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

Issue 142

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

The Patients Association’s response to Patient Safety report

In a response to recent published reports on patient safety by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the NHS, the Patients Association this week called on the Government to urgently address some of the failings that continue to compromise the safety and well-being of patients.
Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The Patients Association, said:
“Over the past week the Patients Association has been concerned by a number of alarming reports regarding the safety of patients.  The Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed that 50 of the 105 hospitals it has inspected since November 2013 have been criticised over patient safety issues, whilst the NHS revealed that there were more than 165,000 incidents of harm reported over the past 12 months.  The growing threat of antimicrobial resistance was also highlighted this week in NICE guidance, which calls on the NHS to curb inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions.

“The clear common thread from these separate reports is that patient safety is being seriously compromised. This is what we are being told on a daily basis, on our National Helpline from patients, public, and carers.  The welfare of patients should always be the priority and the starting point for all treatments.  There is an urgent need for a decisive change in culture and priority to put patient needs at the heart of the care sector, which is why the Patients Association is calling for an urgent review of patient safety. 

“This is why together with Andrea Jenkyns MP we have established a new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Patient Safety.  The group will be looking in detail at all the issues we hear about on our Helpline affecting patient safety, from waiting times and bed shortages, to patient nutrition, medical errors, and safe staffing. We will be refocusing our attention on patient safety, beginning with an Inquiry into infection prevention – an area that clearly still needs to be addressed, particularly if we are to combat the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance.”
We have put together a multiple choice survey which you can find the link to here !

The Health Select Committee announced a wide ranging Inquiry on the challenges affecting primary care services in England.  You can find the link here

Through its National Helpline the  Patients Association are told of the difficulty getting appointments, continuity of care and lack of continuity of care.

In 2012 we published a
report calling for a review of primary care services.
We would be very grateful if you would be kind enough to complete the about survey with the link provided and return it to us by the 1st of September

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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This Month

Psoriasis Awareness

Potentially harmful overprescribing of antibiotics; is it due to lax doctors or patients’ demands

While almost all cold and coughs are caused by viruses, most commonly prescribed antibiotics are not effective against viruses, only bacteria.   However, from the time when antibiotics were first generally available over 60 years ago, they have been widely prescribed for the treatment of many coughs and colds on the excuse that they will prevent secondary infection by bacteria while the body’s defences are temporarily low.  This has little or no factual, scientific, basis.

This has now become a big problem because being exposed to so many unnecessary antibiotics, bacteria have been allowed to evolve into strains which are now resistant to them so that the current antibiotics may no longer work against a life-threatening bacterial infection. And in the last 15 years, virtually no new antibiotics able to deal with such resistant bacteria have been discovered or produced.

It’s been estimated that one in four of the 40,000 antibiotics prescribed in the UK are not necessary and are therefore encouraging further bacterial resistant strains of bacteria to develop. Hence, in the past week, the Medicines Watchdog agency, NICE, has warned that GPs who prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily could face disciplinary action by the doctors’ governing body, the General Medical Council – the GMC.

The GPs understandable answer to that, is that patients often demand antibiotic prescription as well as other prescriptions that are not always necessary. Patients understandably say that they need to be part of the decision into the treatment/s they are being offered, especially in these days with the ability to `look it up on the web’, doctor `always knows best’ is no longer in vogue.

The heavy-handed, centrally directed, interference in the patient/doctor relationship does not seem to be the best way to deal with what has undoubtedly become a serious problem.  Both patients and doctors have to take note that, with the exception of the very young, the very old,  and those who are vulnerable through other illnesses/conditions, our own bodies defences overcome the common colds coughs and minor aches and strains of our everyday lives – certainly in the developed world.

We now all have to be responsible for recognising that this is so. By accepting how fortunate we are, compared with previous ages, both patients and doctors need to mutually accept the steps required.  By doing so, when we really do need to be prescribed antibiotics for a life-threatening bacterial infection, we will know that they will, and continue to be, effective.

What’s more, our GP will not to feel guilty in prescribing them for us. Our trust in the patient/doctor relationship is precious. Let’s keep it like that please.


Availability of NHS performance figures to be moved to monthly basis despite waiting lists for treatment reaching record highs

A decision to release information such as ambulance response times and A&E less frequently has proved controversial.

The Patients Association cautiously awaits the outcomes of the decision by the Government to report NHS figures including NHS 111, A&E and ambulance response times and upload them on NHS websites together and monthly from 13th August 2015.

This decision comes after several months of the worst NHS performance statistics in the history of the health service, and with thousands of cancer patients waiting more than the maximum eight weeks to begin treatment.

Research by the Patients Association published in our “Crunch Time report” on waiting times  shows that just over 50,000 people waited longer than 18 weeks for surgical procedures last year after being referred by their GP.  According to the NHS Constitution, patients have the right to access services within maximum waiting times and this is supported by legislation from 2010. However according to our research, the mean average waiting time for all seven of elective procedures has risen sharply to above 90 days, which is about 13 weeks. The impact on the lives of patients and their families of having to deal with their conditions while waiting for so long is very significant.

This story confirms what the Patients Association has continually seen; with waiting lists for treatment reaching record highs. A&E departments are in crisis and GP appointments are near impossible to get. Hospitals need to be held accountable for their performance; releasing information monthly rather than weekly undermines patients receiving meaningful information so that they can make informed decisions.


Hospitals and Care Homes still not doing enough to safeguard patients with dementia

Many care homes and hospitals are failing to provide dementia-friendly facilities such as signage, handrails and decor, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre report on Patient-Led Assessments of the Care Environment (PLACE). In 2015 the assessments were extended to include criteria on how well healthcare providers’ premises are equipped to meet the needs of caring for patients with dementia. In the first report into how dementia-friendly care homes and hospitals are, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) has found that people with dementia may become distressed and confused when seeking treatment with some hospitals and care homes failing to create secure environments. Furthermore, many care homes, clinics and hospitals do not provide the signs, handrails and decor needed to ensure that people with dementia feel comfortable, research suggests.

Of the 1,044 sites assessed against the dementia criteria, assessors gave healthcare settings a national average score of 75 per cent, with a lowest score of 40 per cent and a highest rating of 100 per cent and scored on a number of issues such as décor and signage to provision of handrails and appropriate seating and food.

The Patients Association have reiterated in their report, “Why our NHS should listen and be human” that the most vulnerable members of society appear to be those failed the most at a time when they deserve the very best care and compassion.

Furthermore, the HSCIC report reveals that a significant number of hospitals and care settings still have a long way to go to fully meet the needs of patients with dementia. With an ageing population, how we care for people with dementia is one the biggest questions faced by our health and social services. This challenge must continue by providing improved and appropriate hospital and social care and more dementia friendly environments for patients with this long-term condition.


Diabetes cases soar by 60% in past decade

Roughly 90% of cases are type 2 diabetes, which is the form closely linked to diet and obesity. The NHS said it was time to tackle poor lifestyle, which is a major factor behind the rise.

Diabetes UK called for the NHS to improve care for patients and for greater efforts to prevent diabetes:
“Diabetes already costs the NHS nearly £10bn a year, and 80% of this is spent on managing avoidable complications… so there is huge potential to save money and reduce pressure on NHS hospitals and services through providing better care to prevent people with diabetes from developing devastating and costly complications,"

Dr Martin McShane, NHS England's Director for Long Term Conditions, said:
"These figures are a stark warning and reveal the increasing cost of diabetes. “We’ve said it before and we'll say it again, it's time to get serious about lifestyle change."

The Patients Association would support the need for joint responsibility by patients and the NHS to tackle this problem with appropriate funding. With more focus on health promotion, information, gaps in support and advice to achieve and maintain healthy lifestyles would more likely be possible.

This joint responsibility also applies to another story in the news this week on the use of antibiotics.
A Patient's Story


Caller’s mother is 98 years old and has been extremely unwell recently and has required treatment various times, however, the treatment she has received from her GP at her local practice on numerous occasions has been dismissive and extremely neglectful. Caller’s mother has had a series of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and other infections which the family have been able to treat at home, but other times she has had to be admitted into hospital.
Caller’s mother has had numerous UTIs throughout the last few weeks and has required home visits due to her condition and age. However, instead of compassionate care, caller’s mother has continually received a dismissive attitude from the GP. Repeatedly, the GP practice has attempted to decline providing home visits to the caller’s mother in response to her deteriorating condition, and eventually when the GP has visited the mother, she has been met with responses such as 'she hasn't got long left'. To compound the issue the GP has also provided a prescription containing penicillin despite it clearly stating on her medical notes that she is allergic to it and did not provide the necessary equipment to care for the caller’s mother.

Following the last visit by the GP, it was decided that the mother should go to hospital. In hospital, the mother received appropriate treatment and hospital and ambulance staff were extremely aggravated about the GP's attitude about her mother 'not having long left' and have encouraged her to complain. The mother was discharged and was offered a place in a respite home but she did not want to go, and the family are happy looking after her at home with some support.  However, the mother has since become unwell again and her daughter has been pleading for medical advice to look after her but once again has been met with neglect and a lack of compassion which is demonstrated by the fact that the GP said she should 'face the consequences' and that because she had turned down her mother going into care home she needed to 'continue down the path she had chosen alone'. 

The mother’s ordeals with the GP practice suggest that they desperately need to improve upon their treatment of patients especially elderly, frail patients; their consistency of treatment provision among staff; and their lack of compassion in incidents such as this must be addressed. Better training and appropriate protocols for the care of elderly and vulnerable patients need to be put in place to improve a currently chaotic and inconsistent system and improve patient care and safety.

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