National second medical opinion scheme needed to improve patient care at hospitals

10 April 2018
Leading medical law firm Maurice Blackburn is pushing for a national second medical opinion scheme to be rolled out across all Australian hospitals.

The firm believes such a national patient escalation process is needed so that patients and their families who feel they are not listened to have another avenue to raise their concerns.

Dimitra Dubrow, national head of the firm’s medical negligence practice, said:

“In Australia, there are too many cases where family members have raised concerns about a patient’s condition, but felt they were not listened to.

“While families won’t have the medical knowledge of hospital staff, they can provide valuable information about patients as they know their child or family member in a way that no medical staff can.

“Creating a nationwide patient escalation process for concerned families is an important step to enhance patient safety in our health care system.”

Ms Dubrow, on behalf of Maurice Blackburn, has this month written to all state and territory health ministers about the need for the national scheme.

She said action under the proposed scheme could be triggered by families calling a hotline and asking for a review of the patient with fresh, more senior or more experienced eyes.

Ms Dubrow said there has so far been piecemeal introduction of such processes in Australia, the most advanced being in Queensland where Ryan’s Rule has been adopted.

New South Wales has introduced the R.E.A.C.H program (Recognise, Engage, Action, Call and Help is on its way), and other hospitals have their own internal escalation mechanisms.

“It is essential that the process be nationwide and available in every hospital across Australia,” Ms Dubrow said.

“Access by patients to a review should not be dependent on state or location but should be accessible to all.”

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