Medical Misdiagnosis: A Rising Risk for UK Patients

Medical Misdiagnosis: A Rising Risk for UK Patients

Medical misdiagnosis an unfortunate fact of life, within every medical system and facility in the world. Despite the advanced level of nationalised healthcare we receive in the UK, there is still the rare chance of experiencing medical negligence at the hands of primary care facilitators or medical staff. But why is this the case, and what can be done to rectify it?

Rising Trends in Medical Misdiagnosis

Medical misdiagnosis is thought to be on the rise, owing in large part to surges in the figures presented by NHS’ independent negligence claims body NHS Resolution. A recent report by NHS Resolution demonstrates an increase in expenditure on claim resolutions, and a multi-billion-pound rise in the provision budget sequestered for the settlement of cases or paying of damages – £800 million was not explained by changes by fiscal policy shifts.

A recent study identified the specific forms which general practice misdiagnoses commonly took, discovering that nearly three in five diagnostic errors occurred during patient consultations. The study, conducted by a partnership of the University of Manchester and the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, also found that around a quarter of diagnostic errors occurred due to the incorrect performance or interpretation of diagnostic tests – e.g.: blood tests, such as the HbA1C diabetes test.

Common Causes Behind Misdiagnoses

There are various reasons for which patients in hospitals and primary care alike might be experiencing increased issues with medical misdiagnosis, many of which are linked by a common thread: governance. Patients are having to seek civil recourse for medical mistreatment on account of both individual lapses in judgement and institutional inefficiencies, both of which are borne out by a combination of underfunding, overwork and administrative bloat.

The NHS has received a real-terms funding cut from the Conservative government of 2011 to present – a cut which extended down to rates of pay for essential and well-trained medical staff from paramedics to junior doctors and even surgeons. The results have spoken for themselves; new graduates in the medical field are increasingly eschewing the NHS for private placements or different industries entirely, leading to overstretching of existing staff and increased reliance on less-effective staff.

Meanwhile, underfunding has stretched hospital budgets to breaking point, with beds continually in high demand and skeleton staff working round the clock to mitigate major delays. Convoluted management systems have frustrated attempts to access more resources and bloated medical facilities with clerical tasks, while impacting patients’ legally-protected access to immediate care. The trans community have been particularly poorly impacted by this, but the ramifications have been felt across disciplines by patients of all stripes.

The Future for Medical Misdiagnosis

Unprecedented, once-in-a-lifetime strike action from NHS staff was designed to redress the balance and improve care, with a set of simple demands that sought to see funding and wage packets increase. The current government is unwilling to compromise fully, though, and unwilling to back down on 13 years of policy – leading to a tense future for those awaiting answers or care.

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