I read with some interest a recent decision by Judge Sleight in Pollard v Endale Pty Ltd [2009] WADC 97. The decision concerned an application by an injured patient seeking that Mount Lawley Private Hospital, the hospital at which their care was provided, should be obliged to disclose documentation relating to its accreditation with the Australian Council of Health Care Standards ("ACHCS").

Such accreditation is a voluntary process.  To be accredited a hospital must agree to maintain various standards, in terms of adverse event monitoring and avoidance.

Intriguingly in such claim, criticisms were made of the private hospital for failing to adequately show care and skill in its assessment of medical practitioners, before giving them rights to admit and treat patients at the Hospital, to monitor their performance thereafter and to ensure the Hospital’s facilities were utilised competently.

Judge Sleight ordered that the Hospital produce documentation passing between the private Hospital and ACHCS in relation to its accreditation application.

The case is intriguing because it has long been known that particularly the better run private hospitals compile and have access to enormous volumes of data concerning the performance of surgeons and other clinicians practicing at their hospital. Notoriously such things as complications rates and their type and cause are captured and readily available, though never released to potential claimants (or prospective patients).

Pursuing allegations of the unusual type apparent in this case may be a useful way of obtaining access to this information, otherwise jealously protected by the hospital’s operators. Quite apart from having an additional ground for criticisms of Hospitals, no doubt very useful information may be obtained to support claim against the primary surgeon/ clinician responsible for the treatment which led to the poor outcome