What is going wrong?

Purely by chance during the last two days three local people have spoken of their experiences to the writer. They range from inconvenient to potentially fatal situations:

B. had been prescribed a treatment which a second opinion told her was actually worsening the condition. Four weeks of impairment could have been avoided. The serious issue is that the junior medical professional was not prepared to alert the first to the mistake.

M. had been worried about a bleeding skin blemish for four years and had been prescribed creams by her GP which had no effect. Recently she heard that the practice now had a mole specialist and made an appointment. She was faced with the shocked response “Why didn’t you come earlier?”  She hopes her forthcoming operation will be successful.

H. had been worried about her husband’s multiple health problems for months and called the doctor as she feared he was dying. Painkillers were prescribed with the remarkable advice ”go out and buy him some sweets, that will give him energy”. A few hours later there was an emergency call as a CT scan taken the day before had revealed signs of a rare life threatening condition. After weeks of excellent hospital treatment he is recovering, but will always have to live a restricted life.


iatrogenic deaths USAAvoidable deaths, where the underlying cause was ‘a complication of medical and surgical care’, are shockingly high – and even higher in  America. The total on the left is 250,000 such deaths; later figures show this is increasing. There are slight variations in the breakdown of causes elsewhere, which do not contradict the general message. Sources below.

UK deaths due to complications of medical and surgical care

The first key finding in the ONS Statistical Bulletin: Avoidable mortality in England and Wales, is that in 2011 deaths from potentially avoidable causes accounted for approximately 24% of all deaths registered in England and Wales, so the number could be worked out.

The writer’s diagnosis: the importance of character is overlooked when selecting medical professionals

With satisfactory intelligence levels/ educational attainment and no criminal record – but without genuine concern for the people they are appointed to serve – immense damage is sometimes done. See the headlined incidence of ‘complications of medical and surgical care’.

This oversight has also led to serious damage done in education, banking, politics and – currently under high-level scrutiny – the police force.

Up-to-date tables giving detailed data analysis of avoidable mortality in UK may be read in the data section of the ONS report. More historic US information: