Quality of care is linked to resources and work pressures says medical lawyer.
Medical complaints show a clear correlation between workforce pressures and under-resourcing – what lawyers refer to as systemic issues – and poor clinical outcomes, says health and medical lawyer Catherine Henry.
“How junior doctors and newly trained nurses learn, and who should be responsible for mistakes, is an important medico-legal issue,” she wrote in the Newcastle Herald.
“Litigation involving junior or inexperienced health personnel does and should focus squarely on issues of supervision.
“When those who are meant to supervise inexperienced health personnel are subject to legal scrutiny, it is likely that supervision will improve, resourcing will increase and the incidence of injury caused by inexperienced health personnel will diminish.”
Henry says the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) looked at the role of supervision in the cause of medical error.
“The Commission’s Clinical Supervision at the Point of Care report shows that the old-fashioned approach to clinical education – learn on the job and hope for the best – poses significant medico-legal risk.”
Henry says that many medico-legal cases highlight the difficulties associated with supervision in the public healthcare system.
“It is not easy for senior staff to achieve the balance of assisting trainees to gain adequate experience and responsibility while ensuring patient safety.”