigation course of resulting in missed or delayed prognosis.

 – Communication points impacting the escalation and handover of care and cross specialty workforce working” 


Enhancements in communication processes, documentation, and document protecting can enhance affected person care and cut back the incidence of malpractice litigation and affected person complaints. We are able to see this correlation from the experiences mentioned above. Fundamental steps could be taken to attain these enhancements. In discussing methods to scale back the incidence of medical malpractice litigation and to enhance affected person care it’s a helpful to return to fundamentals. The experiences mentioned listed here are all glorious in figuring out themes in errors, complaints, and litigation, in addition to in figuring out methods to enhance care. These experiences can type helpful affected person security schooling and coaching instruments.

The elemental query is whether or not these experiences can be ample to alter well being care practices and whether or not their classes can be adopted by well being care suppliers.

Sadly, when these experiences and others are analyzed, they typically present recurring patterns of the identical kinds of errors being made — as demonstrated by the newest experiences on NHS By no means Occasions. Now we have the data on the market on how one can enhance care and to keep away from litigation and complaints, however we have to do extra to attain this.