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A new survey from JMW Solicitors has unveiled that 54 per cent of UK healthcare professionals say factors other than patients’ best interests play a role in their everyday medical decision-making, such as lack of staff, beds and equipment.

Conducted by YouGov, the survey quizzed over 1,000 healthcare professionals about what influences their decision-making and how they deal with mistakes. It sheds light on what areas need to be improved to ensure patients receive the best care possible as factors other than patients’ best interests are affecting healthcare professionals’ decision-making.

The survey follows numerous comments by the UK Government on the ability of the NHS to improve quality of care and how litigation affects patient care.

Aside from patients’ best interests, the survey unveiled that the top factors driving medical decision-making are staffing levels (31 per cent), availability of services (20 per cent), equipment (16 per cent) and beds (12 per cent). Equipment refers to assistive technology such as wheelchairs, crutches and prosthetics.

Fear of being sued is not significant, JMW Solicitors adds, with only one in 10 believing it is a main consideration in their decision-making.

Drawing on the survey findings, JMW Solicitors is now calling on the UK Government to increase staffing levels and ensure access to services, beds and equipment to enable patients to receive the best possible care.

Nicola Wainwright, Clinical Negligence Partner at JMW Solicitors, said: “Most patients would expect their best interests to be paramount when decisions are being made about their care and it is extremely worrying that it is not always the case. The factors that impact on decision making, such as staffing levels, need to be addressed to improve patient care and safety.

“The Government suggests that if litigation was reduced that would help improve care, but our survey shows litigation is not actually even in the top factors affecting the care that is given.

“Moreover, litigation is often the only way for patients and their families to get answers. As several recent cases, such as the case of Elizabeth Dixon have shown, sadly, hospitals are not always open and honest when things go wrong, without families taking action themselves.

“Instead of targeting the rights of injured or bereaved people trying to get justice the Government should be focussing on funding, increasing staffing levels and ensuring access to services, beds and equipment. It should also look at correcting the blame culture that affects the ability of the healthcare sector to learn from previous mistakes.”

Around four-fifths of healthcare professionals identified factors that play a role in preventing staff admitting mistakes which could be learnt from. 42 per cent believe a ‘blame culture’, where colleagues and management blame others when things go wrong, plays a top role.

Nicola added: “Blame culture has been identified by governments and health secretaries over many years as a problem when it comes to learning from mistakes, but there is still no resolution in sight.

“It seems to be accepted that a ‘blame culture’ exists in the NHS, but it has not yet been dealt with, even though it, rather than families fighting for justice, is what would seem to prevent a more open approach where the NHS accepts mistakes can and will happen. For patient safety to improve a transparent approach is needed where medical staff can discuss and learn from mistakes.”

JMW Solicitors is a full-service law firm providing legal services and advice for both businesses and individuals.

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