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New government plans may make it difficult for the NHS to learn from its mistakes and also deny those bereaved by the blunders unable to find a lawyer who can help them according to a report in The Telegraph.

Charities including Action against Medical Accidents, the Patients’ Association, Sands the stillbirth charity, the Birth Trauma Association, the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services and National Voices are among those mentioned as opposing the plans.  Read the full story here

 

It has recently been revealed that thousands of patients data sent between GP’s and hospitals have remained undelivered.

According to the BBC, the company NHS Shared Business Services (SBS) were employed in the East Midlands, South West and North-East London to redirect mail for the NHS.  The SBS‘s role was to appropriately forward any documents that had either been incorrectly addressed or needed re-routing because a patient had moved to a new GP surgery.

However, 709,000 pieces of correspondence became piled up in a NHS SBS warehouse in between the years 2011 and 2016.

The undelivered correspondence included the results of blood and urine tests, and of biopsies and screening tests for diseases including cancer.

Now NHS England have paid £2.5 million to  7330 GPs, in order to compensate for their time spent reviewing and assessing the correspondence relating to their patients.  So far NHS England classified 2,508 items as high priority. GPs have assessed 2,159 of those as having ‘no patient harm’ and are still examining the remaining items, with 229 classified as ‘potential harm’.

Further to this a clinical review of patients who have died since the loss of documents was discovered in March 2016 has been undertaken, in order to examine whether delays in the correspondence reaching GPs played any part in any patient’s death.

Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA’s GPs committee and a family doctor in Yorkshire has commented on the effects error and has stated:  

“Undoubtedly, there will be cases where patients have been seen by their home GP without [the GP having] the information from previous consultations or tests being their file – so they may not know whether antibiotics have been prescribed to a patient or whether tests and investigations have been done. That might mean repeat prescriptions, which would be unnecessary, as they have been taken before. And it might mean delay in diagnosis. If that happened it’s at best an inconvenience to the patient, and at worst there’s a risk of patient harm

If you have experienced a delay in diagnosis or have a Clinical Negligence enquiry, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free no obligation initial consultation.

 

Radha Patel

 

 

On 30th January 2017, the Department of Health published a 12 week consultation, closing on 2nd May 2017, seeking views on proposals to introduce a system of Fixed Recoverable Costs in Lower Value Clinical Negligence Claims.

 

It is proposed that a Fixed Recoverable Costs regime would apply to clinical negligence cases involving awards of between £1,000 and £25,000 brought against the NHS as well as both not for profit and private healthcare providers in England and Wales, including dentists.

 

This would limit the amount of legal costs that could be recovered by solicitors who win clinical negligence claims on behalf of their clients to a set proportion of the damages (compensation) awarded to the injured patients or their families.

 

However, there are grave concerns from a number of bodies including charities for patient safety and justice and claimant solicitors regarding these proposals. One concern is the implications for access to justice as legal costs recovered by solicitors could only be a proportion of the damages secured for the patient/family which may mean that many would-be claimants would not be able to get a solicitor to represent them in cases where the damages are relatively low.  In effect many victims of serious neglect and negligent treatment such as in older people like we have seen at Mid Staffordshire and child death cases such as those seen at Morecambe Bay would simply be unable to have access to justice.

 

Another concern is the implications for patient safety, as an unintended consequence of the Fixed Recoverable Costs proposals would be the creation of a perverse incentive for NHS organisations to adopt a ‘deny and defend culture’. This is because they would be safe in the knowledge that simply defending and denying liability in many cases will mean that an injured patient or their family will be unable to take things further due to costs limitations. The result of this would be that important learning opportunities about lapses in patient safety would be lost. It is often the case that when errors have not initially been appreciated or admitted by the health provider, it is only the litigation process which brings these errors to light.

 

Angus Buchanan

 

About the author

Angus Buchanan works in the Medical Negligence department of Brindley Twist Tafft & James, a firm of solicitors in Coventry that specialises in medical negligence cases nationwide.  Angus has dealt with claims including medication prescription error, perforation caused by an endoscopy and a lack of pain relief during a caesarean section.

 

Official figures released by NHS Litigation Authority, the body that deals with claims on behalf of the NHS, show that the NHS set aside £56 billion in 2016 to pay for medical mistakes made by their staff. This represents almost half of the total NHS budget of £116 billion. This figure is almost double the £31 billion put aside in 2014 and up from £665 million in 2005/6.

 

This revelation prompted Britain’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO), to launch a 6-month investigation as to why this amount of money is necessary, with their findings due to be released in the summer of 2017.

 

The Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers (SCIL) is the body of Clinical/Medical Negligence Specialists that has been working hard to get the Government to look at the costs of Medical Negligence cases. SCIL have criticised the vast spend, with the cause being attributed to a culture of “defend, deny and delay”. They support the NAO enquiry, stating it is long overdue and critical for the safety of patients in the country.

SCIL estimates that of the 3,311 cases where the NHS was taken to court in 2015/16, the NHS paid compensation in 2,514 of those cases – 75.93 per cent. It is alleged that most of these cases should have been settled much earlier without the substantial costs of court proceedings and raises questions about the assessment the NHS makes when deciding whether to defend a claim.

 

Furthermore, the consequence of bringing so-called “indefensible” cases through the court system has resulted in Claimant lawyer’s costs being greatly increased when compared to reaching early settlement. The NHS Litigation Authority said that despite the number of claims falling by 4.6 per cent in 2016, claimant legal costs had risen by 43 per cent. The average cost to the NHS of settling at an early stage would be £2,650 but by fighting through the courts costs increase to £18,000.  This culture not only adds to its legal bills but also prolongs the emotional suffering for devastated patients and families.

 

If you need any advice on a medical negligence case, please call me on 024 7653 1532 or email me at angus.buchanan@bttj.com.  We offer free, no obligation consultations.

 

Angus Buchanan

 

About the author

Angus Buchanan works in the Medical Negligence department of Brindley Twist Tafft & James, a firm of solicitors in Coventry that specialises in medical negligence cases nationwide.  Angus has dealt with claims including medication prescription error, perforation caused by an endoscopy and a lack of pain relief during a caesarean section.

 

At present, it appears that dissatisfaction with the NHS is filling the headlines. As portrayed in the media, it is clear that patient safety is a current public concern. This concern will only be heightened by the Junior Doctors’ latest strike.

According to the BBC, The British Social Attitudes Survey, which has been tracking satisfaction since 1983, has recorded that last year (2015) there was the biggest ever rise in public dissatisfaction with the NHS. There seems to be a real public concern in relation to waiting times in A & E, staff shortages and a worry that the NHS will not be able to adequately care or treat them if they required their services. The full article can be read at

 

Further recent news reports have highlighted failings of the NHS, including the story of little William Mead who passed away in 2014 from blood poisoning following a chest infection. As reported by the BBC, a report by NHS England highlighted a number of failings and lessons to be learned from William’s death, including the fact that GPs had failed to diagnose him despite William’s mother having taken him to the GP on numerous occasions in the months leading up to his death. The report had suggested that if the NHS had acted differently it is likely that William would have survived.

 

Other news articles have appeared in response to the concerns highlighted by William’s tragic death. The Daily Mail have reported a further case of sepsis missed in the daughter of TV actor Jason Watkins, and highlighted The Daily Mail’s campaign against the ‘Sepsis Scandal’.

 

There is no doubt that our NHS is under pressure not only from a funding, staffing and performance point of view, but also from the glare of the media.

 

Sadly, lapses in patient safety continue to happen, sometimes having devastating consequences on the patient and their families. As a firm, Brindley Twist Tafft & James LLP are currently dealing with a number of claims in relation to sepsis.

 

If you have experienced poor medical treatment or have a Clinical Negligence enquiry, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free no obligation initial consultation.

 

Nicola Godfrey-Dunne

Medical Negligence Department

 

About the Author

Nicola Godfrey-Dunne is a Medical Negligence solicitor at Brindley Twist Tafft & James and works on a wide variety of clinical negligence claims.