Surgical errors can devastate lives and decimate trust in healthcare systems. In this article, we’ll be highlighting the countries in which these errors are most common and why.
The number of surgical error claims made against a hospital can deeply impact the future of any hospital or clinic and put its function at risk each passing year. Whilst no one means to make surgical errors, it’s important to recognise how and why this happens.
It’s no secret that state funding healthcare has a tough time, especially due to the backlog of patients pent up from the pandemic and delayed procedures. But is it the same story around the world?
In this article, we’re going to be looking at the countries in which these claims are most common and the possible reasons behind this.
Surgical error claims involve legal action taken against a doctor, hospital or other medical institution and occur when a patient or a patient’s family feel that an error has been made during surgery. These mistakes can range from a simple error of judgement to gross negligence or incompetence.
In the UK, surgical error claims are handled by NHS Resolution which acts as an insurer for the NHS, other countries operate on a similar basis.
Many under-developed countries have extremely poor records when it comes to medical negligence due to factors such as poverty and a lack of skilled staff. However, for the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing on the following developed countries:
Around 34% of US patients report some form of error in their medical treatment, including surgical error, misdiagnosis and mis-prescribed medication. This may be surprising considering that the USA is thought to offer extremely high-quality healthcare, with patients traveling from abroad for specific treatment that is not always available in their home country.
While there are some medical facilities for dependent people in the USA, medical care is generally provided on a private basis with patients paying for their care through monthly insurance payments, often paid by their employer. This often means that American citizens can expect a superior level of care, including surgical care.
One reason for this may be that patients in the USA tend to see a number of different healthcare professionals with different specialties. For example, a patient may have regular appointments with a gynecologist, a GP, a nephrologist, a podiatrist and more. With a patient seeing so many different specialists, the potential for communication errors can be great and can lead to medical errors.
The UK offers free healthcare to all through the National Health Service (NHS), an institution that it takes great pride in. Unfortunately, the country also experiences an extremely high level of surgical error claim. In fact in 2019, NHS Resolution paid out a staggering £83.4 billion in settlements for medical negligence claims.
The reasons behind this are unfortunately simple, the NHS is constantly forced to battle through an increasing number of patients while managing ever tightening budgets. This has resulted in many skilled workers choosing to leave the NHS which, in turn, puts more pressure of staff choosing to stay and working longer hours to keep up with demand.
With a population of 25.69 million people, you might expect Australia to have a high number of medical errors. A recent survey revealed that Australia experiences a high level of surgical errors or ‘adverse events’ at a rate of 21.9%. It was further revealed that 13% of these adverse events led to permanent disability and that 4% led to the patient’s death.
A number of factors are stated when it comes to reasons for Australia’s high level of surgical errors and some of these are ‘cognitive errors in clinician decision making’ (75%), missed communication, taking mental shortcut and fatigue.
There are around 15000 surgical error claims against Italian healthcare professionals every year, with hospitals spending in excess of 10 billion Euros on claims each year. The largest number of claims in Italy are linked to orthopedic surgery and Italy has a higher number of criminal proceedings against doctors than any other country in Europe.
The main reason for the high number of surgical errors in Italy, is that of funding. The Italian government does not allocate an adequate amount of funding to ensure that all surgical patients receive adequate treatment, care and after-care.
Giorgia Meloni has recently become the first ever female Prime Minister in Italy’s history. As well as tackling other issues such as illegal immigration, Ms Meloni has vowed in her manifesto to provide greater access to healthcare for Italian citizens, including post-COVID19 treatment.
When we undergo any kind of surgery, we put our trust in the hands of our surgeons. Most of us have little option other than to use state supported healthcare. Whilst it’s therefore alarming to discover the extremely high level of negligence and surgical errors in developed countries across the globe, it’s also important to remember risks are still considerably low and don’t often differ between state funded treatment and private healthcare.
As we navigate our way into a post-pandemic world, it’s clear that healthcare funding needs to be made a priority by governments around the world in order to better manage surgical procedures. Better funding for hospitals could cut down on errors which destroy the lives of patients and their families and result in huge compensation payouts for hospitals and clinics.