More than half of UK healthcare professionals say that factors other than a patient’s best interests come into play when making medical decisions.
This comes via a survey by YouGov, in which 54% of respondents said that a patient’s best interests were not always the sole factor in decision-making.
According to the JMW Solicitors medical professionals surveyed, other factors included: staffing levels, equipment and beds.
Aside from patients’ best interests, the top factors driving medical decision-making are staffing levels (31%), availability of services (e.g. testing, referrals) (20%), equipment (16%) and beds (12%).
Fear of being sued is not significant with only 10% believing it is a main consideration in their decision-making.
Nicola Wainwright, clinical negligence partner, JMW Solicitors, said: “Most patients would expect their best interests to be paramount when decisions are being made about their care and it is extremely worrying that it is not always the case.
“The factors that impact on decision making, such as staffing levels, need to be addressed to improve patient care and safety.
“The government suggests that if litigation was reduced that would help improve care, but our survey shows litigation is not actually even in the top factors affecting the care that is given.
“Moreover, litigation is often the only way for patients and their families to get answers.
“As several recent cases, such as the case of Elizabeth Dixon have shown, sadly, hospitals are not always open and honest when things go wrong, without families taking action themselves.
“Instead of targeting the rights of injured or bereaved people trying to get justice the government should be focussing 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.”
The study also suggested that ‘blame culture’ was hindering staff’s ability to learn from mistakes.