No Win No Fee

Free Initial Consultations

image of doctor in office

It is probably little known to most that General Practitioners (GPs) do not have insurance to treat you.

Instead, GPs are required to be a member of a “Defence Union”, which provides discretionary indemnity arrangements in the case of a negligence claim.    However, as this arrangement is discretionary, and either the GP or the Defence Union can avoid their indemnity requirements, it means that if you are injured by a General Practitioner’s negligence, they might not have the cover in place to meet your claim for damages.

The Government has recently carried out a consultation and plans to replace existing discretionary indemnity arrangements with regulated cover, backed by the Government and similar to the arrangements with NHS doctors and hospitals.   The case made by the Government to switching to a regulated model is that under the current discretionary system – and unlike commercial insurance companies – there is  no contractual obligation to meet the cost of any claim against the professionals they cover and no legal obligation to ensure they have reserves to cover the cost of claims.

The Government plans to ensure that all healthcare professionals in the UK are covered by an appropriate indemnity scheme so that all clinical negligence cases are covered.

Not surprisingly, GPs and the Defence Unions are opposed to the proposals, fearing higher insurance premiums and that it will take away a significant amount of funding from the Defence Unions.

 

The present discretionary indemnity arrangements also extend to hospital doctors carrying out private consultations and treatment.   It is clear from the Ian Paterson (Breast Surgeon) experience that under the present scheme Defence Unions will try to avoid their financial responsibility if they can.

Unfortunately,  I have experienced over the years a number of cases where both GPs and private doctors have not had the appropriate indemnity cover for the treatment they are providing or that the Defence Unions have refused to indemnify the doctors under the discretionary scheme, leaving injured people without any real redress.

 

Tom Barnes

Head of Medical Negligence

 

About the Author

Tom is a partner of BTTJ and Head of the Medical Negligence department.  He is a member of both the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel and the Action against Medical Accident panel and has been recognised by the Legal 500.

If you need any help with medical negligence you can call Tom on 024 7653 1532 or email tom.barnes@bttj.com

 

NHS Resolution, which was formerly NHS Litigation Authority, has published research on the motivation of patients making a compensation claim when something has gone wrong with their healthcare.

The research, which was conducted in partnership with The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), surveyed 728 patients who had made a claim and looked at the incident that had occurred, how the patient felt it had been handled, how any subsequent complaint had been handled and the factors that led to the patient making a claim for compensation.  BIT also did an in-depth telephone interview with 20 past claimants.

The findings show that, in general, the research participants were not satisfied with the reactions of NHS staff following an incident or how their complaint was handled within the NHS.

It found that:

  • 63% of patients who responded felt that they did not receive an explanation for why the incident occurred.
  • Only 31% said they felt they had received an apology.
  • 71% of the people responding did not think that their healthcare provided undertook any actions to investigate the incident in the first instance.
  • Only 6% of respondents felt that actions were taken that would prevent the same incident happening again.
  • The majority rated the response to their complaint as ‘poor or very poor’ in terms of accuracy, empathy, speed of the response and level of detail.

 

It also found that both internal and external factors motivated patients to make a claim.  Personal motivations included:

  • Wanting to prevent similar things happening to others.
  • Wanting to receive an apology or an explanation for the incident, or to trigger a detailed investigation of the incident.
  • Wanting the clinicians involved to be held to account.
  • Emotional responses (e.g. frustration and anger) brought about by poor incident or complaint handling.
  • Financial compensation.

External motivations included:

  • Suggestions from NHS staff that making a claim would be appropriate
  • Advertising
  • Conversations with friends, family and wider social network

 

Helen Vernon, who is Chief Executive at NHS Resolution, said “This research confirms that claims for compensation can sometimes be made in the search of answers, which could have been provided when the incident occurred. Being open with patients when they suffer avoidable harm and taking tangible steps to learn from what happened are essential. We would like to thank the patients who spared the time to contribute to this valuable research, which will help us to build on our work with the NHS to improve the response when things go wrong.”

 

Full details of the research conducted can be found on the NHS Resolution website.

drip in hospital

 

Sepsis (also known as septicaemia or blood poisoning) is a life threatening condition where the body responds to an infection. The infection can start in any part of the body and can be localised or widespread.  If it is not recognised at an early stage it can lead to shock, multiple tissue damage and potentially death.

 

There are around 123,000 cases of sepsis a year in England of which sepsis results in approximately 37,000 deaths.

Patients with sepsis usually experience one of the following symptoms:-

–          Slurred speech

–          Extreme shivering or muscle pain

–          Passing no urine

–          Severe breathlessness

–          Mottled or discoloured skin

 

Antibiotics are the main form of treatment for sepsis, which depending on the severity of the condition, will usually be given directly into a vein (intravenously). To reduce the risk of serious complication or death, antibiotic treatment should ideally start within an hour of diagnosis.

 

Therefore, if there is a failure to start antibiotic treatment promptly or failure to give the correct antibiotics this may result in the treatment not being as effective, resulting in serious consequences. This in turn can have a devastating impact on the patient and their family.

See the recent case below regarding a patient not being given the correct antibiotics:

https://www.careappointments.co.uk/care-news/england/item/44479-payout-for-cancer-patient-s-family-after-hospital-admits-failures-in-care

 

If you think you or a member of your family has suffered due to an error in the treatment of sepsis, please contact our specialist medical negligence team.

 

I have been reading a number of articles over the last month about the stresses on our NHS in their 70th year.

The government have recently confirmed that the NHS will receive considerably higher funding over the next 5 or so years than they have done previously, in an effort to prop up this ailing service.  But is it enough?   The article below suggests not.

http://www.nationalhealthexecutive.com/Comment/nhs-funding-below-the-surface

I have to assume that as this article is written by the National Health Executive the facts are correct.  If so, clearly we need to invest much more into our NHS to secure its future for ourselves and our children rather than just enough to keep it going.

Another article by the National Health Executive (see below) is also a cause for concern, particularly when combined with the facts in the article above.  It would seem that high vacancy or high turnover is currently a problem with many senior roles.

http://www.nationalhealthexecutive.com/Health-Care-News/third-of-nhs-trusts-have-at-least-one-vacant-director-role-due-to-near-toxic-pressures?dorewrite=false

Settlements for the most serious of clinical negligence claims have increased recently due to a change made by government in interest rates.   This also affects the finances of the NHS.  Here is an example of the larger settlements made in serious cases.

http://www.itv.com/news/anglia/2018-07-18/child-model-with-cerebral-palsy-awarded-15m-damages-from-nhs/

We here at BTTJ deal with cases like this on a daily basis.   We always try to ensure that the NHS is aware of the potential cost to them of the cases we are dealing with so that they can budget for that potential cost going forward as these cases may take many years to settle.

I strongly believe that if a patient is injured as the result of the negligence of any member of NHS staff, that patient is entitled to full compensation to put them back, so far as is possible, into the position they would have been in had the incident not occurred – or to provide for any care they will need as a result of that negligence.  However I am also concerned that the funding available to the NHS is creating a vicious circle in that it has insufficient funds to properly equip and staff itself which leads to mistakes being made.  This in turn leads to payments for legal settlements which leaves less in the pot for equipment and staffing costs.

What can we do to prevent this?

There is little that we as solicitors can do other than support any lobbies to government to increase its spending in the NHS.

What we can also do is try to work with the NHS to settle any claims we are dealing with efficiently and in the most cost effective way we can whilst ensuring our clients receive the compensation they are entitled to and indeed often need to support their ongoing needs.  We at BTTJ have been doing this for many years now and will continue to do so to the best of our ability.   The team here at BTTJ are highly experienced and have a long history of working closely with the NHS legal team to bring about settlements that provide full restitution for our clients without running up costs for the NHS unnecessarily.

If you need any help, please call me on 024 7653 1532 or email me at Dawn.Slow@bttj.com

 

About the author

Dawn Slow has over 30 years experience dealing with clinical negligence cases of all types.  She is also Secretary to LLR CBIT Family Support Group and Trustee of LLR Headway and Vice Chair of Fundraising, Media and Politics Committee.

doctor holding stethoscope

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.