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Press Release: Conflict contributes to 34,000 annual NHS patient deaths

13 January 2017

Human error caused by organisational conflict is contributing to 34,000 deaths annually in the NHS, according to research by Business Psychologist and leading Mediation Practitioner, Clive Lewis OBE DL.

 The research, ‘Mediation and Organisation Diagnosis’ carried out at the University of Westminster, explored whether the principles of medical diagnosis are also applicable to identifying organisational problems in the NHS. It covered the 2-year period up to 2016, analysing the outputs of 40 different mediation cases involving over 210 people – both clinicians and non-clinicians. Acute, Community, Mental Health Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups were included in the sample. The research discovered:

  • The cost of conflict in the NHS is over £0.5bn
  • Sickness and absence levels were 2.6% higher in groups where there was conflict
  • The average time taken from start of dispute to mediation was 19 months and 2 weeks
  • An apology was all that was required to stop the tension in many cases
  • Conflict led to the occurrence of Serious Untoward Incidents (SUIs) such as operations commencing on incorrect limbs
  • Patient cancellations increased by 176% in one hospital department riddled with conflict

Mr Lewis, who is currently touring the country presenting the research to Trust CEOs and NHS membership organisations NHS Providers and NHS Employers, says that the findings are ground breaking. “We have known for some time that we can suffer cognitive impairment when embroiled in conflict. We have never made the link between the potential harm that can patients can suffer as a result – if Surgeon and Anaesthetist become enemies and are in theatre together the consequences for the patient can be devastating”.

 Mr Lewis wants NHS England to recognise the importance of investment in conflict resolution and team working strategies. “There is a potential £0.5bn of savings to be made at a time when the NHS is strapped for cash”. The research also refers to the £1.4bn spent annually by NHS Litigation on negligence claims and how an apology could nip problems in the bud and reduce these costs by one-third. The research denotes mediation as a type of palliative care and concludes that organisation diagnosis is not yet a feature of NHS life.

More information and contact details:

  • Clive Lewis is a Business Psychologist and a student at the University of Westminster and spent two terms as a Non-Executive director at one of the UK’s largest hospitals
  • The research took place in England and all information is used on an anonymous basis
  • The research method used was convenience sampling with qualitative data
  • The average daily cost of locum staff brought in to cover staff absence associated with conflict was £895
  • The average cost of increased sickness and absence per organisation was £2m

 To speak with Mr Lewis about the research please call 0330 100 0809 or email clive.lewis@globis.co.uk . Follow these links to access the 10,000 word paper and presentation.

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