Due to public condemnation from a British coroner against St. George’s, a renowned teaching hospital in South London, it was discovered that unsupervised junior doctors may be the cause of approximately 12,000 preventable deaths in the UK.

The study, which was led by the Dr. Helen Hogan, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as well as researchers from the Imperial College London, Newcastle University and the National Patient Safety Agency. The researchers observed a thousand patients randomly selected from 10 hospitals under the National Health Service (NHS), who died in 2009.

The results revealed several of the mishaps that occur are due to junior doctors improperly being supervised by senior physicians. Those mishaps include misdiagnosing patients, failing to treat patients quickly and efficiently and giving incorrect dosage of a drug.  The Department of Health and National Audit Offices proposes about 40,000 avoidable deaths occur each year in England.

Researchers examined patients’ medical records and their likelihood of survival. Information revealed those who fell victim to medical negligence were feeble, elderly and suffering from a various amount of medical conditions.

One incident involved an elderly man in his 60s, who was wrongly diagnosed with bladder cancer, when he was suffering from congestive heart failure.

His misdiagnosis led to an unnecessary procedure that sparked a heart attack, and led to multi-organ failure. Doctors disregarded prior medical notes that displayed his medical history with heart disease.

The researchers discovered that 5.2 percent of the deaths had a 50 percent or greater chance of being prevented. When factoring that out to a general population, the number is around 11,859 preventable deaths in England.

Surprisingly, these numbers are considered positive. Previous government estimates for preventable deaths were around 40,000.

Dr. Hogan stated, “While any patient dying from an adverse event is a tragedy and any deaths in hospital due to poor care are of considerable concern, it is important that our estimate of the size and impact of the problem is accurate and we understand what we can do to prevent such incidents. Hospitals can and must learn from careful analysis of individual preventable deaths and make every effort to avoid any preventable deaths.”

More recently government officials declared starting next year, junior doctors will be obligated to shadow their senior physicians for their first week in the hospital, in hopes to reduce the number of negligent deaths in hospitals. 

The study was published in the British Medical Journal