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Hospitals failing to investigate unexpected deaths

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NHS staffing shortages causing concern

A report from the Care Quality Commission has this week revealed that the NHS is failing to properly investigate deaths in hospitals. This failure is, in turn, preventing hospitals from learning from their mistakes and ensuring that they are not repeated.

The investigation was commissioned following shocking statistics from Southern Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust that only 1% of deaths among patients with learning disabilities and just 0.3% of those with mental health problems were investigated over a four year period.

In light of previous pledges to create more transparency in the NHS and respecting the so-called “Duty of Candour”, which encourages staff to admit when they have made errors, the CQC intends to overhaul how hospitals investigate unexpected deaths.

The CQC has highlighted a number of areas in which improvements need to be made including prioritising investigations into deaths, recognising that the families of patients often want to be involved and supporting them in this and sharing information with other health providers when an unexplained death occurs.

The improvements that can be made in this area can only help to improve the NHS for everybody, however, in this age of austerity and budget cuts, it remains to be seen whether Trusts have the budgets to fund these increasing demands on their time and staff.