Page last updated at 15:00 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 16:00 UK

Litigation and high patient expectations 'bar nursing'

By Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News

Patient arguing with a nurse
The fear of litigation puts some off a nursing career

Patients and their families expect miracles and are too quick to launch legal action when they do not happen, nurses say.

Unrealistic expectations are fostered by TV shows like Holby City, the Royal College of Nursing conference heard.

The number of legal claims topped 6,000 last year - a rise of more than 10% in 12 months, and nurses say this puts some off joining the profession.

Patient representatives said patients generally did not like to complain.

Blame culture

The NHS Litigation Authority bill now stands at £769m a year.

It's a difficult profession to be in because so much is expected of nurses
Catherine Murphy of The Patients Association

John Hill, an A&E nurse in Scunthorpe, said: "In A&E it is sometimes a fact that sadly we cannot get people through the trauma they have received.

"Unfortunately, unlike in Holby City, I am a mere mortal and cannot perform miracles.

"But many relatives believe because of that, you can. And the injury lawyers assure them that if you don't they will get recompense for it."

Marcia Turnham, from Cambridgeshire, said the litigious culture meant nurses were having to fill out more and more paper work, which took them away from patients.

She added: "Sometimes the expectations of the patient and the relatives are high and to meet those expectations with the time and resources we have available, it doesn't always match up.

"That could result in a complaint and whether you are at fault or not, you feel very, very guilty."

It can make people lose confidence and make nurses question everything they are doing.

"To have to second guess yourself all the time is not pleasant."

Jane Bovey, from Wiltshire, added the issue could have disastrous consequences.

"I am afraid we will fail to recruit sufficient nurses."

Catherine Murphy of The Patients Association said: "It's a difficult profession to be in because so much is expected of nurses.

"Patients see nurses as their advocates and rely on them. However, nurses often do not have the time because there is so much bureaucracy attached to their role.

"Patients do not want to complain and they are very forgiving."

Print Sponsor

'NHS job cuts' in the spotlight
25 Apr 10 |  Health
Damages claims 'hitting' NHS care
30 Jun 09 |  Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific