New report gives voice to “devastated” NHS patients
Injured NHS patients have spoken out about the human cost of clinical negligence in a new report published as MPs examine how to cut the health service’s bill for causing harm.
The House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee is gathering evidence for its inquiry on NHS litigation reform.
“There is a fixation on the financial cost of clinical negligence, rather than on the human cost and the reasons why injured patients have to make a claim for compensation at all,” said Guy Forster of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) a not-for-profit group which campaigns on behalf of injured patients and their families.
“There are a lot of voices and opinions in any debate which concerns the NHS and patient safety, but they are almost never the voices and opinions of the patients. This is why APIL has commissioned The Value of Compensation report,” said Mr Forster, who presented evidence to the committee for APIL on Tuesday (11 January).
Patients who took part in the research, conducted by Opinium, cite mounting debt; uncertainty about their future health; isolation; abandoned careers; relationship breakdowns; and loss of independence, as some of the many far-reaching side effects of injuries sustained through failures in care.
“Patients are devastated to have trusted the NHS with their health and then have to live with the pain and suffering of an injury which should have been avoided,” said Mr Forster. “This report provides new insight on how compensation can help rebuild their lives.”
“None of them relish having to make a claim for compensation. I cannot stress enough that the money is never, ever a ‘windfall’ for an injured patient,” he went on.
“It is obvious that full and fair compensation is critical for injured patients. It should go without saying that the cost of compensation would be cut if the harm were not caused in the first place. But it is critical that when things go wrong, injured people are cared for properly and have the chance to get back on track.”
Examples of injured patients
- Diagnosis of lyme disease in a man in his 30s was missed repeatedly over a period of six months. He had been forced to give up work due to his debilitating symptoms. Compensation helped him get back on track financially, but he has not been able to return to his career in IT. In a fast-moving tech sector, six months is long enough for skills and knowledge to become obsolete.
- LB was placed in a broken bed while giving birth to her first child. She was given an epidural. During labour, her foot dropped out of the stirrup causing nerve damage to her back. She was unable to move and spent one month in hospital. She was unable to walk for several months. Her mum took six months off work to care for LB and her new baby.
- A 36-year-old mother of four is living with a severe and incurable lung condition caused by the side-effects of medication. She lost her job and her marriage broke down. She finds it difficult to move around her home. She used her compensation to install a downstairs wetroom.