This figure is likely to continue to increase unless radical changes are made to the healthcare system in the UK.
Statistics published by the British Medical Journal calculate that one in ten patients admitted to NHS hospitals will fall victim to medical injury, which have now become Britains fourth biggest killer. These errors include missed diagnoses, slip-ups during operations, failure to identify the risks of procedures and poor or inadequate treatment. Although many people believe that the increase in litigation against the NHS is due to the alleged compensation culture sweeping the nation; research shows that out of the approximate 800,000 adverse clinical events that are recorded by the NHS each year, only 1% of the victims make a claim.
In addition to errors by healthcare professionals, patients are also finding themselves at increased risk when in hospital, by exposure to superbugs such as MRSA and CDifficile. In June, the Health Care Commission reported that 25% of primary care and hospital trusts in England were not meeting statutory hygiene standards. Having considered these statistics it can be concluded that the current state of the NHS is failing thousands of patients and they are being provided with a substandard level of care.
The current problems facing the NHS have been acknowledged by the government; during the Queens Speech to both Houses of Parliament on Wednesday 3rd December 2008, the Queen confirmed that legislation in the form of an NHS Constitution will be put in place and the Health service will be compelled to adhere to it. The final Bill will be produced next year, but a draft version was published by the Health Minister Lord Darzi in the summer.
The founding principle for the proposed Patients Bill of Rights is a comprehensive NHS service available to all based on clinical need, not ability to pay. It has been promised that the Bill will introduce measures to improve the quality of healthcare and public health, stating that patients can expect "to be treated professionally, with dignity and respect.
Critics of the Bill doubt that the proposed legislation will go far enough to improve the current crises facing the NHS and believe that it will fail to protect patients and make the NHS sufficiently accountable to the people it serves.
As the NHS system is currently overstretched and these proposed reforms will take time to be established and put into place, the problems facing the NHS will not immediately disappear and it is likely that the numbers of clinical negligence claims and medical errors will continue to rise and the current problem will get worse before it begins to improve.