The UK's National Health Service is falling apart. Basic mistakes by hospital staff are costing the British taxpayer lb2.5bn a year, and four out of five hospitals are not safe.
Around 800,000 patients in UK hospitals - one in 20 of all patients admitted each year - suffer harm that could have been avoided, but which involves a longer hospital stay and more treatment. Common errors include poor care that results in bed sores, urinary tract infections from poorly-fitted catheters, blood clots and falls. A patient who develops a bed sore costs the NHS an additional lb2,500 and 12 further days in hospital.
These errors are already resulting in compensation pay-outs to patients and their families. In the last four years, payments by the NHS Litigation Authority have doubled to lb1.3bn a year.
And four out of five hospitals in the UK have been declared unsafe, according to the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Inspectors visited 82 hospitals randomly across the UK, and declared 65 of them to be inadequate or required improvement. In some cases, patients' calls for help were ignored, and elderly patients were often left on the floor after falling.
The worst offenders were accident and emergency units, where patients were left on trollies for lengthy periods without being attended to.