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Medical dramas raise patient expectations and increase litigation risk

Medical dramas like Holby City increase the risk of litigation by raising patient expectations to unreachable levels, the Royal College of Nursing’s Congress heard.

The claims came during a discussion on the main Congress floor entitled “Too Scared to Care”.

John Hill, a nurse from Scunthorpe said: “In A&E it is sometimes a fact that sadly we cannot get people through the trauma they have received. Unfortunately, unlike in Holby City, I am a mere mortal and cannot perform miracles. But many relatives believe because of that, you can. And the injury lawyers assure them that if you don’t they will get recompense for it.”

Marcia Turnham, a voting member from Cambridgeshire, presented the discussion point, and said a number of local reps and members reported a spike in complaints around care and the standard of record keeping.

She also said the number of negligence claims dealt with by the NHS Litigation Authority had risen by more than 10 per cent, to 6,080, over a year.

Other nurses described staying late after their shifts to finish the paperwork that they believe they need to cover themselves if anything goes wrong.

Catriona Forsyth, a nurse and risk assessor, told the audience: “As far as the coroner is concerned if it isn’t documented then it didn’t happen.”

This view was backed up by RCN legal director Chris Cox at a later press conference but he was at pains to debunk the myth that nurses couldn’t ever say sorry to patients for fear of leaving themselves or the trust open to legal action.

He said: “Apologising when something goes wrong is not the same as admitting liability.”

Speaking at the same press conference chief executive and general secretary of the RCN Peter Carter said he didn’t want to criticise the nurses who spoke at the discussion but said he didn’t believe “Too scared to care” was an accurate picture of contemporary nursing, and that nurses got on with the job  .

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