NHS shortages lead to lack of essential equipment

28 Nov 2017

It has been reported in the press that the NHS will struggle this winter. Not only are hospitals grappling with shortage of staff, they are having to cope with lack of beds available for patients arriving via A & E and who need medical attention.  There are apparently only 1,000 of the 2,000 -3,000 extra beds required that are available this winter.  Again, this means that many patients coming via A & E departments are being kept on hospital trolleys in corridors for too many hours, sometimes overnight. Patients are also being transferred to wards where there is a bed, but on a ward that it not specialised to deal with their medical condition.

I have had many cases over the years where patients have been transferred to a ward that does not cater for their medical condition, and this has led to the patient being overlooked.  In one particular case going back a few years, the patient had a neurological condition which required regular antibiotic treatment.  The treatment was intermittent at best and the patient who was in her early 50’s, ended up suffering a significant brain injury following a fit that was uncontrolled for several hours.  She died within two years.  The injury could have been avoided and she may well be alive today had she received the correct medical treatment on the correct medical ward.

Inadequate supply of equipment

The fear now is that as well as staff and bed shortages, equipment is in short supply too.

In fact, it has been reported that doctors are having to use common household objects such as coat hangers to double up as drip stands. What on earth is happening? Coat hangers are being used as devices so that bags of fluid attached to a patient’s intravenous drip can be administered as per the patient’s prescription.

The President of the Society for Acute Medicine, Dr Nick Scrivens has been quoted as saying “hospital doctors are bracing themselves to patch together safe care … but there is a real sense of foreboding that this may be the winter that finally breaks the backbone of the service”.  He is of the opinion that the extra monies such as the £2.8 billion for the NHS as announced in the recent budget will not make any difference to the current problem of overcrowding in NHS hospital over the winter.

On-going bed shortages

Crucially the issue remains that beds are being blocked by patients who have no where to go, as many elderly patients are waiting for funding issues to be resolved before they can be transferred on somewhere else out of the hospital. I currently have a client who has been in her bed almost a year, due to negligent medical treatment and now that she is almost stable there is an issue as to where she will end up because of her medical needs. She is mid fifties and should not be in hospital but due to hospital error she is unable to return home and requires 24 hour nursing care.

The on-going bed shortages lead to GPs being swamped with patients who seek medical treatment, appointments with GPs then become impossible and patient’s end up going straight to A & E.   The patients that end up suffering are those with chronic medical conditions and diseases who can only wait a few days for treatment before it becomes an issue when days turn into weeks when additional medical issues or problems then ensue.

The simple answer is to free up beds but the simplicity of the solution is not as straightforward. We can only hope for a mild winter so that GP survives and A & E departments are able to cope with the current footfall.

At Osbornes Law we care about how you are treated both by medical professionals at hospital and also under the care of private providers of health services. If you think that the care you or a loved one has received fell below the standards expected of a reasonably competent professional, then please do not hesitate to contact Partner and specialist medical negligence lawyer Stephanie Prior on 020 7681 8671.

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