The NHS saves lives on a daily basis and is arguably one of
the leading healthcare organisations in the world.
However sometimes things go wrong. Mistakes can be made
either by human error or because of systems and procedures not being adequate.
These errors can be life-changing for the people involved.
It could be a delay in diagnosis, mistakes made during surgery, poor
post-operative care or discharging people too early. The impact on the patients
affected or the need to find out what happened is what drives our clients to
take legal action.
It is clear that in the current economic climate, the NHS
budget is being stretched and legal fees have been earmarked as an area for
cost savings. The amount in damages and costs being paid out by the NHS
Litigation Authority (NHSLA) as a result of medical negligence is rising, but
so too are the number of medical incidents.
In all the discussions around legal costs, it is crucial to
remember the human cost of medical negligence.
The one thing all of our clients have in common is that they
would much rather the medical negligence had not happened in the first
place. These are patients who put their
trust in the NHS to help them at a vulnerable time when they need medical
If they have suffered injury or illness because of
negligence then they deserve the right to be able to seek recompense to try to
help them make progress and to be able to live independently.
The litigation process also helps to uncover lessons which
can be learnt to improve care in the future and to prevent others suffering.
This is something our clients always feel passionate about.
Medical negligence cases will not succeed if there is no
evidence to back them up. This takes detailed investigation and sometimes
includes multiple medical experts.
But there are often times when the cases are extremely clear
from the start yet defendant solicitors acting for the NHS still refuse to
admit liability for months, sometimes until just weeks before the case is
listed for a court trial.
We have seen examples of cases where, even when there is a
Serious Untoward Incident report detailing the mistakes made, and prepared by
the NHS Trust itself, the NHS Litigation Authority which handles claims, has
asked us to investigate again ourselves to prove the negligence. This can take
months of gathering further evidence which is unnecessary and adds extra costs
for both sides as well as delaying the resolution for the patient involved.
We also have a claim on behalf of a young boy who has been
rendered almost entirely blind due to alleged negligence where the NHSLA has
not provided a letter of response to our allegations for over a year,
constantly asking for extensions to the deadline and breaking the agreed
protocol for medical negligence cases.
Sadly these are not isolated incidents. Cases like this
can and should be settled much earlier in the process which would save money on
legal fees and also ensures the victim of medical negligence can move on with
their life much sooner – it is not fair to put them through the stress of
preparing for court when the evidence is plain to see.
The Department of Health plans to consult on its plans to
reduce legal costs for medical negligence claims but it is important that in
doing so the interests of patients affected by acts of medical negligence – and
the actions of the defendants in such cases - are taken into account as the
plans are developed.