Clinical negligence lawyers are often told by clients that they thought something was wrong but were provided with what is later found to have been false reassurance by medical practitioners.
New recommendations have now been implemented by NHS Improvement encouraging medical staff to listen to parents who report that their child is deteriorating even if medical tests show no cause for alarm. It is hoped that these recommendations will mean that parents of ill children will worry less about ‘time wasting’ and will feel encouraged to speak to medical staff about any of their concerns regarding their child’s health.
According to NHS Improvement, more than a quarter of preventable deaths in children and adults happen because changes in their condition are not properly monitored and go unnoticed by medical staff. The aim of these new recommendations is to encourage parents and families to notify medical staff of any changes quickly to avoid sudden deterioration and prevent rapid deaths from conditions such as sepsis and blood poisoning.
Following the death of her daughter from acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, Joanna Hughes set up the support group, Mothers’ Instinct, and worked on the report with NHS Improvement.
Parents who have sought out Hughes’ support group had in common “knowing something was very wrong and not feeling their concerns were properly responded to”, she said. There was an overreliance on the results of tests and the monitoring of vital signs such as temperature and blood pressure. “Those scores were being misinterpreted as reassurance,” she said. NHS Improvement says that parents’ concerns should carry more weight than these scores. It sets out a safety framework for caring for sick children which includes “developing a culture which is committed to overall improvement in patient safety, prioritising safety, leadership and executive accountability, and monitoring and measuring patient safety”. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals must be in partnership with the patient and their family, it says, and they must learn from any mistakes.