THE BLOG

The NHS Needs to Become More Honest and Open

28/10/2014 09:34 GMT | Updated 27/12/2014 10:59 GMT

NHS England has just published its priorities for the next five years . The NHS Five-Year Forward View argues that the NHS must undergo a major shake-up to survive and claims that it needs an extra £8bn per year in funding by 2020.

There is much to applaud in the intentions set out in the announcements by NHS England and it is important to draw attention to the huge funding gap that exists in the service.

However, there is a major flaw in the healthcare system that wouldn't require billions of pounds to put right. This is that the NHS needs to begin this process of reform by becoming truly honest and open with patients.

The NHS must be much more transparent when mistakes have been made and it must show a willingness to learn the lessons from these errors. After all, no organisation can improve and retain the public confidence unless it is genuinely committed to identifying where it has fallen short.

Trust in the institution has been seriously eroded by the often high-handed and aloof approach of senior managers towards patients. When things go wrong - as they inevitably and understandably will from time to time - care for the patient is far less important to some senior managers than self-preservation.

When representing the interests of patients who have suffered harm as a result of medical negligence, we witness time and time again deliberate attempts to hide and obscure the truth. We also see a remarkable amount of bureaucracy.

Sadly this negative approach appears to be putting off many patients from drawing attention to the system's shortcomings. Recent research suggests that more than 50 per cent of patients had, or knew a family member who had, a reason to complain about their treatment by the NHS. Yet crucially only 18 per cent of patients chose to complain.

As a result, I believe the public will be mistrustful of the reform process. They will believe the difficult decisions that need to be taken won't be done in their best interests - unless the NHS embarks on a truly honest and open democratic process to improve the service for everyone.