NATIONAL: Putting the gooferment in health care .. ya gotta be kiddin

A helping hand with checking patients

Consultant David Morgan tells Philip Smith why he’s invested in technology to give medical staff instant access to records.

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According to the National Patient Safety Agency, each year tens of thousands of NHS patients are given the wrong treatment or operation because of mistaken identity – and it can be very serious.

“There are the famous stories of people having the wrong kidney removed. As it was their only functioning kidney, the patients died,” said David Morgan, a consultant ENT surgeon at Birmingham Heartlands NHS Trust.

It’s a startling statistic even when placed in the context of a health service providing 49m hospital treatments a year. “The errors are usually the result of both human and system errors. It’s usually down to the operating list being changed at the last minute which can happen for a number of reasons,” he added.

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While doing casual duty while in the USAF waiting for orders in TX in 1970 (i.e., casual duty was making you a gopher while you were idle), I was assigned to the base hospital. (I had both civilian EMT training and the USAF survival schools under my belt.) In this role I was considered more useful than a candy stripper but less than a janitor. It was the first time, while waiting to transport a patient to the OR, that I saw an old full bird colonel surgeon say to a patient: “This leg, right?”. And, he had his crew of junior wanna bees, all agreeing. And, (I was stunned), he whips out this big old black magic marker and proceeds to write on the OTHER leg “wrong leg” all over it. He smiled knowingly and said “just to be sure”. Then to me “airmen, this man is ready for transport. Don’t drop him at the exit.” Everyone laughed at his joke. (He struck me as the kinda guy who didn’t take to mistakes.) Later, in my training, (that I never got to use), I was taught that when giving pain killers in the field to mark foreheads with Ax’s in lipstick and write details in magic marker on the stomach to prevent overdoses. Seems like these bozos in NHS could learn from the good colonel with some X’s and O’s. I think, if I was a patient, I’d have someone mark me as sort of self-help or self-defense. And we laff at witch doctors at least they don’t kill you with their pixie dust. Argh!

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