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How getting an operation right first time could save the NHS millions

  • 07.08.2017
  • EmmaArnold
  • Clinical Negligence
  • NHS Infection hip operation knee operation medical errors Getting It Right First Time orthopaedic

girft.jpgGetting an operation right first time is something we would hope and expect from an orthopaedic surgeon but, as if often the case, they don't always manage to do so.

A new report from the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) team was launched to show how millions of pounds could be saved by the NHS.

With funding increases not keeping up with patient demand, one orthopaedic surgeon decided to do some research into the standards of 200 hospitals in the UK.

Professor Tim Briggs met with surgeons and clinicians at the hospitals to understand and tackle the variations in the standard of their surgical services.

He discovered a wide range of outcomes for patients after hip replacements and knee replacements. For example, there were a varying number of patients who suffered from infections when recovering from the operations. One hospital had a rate of 15% which was very high compared to averages between 0.2% and 4.5%.

To treat these post-operative infections or to re-do a hip or knee replacement operation can be costly to the NHS. Professor Briggs claims in the report that if those infection rates were reduced by just 0.2% at the best-performing hospitals then up to £300m a year could be saved.

The report also found patients were being admitted for emergency surgery but then a decisions that no operation is actually required was made.

Therefore, the conclusion was that if consultants were involved in the triage process (the first step in assessing a patient's condition) where the severity of the condition is determined, then more patients would be treated without needing a hospital bed resulting in a 30% reduction in emergency surgery admissions, according to the report.

Hannah Bottomley, clinical negligence solicitor at Potter Rees Dolan, said:

As someone who deals with the consequences of errors during surgery, it seems to me quite obvious that getting things right the first time would save the NHS money. However, I think this initiative is about so much more than a cost-saving exercise.

Patients across the country deserve the same standard of care. It seems hugely unfair that a patient with the same condition may have a worse outcome than another patient simply due to where they live and where they were treated. Complications of surgery cost the NHS money but there is a significant cost to the patient as well. More time in hospital can result in time away from work, away from caring for loved ones and can be very detrimental to an individual’s overall health and motivation.

Anything which can be done to limit complications of surgery, especially orthopaedic surgery, can only have a positive impact on patients and I therefore welcome the recommendations in this report and hope they can be implemented quickly right across the country.

The overall theme of the report and of the GIRFT team is that rather than requesting more money for the NHS, it should attempt to save money by making changes which would mean patients would receive better service.

We have a number of clinical negligence claims which involved either a hip replacement or a knee replacement including; one woman was left unable to walk properly after undergoing failed hip replacement surgery and how we secured over £1 million for a women who had her leg amputated following complications after a knee replacement.

You can read more case studies involving other forms of orthopaedic surgery complications here.

If you have suffered an orthopaedic injury through hip replacement or knee surgery or otherwise, take a look at our dedicated orthopaedic negligence page or get in touch. Hannah Bottomley is a clinical negligence solicitor with Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about the issues raised in this article and wish to speak with Hannah or any other member of the team please contact us on 0161 237 5888.