Yet Jeremy Laurance's report coincides with a warning from the National Audit Office that the NHS faces a bill of more than pounds 2bn for patient litigation, of which obstetric litigation forms a significant part. Complaints about poor care usually arise because there has been insufficient time built into the contact between doctor and patient. Consultants are called away from clinics to attend to emergency admissions. The relentless pressure to reduce waiting lists and shorten patient stays means that doctors are working at an unsustainable pace. Medical accidents, personal tragedies and expensive litigation are the inevitable result.
The solution is inescapable. We must expand the pool of consultants. More consultants mean more hands-on care by the most highly trained and experienced doctors. It means better supervision of junior staff and better quality of care for all patients. The Government must instruct NHS trusts to expand the number of consultant posts, thereby investing in prevention rather than spending billions mopping up the consequences of excessive pressure on hospital staff.
Dr PETER HAWKER
Chairman, Central Consultants and Specialists Committee
British Medical Association