Law firm calls for government to address staffing levels and the NHS ‘blame culture’


A survey conducted by YouGov* has found that according to 54% of UK healthcare professionals, factors other than the patient’s best interests play a role in day-to-day medical decision-making. 

The survey was carried out for law firm, JMW Solicitors and offers insight into how medical professionals are making decisions and dealing with mistakes. It follows numerous comments by the Government on the ability of the NHS to improve quality of care and how litigation affects patient care. Aside from patients’ best interests, the top factors driving medical decision-making are staffing levels (31%), the availability of services, such as testing and referrals (20%), the availability of equipment (16%) and the availability of beds (12%). Fear of being sued is not significant with only 10% believing it is a main consideration in their decision-making.

JMW Solicitors says that these results do not back up the government’s suggestion that reducing litigation would help to improve care and adds that these issues should be addressed in order to improve patient care and safety, rather than 

“Instead of targeting the rights of injured or bereaved people trying to get justice the Government should be focusing on funding, increasing staffing levels and ensuring access to services, beds and equipment. It should also look at correcting the blame culture that affects the ability of the healthcare sector to learn from previous mistakes,” says Nicola Wainwright, Clinical Negligence Partner at JMW Solicitors. 

83% of healthcare professionals identified factors that play a role in preventing staff admitting mistakes which could be learnt from. 42% believe a 'blame culture' where colleagues and management blame others when things go wrong, plays a top role. 

“Blame culture has been identified by governments and health secretaries over many years as a problem when it comes to learning from mistakes, but there is still no resolution in sight. 

“It seems to be accepted that a ‘blame culture’ exists in the NHS, but it has not yet been dealt with, even though it, rather than families fighting for justice, is what would seem to prevent a more open approach where the NHS accepts mistakes can and will happen. For patient safety to improve a transparent approach is needed where medical staff can discuss and learn from mistakes.”


* Total sample size was 1,009 healthcare professionals in the UK. Fieldwork was undertaken between October 13-19, 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the NHS workforce by occupation group. 

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