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Doctors raise concerns about 'deteriorating patient safety'

Royal College of Physicians report reveals pressure on NHS and its impact on patient care.
Busy doctors

Patient safety in the UK has deteriorated over the past year, according to half of doctors who took part in a survey.

A poll of more than 2,100 Royal College of Physicians (RCP) members found that nearly three-quarters are worried about the ability of their service to deliver safe care in the next 12 months.

An RCP report on the survey shows that only half of doctors believe their colleagues are confident speaking up over concerns about poor care. Also, 79% do not know who their freedom to speak up (FTSU) guardian is if they want to blow the whistle.

The introduction of FTSU guardians across the NHS was recommended by Sir Robert Francis, following his review and subsequent report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. The guardians can help staff raise concerns and provide confidential advice.

Patient safety in the UK has deteriorated over the past year, according to half of doctors who took part in a survey.


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A poll of more than 2,100 Royal College of Physicians (RCP) members found that nearly three-quarters are worried about the ability of their service to deliver safe care in the next 12 months.

An RCP report on the survey shows that only half of doctors believe their colleagues are confident speaking up over concerns about poor care. Also, 79% do not know who their freedom to speak up (FTSU) guardian is if they want to blow the whistle.

The introduction of FTSU guardians across the NHS was recommended by Sir Robert Francis, following his review and subsequent report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. The guardians can help staff raise concerns and provide confidential advice.

'Firefighting'

Doctors in the survey warned that they are ‘firefighting’ and that pressure on the system is having an adverse effect on patients.

A total of 84% of doctors said they experienced staffing shortages.

The report, NHS Reality Check: Delivering Care Under Pressure, was launched today at the RCP annual conference in Manchester. It claims that staff, including nurses, are ‘spread too thinly’, which creates the risk of unsafe or poor care.

Some patients are being discharged before they are medically ready so that hospitals can free up beds, while others are not being sent to the appropriate place for care and elective surgeries. Clinics are also being cancelled so doctors can focus on patients in the most immediate need.

Staff shortage

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘Hospital doctors are blowing the whistle on sliding standards in patient care. Wards are full and lack the staff to cope.

‘Nursing staff share their fears that things will get even worse in the next year.

 ‘The report is a sharp reminder for the government of what happens when you forget about the future NHS workforce.

 ‘Whether it's doctors or nurses, jobs are repeatedly advertised but never filled. Finance cannot trump patient safety – safe and effective staffing levels are a necessity, not a luxury.’

Government response

Health minister Philip Dunne said staff must always feel empowered to raise concerns about safety, and added that whistleblowing rights have been extended to ensure staff have full legal protection when speaking out.

He added: ‘We want to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world, supported by world-class doctors and nurses – that's why there are already 34,800 extra clinical staff, including more than 11,600 additional doctors and more than 13,400 additional nurses on our wards since May 2010.'

Read the report here 


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