By Bridgetta Anderson

Healthcare is a highly emotive area, in which we all have a vested interest.

So when an NHS crisis occurs, it’s easy for panic to ensue.

Hospital crisis management is needed to reassure the general public that, when mistakes have been made, lessons are swiftly learned and patient safety will not be compromised.

And more than ever before, NHS trusts in England need to show they have put in place a hospital management system which will make crucial changes to the way patients are cared for.

A report this week highlighted preventable deaths after a year-long enquiry into high profile cases of patient neglect.

The Care Quality Commission found that grieving relatives were often shut out of investigations or left without clear answers after their loved ones died unexpectedly in hospital.

The CQC's review looked at NHS trusts in England providing acute, community and mental health services, placing a particular focus on people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities.

It considered evidence from interviews with more than 100 families, visits to a sample of 12 NHS trusts and a national survey of all eligible NHS providers.

Prominent recent cases include the deaths of 33-year-old Richard Handley and 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk.

Connor, who had a learning disability and epilepsy, drowned in a bath in 2013 while receiving care at an Oxfordshire treatment centre run by Southern Health NHS Trust.

An independent investigation found his death was preventable, there had been failures in his care and neglect had contributed.

Richard Handley had lifelong health problems exacerbated by his Down's Syndrome and medication. He died in 2012, days after being admitted to Ipswich Hospital from a supported living unit. A review found Richard's health needs were overlooked.

The report said the NHS was fallible and must acknowledge and learn from mistakes.

The CQC's Dr George Julian said: "When a loved one dies in care, knowing how and why they died is the very least a family should be able to expect," it said.

He added hospitals must “stop talking about learning lessons, to move beyond writing action plans and to actually make change happen”.

The Health Secretary is expected to announce a requirement for trusts to collect and record information on unexpected deaths so lessons can be learned.

In addition, Health Education England is to review its training of medical staff on dealing with patients and families after a tragedy.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman upheld 338 complaints into avoidable deaths in 2016, up from 2015s figure of 306.

There are a number of situations which may place a hospital in crisis. A nursing shortage, or poor nurse to patient ratio can lead to overworked staff making errors.

Transparency is a key element of any hospital crisis management plan, and NHS trusts have some major work to do in this case, to correct the issues which caused these highlighted critical errors, and regain patient trust.

For help and advice with healthcare crisis PR, contact us.