The Patients Association was founded in 1963 and continues to listen to patients and speak up for change.

Issue 141

Keeping you informed about the latest developments in Health & Social Care

NHS cuts put patient safety at risk

Health regulator, Monitor, warns that current NHS plans are unaffordable, and urges NHS Trusts to review their spending. The regulator recommends that all healthcare providers should re-evaluate their plans to make money go as far as possible. Penalties for not meeting some waiting time targets will be lifted, and Trusts are urged to freeze non-essential recruitment in order to cut spending.

However, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is concerned that patient safety will be put at risk if safe staffing levels are compromised. They warn that patient care will suffer if safe staffing levels are determined by accountants on the basis of finances, rather than by clinical staff on the basis of patient need. The RCN describes the recommended recruitment freeze as a ‘false economy’, as the workload of these “non-essential” positions would not disappear but would merely be transferred to frontline staff.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association said today:

“This latest directive from Monitor is particularly worrying, because it confirms that the financial pressures on the NHS have increased and might be in danger of running out of control unless trusts take action as recommended by the regulators.  A cutback on so-called non-essential staff will simply increase the pressures on all other staff to an untenable level and have a knock-on impact on lengthening waiting times for patients.”


The Law Commission Consultation: Mental Capacity and Deprivation of Liberty

The Law Commission’s consultation paper, Mental Capacity and Deprivation of Liberty has been published. The consultation paper reviews the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (the DoLS) in England and Wales. The goal is to replace the DoLS with a straightforward and accessible legal framework which provides appropriate safeguards for people who lack capacity whose care or treatment is becoming restrictive. This consultation paper is over 251 pages with 42 questions. The Patients Association is concerned that this consultation document has the potential to be ignored due to the size of the document and number of questions. However, if you wish to respond to specific questions the Patients Association will be happy to take your views. Please send your comments to by Friday 30th October 2015.

The Department of Health are now consulting on:
Local authority public health allocations 
31 July 2015 -28 August 2015

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are now consulting on

13 July 2015 - 10 August 2015
Faltering growth - recognition and management of faltering growth in children: the scope

NHS England are now consulting on:

28 Jul 2015 to 4 Sep 2015
Aligning the Publication of Performance Data – Statistics Consultation,  

3 Aug 2015 to 1 Sep 2015

Public Health England are now consulting on:

23rd September 2015
Consultation on draft SACN Vitamin D and Health report

About Us
The Patients Association’s motto is ‘Listening to Patients, Speaking up for Change’. This motto is the basis on which we build all our campaigns. Via our Helpline, we capture stories about Healthcare from over thousands of patients, family members and carers every year. We use this knowledge to campaign for real improvements to health and social care services across the UK. In addition, our Helpline provides valuable signposting and information for patients and supports them as they navigate the Healthcare service.
Our Helpline

The Patients Association Helpline is here to help.

  0845 608 44 55.


This is a local rate number and if a phone provider charges, we are happy to return calls. The Helpline both informs patients and gathers their views.


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British hospitals among the worst for leaving objects inside patients, study says

Research shows that hospitals in the UK are 11 times more likely to leave surgical instruments in patients after surgery than Belgium

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has found that British hospitals have the sixth worst record in the Western world for leaving surgical instruments in the body after surgery.

 The comparison of data from the 16 OECD countries shows that Belgium records the fewest cases in which items such as surgical instruments or swabs are found after surgery, with 0.5 cases per 100,000 hospital discharges compared to the UK which comprises of 5.5 cases per 100,000 people discharged from hospital.

Leaving foreign bodies in patients increases the risk of deadly infections and other complications, and can result in fatal blood poisoning and organ failure. The OECD report says the chances of such errors were reduced by adhering to theatre check list regime to count instruments after surgery, and effective communications between surgical teams. The report also noted that the risk is increased in emergency surgery, unplanned changes in procedure, and changeovers of staff during operations.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association said:

“The NHS is recognised around the world as an unrivalled health service but its clinical performance is achieved against day in day out pressure on its staff. The fact that the OECD statistics show that Britain has such a disappointing record for leaving instruments in patients after surgery is clearly regrettable but not overly surprising given the strain and fatigue they suffer in such working conditions.”


A quarter of cancer patients are losing faith in the NHS because of late diagnosis

Study of more than 70,000 patients by academics at Cambridge University found that nearly 13,300 had been seen three or more times by GPs before they were referred for cancer tests.

Research by University College London and the University of Cambridge has found that more than 70,000 cancer patients are losing faith in the NHS because they are forced to visit their GP at least three times before they are referred for diagnostic tests.

The research sheds further light on the state of cancer care in the NHS. Survival rates for the illness in the UK are considerably lower than elsewhere in Europe as confirmed earlier this month in the report comparing performance across high-income countries by the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, Focus on: international comparisons of healthcare quality.  This has been blamed partly on GPs missing key symptoms leading to late diagnoses.

This perspective is enhanced by the view of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) who last month encouraged GPs to screen patients before symptoms get too severe so that they can be referred to specialists sooner. They state that late diagnosis is responsible for the deaths of up to 10,000 people each year.


England faces uphill task in improving cancer survival, new report

A further new study shows that cancer survival rates in England are a full decade behind other countries with similar healthcare systems

A study published (5/8/15) by Cancer Research UK-funded scientists, shows that cancer survival in England remains lower than in countries with similar healthcare systems. Experts state this is partly due to GPs missing key symptoms so it is diagnosed too late and variable access to treatments.

Overall, the proportion of patients living for five years after diagnosis for all six cancers was 5 per cent to 12 per cent lower in England than it was in Australia, Canada, Norway and Sweden, when the same time periods were compared. The research sheds further light on the state of cancer care on the NHS as confirmed last month in the report comparing performance across high-income countries by the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, Focus on: international comparisons of healthcare quality

Survival has increased in England since the mid-1990s in the context of strategic reform in cancer control, however, survival remains lower than in comparable developed countries and continued investment is needed to close the international survival gap.


Hundreds of patients excluded from specialist trust's waiting list

An independent review has found that hundreds of patients waiting to start treatment were excluded from referral to the treatment waiting list on a monthly basis for over 14 months.

The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital commissioned a Referral to Treatment Performance Reporting Process review in March, which found that patients were waiting too long for treatment and the accuracy of its reporting had been manipulated.

The review found that between December 2013 and January 2015 an average of 424 patients, predominately those who had already been waiting over 18 weeks, were excluded from the list every month. This had the effect of boosting the trust’s average monthly performance to slightly over the national target of 92 per cent.

Furthermore, a whistle-blower who had brought the data inaccuracies to light at board level had been ignored. It comes months after the Government unveiled sweeping measures to protect whistle-blowers and encourage staff to speak freely under the recommendations of the report by Robert Francis QC on Freedom to speak up.

The Patients Association have reiterated in their report on waiting times that the average waiting times for each of the seven key surgeries we have studied are all above 90 days.  Moreover, in the vast majority of areas, NHS Trusts have breached the NHS Constitution’s 18 week wait limit between referral and receiving surgeries for some patients.

Furthermore, the findings of this review highlight the shocking fact that NHS staff who do speak up are often ignored, bullied and even dismissed from their jobs for doing so. Each time someone is deterred from speaking up, an opportunity is lost to improve patient safety.


Patients’ Stories


This is a new section for our newsletter where we will be featuring real patient stories. If there is a story about you or your loved one’s experiences with the health and social care system, which you would like featured, please contact us at

Ms Y is 91 and was first admitted to a hospital in the West Midlands six years ago with a pulmonary oedema. During this initial visit she received neglectful care, which included: being left to lie in a wet bed for a number of hours, being asked to demonstrate mobility by a physiotherapist who did not take into account existing paralysis on one side of her body, and not receiving sufficient responsiveness from her nurses.
In July 2014, Ms Y again received a poor standard of care whilst at the Hospital; she was kept in A&E all day and, despite requests, no-one attended to her personal needs. This resulted in her soiling herself, which was highly distressing. Moreover, the decision to admit Ms Y to A&E, and eventually onto a ward, was made against her wishes. This demonstrates a clear lack of respect for a patient’s autonomy. After this second visit to the Hospital, Ms Y’s daughter complained to the hospital by email, which was acknowledged. She was told that the complaint would take 6 weeks to investigate. However, after this time had elapsed, she was still without a response, despite several enquiries.
In her most recent admission to the hospital, in March of this year, Ms Y was subjected to some level of abuse by a charge nurse and left alone in a single bay for a day. She refuses while still in the hospital to give precise details of what happened. The care she has received during this stay has been very inconsistent, with responsibility for her care changing each week. This has allowed problems to develop – bedsores and lack of use of her legs – which have led to a longer stay in hospital than might have been necessary.
Ms Y’s ordeals with the Hospital suggests that they desperately need to improve upon their treatment of elderly, frail patients; their consistency of treatment provision among staff; and their complaints handling. Better training, and appropriate protocols for the care of elderly patients need to be put in place to improve a currently chaotic and inconsistent system.
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