The ‘Drive for Transparency’ at the NHS

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s ‘drive for transparency’ was all over the news headlines earlier this week. It seems that one in five NHS hospitals are not being open and honest about the risks they may have subjected patients to.

In a speech earlier this month Mr Hunt said “Every two weeks the wrong prosthesis is put onto a patient somewhere in the NHS. Every week there is an operation on the wrong part of someone’s body, twice a week a foreign object is left in someone’s body”.

Hospitals are to be given an overall rating for how ‘open and honest’ they are, under which hospitals will fare badly for reporting suspiciously low numbers of incidents – especially if they report few incidents which resulted in no harm to patients – the most easy to cover up.

Of course, hospitals could simply have no incidents to report, but history and statistics show that to be unlikely. This latest drive towards reducing incidents of negligence in the NHS seems only positive, however it could be cause for concern that these types of ratings (together with the NHS patient reviews now available online, and the recent announcement that, from next year, patients will be able to compare staffing levels of hospitals online) will mean NHS patients will increasingly want to pick and choose exactly where they are treated and by whom – a practice that can surely only serve to increase NHS costs.

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