Medics must be made to own up to mistakes

By Sandra Murphy

HEALTH chiefs would have to declare when staff mistakes injure or kill patients, according to the proposals.
The plan is aimed at improving safety and cutting costs in compensation cases.

Medical blunders will cost the taxpayer up to €90million in compensation by the end of the year.
But the Medical Injuries Alliance, which was unveiled yesterday is calling for a legally binding “duty of candour” on hospitals and other healthcare providers to own up to their mistakes.

Figures from the State Claims Agency show that of the 83,483 "near misses" recorded last year, just 450 claims of negligence were expected to be made on behalf of patients.

Michael Boylan, chairman of the alliance, said patients often forgive medical errors when they are explained openly and honestly to them at the time.

He estimated that about 160,000 people may be injured in Irish hospitals every year.

Mr. Boylan said: “the victims of medical negligence of often find the odds are stacked against them.
"And, for many, even in cases where a clear error has been made the automatic position of the health sector can be to deny any responsibility or liability and delay the the process."

Mr. Boylan a solicitor at Augustus Cullen Law, said he wants staff to admit errors at the outset to avoid protracted legal cases.
The British government recently announced plans to compel hospitals legally to tell patients when mistakes have been made. Ciarán Breen, director of the State Claims Agency, has estimated the number of pay-outs will be between €80million and €90million. This compares to about €60million last year.
He said obstetrics represents a "disproportionately high" amount of the payments – a quarter volume of claims – but 60 per cent of the total pay-outs.

Birth-related incidents accounted for more that 5,000 of those recorded by the system.
Two years ago the Medical Council published a revised guide to professional conduct and ethics for doctors.
The guide makes clear that patients and their families are entitled to honest, open and prompt communication from doctors about medical errors that may have caused them harm.
It also says doctors should acknowledge their mistakes and report them.

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