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Blog: The human cost of medical negligence

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The human cost of medical negligence
Alison Eddy | 30 Jul 2015

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 expertise.

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.

Past blog entries

Consumers will not benefit from Do-it-Yourself whiplash reforms, 28 Jan 2021
Effects of a change in the discount rate: what happens when a review is expected? , 16 Dec 2020
Three per cent drop in premiums does not reflect massive insurer savings, 09 Nov 2020
What help is out there for families when someone is injured?, 02 Nov 2020
Blindly heading into the unknown for injured people?, 09 Dec 2019
Lessons in looking after one another , 18 Nov 2019
‘Fake claims’ or ‘fake news’?, 06 Nov 2019
The tide of public opinion is turning against insurers, 15 Oct 2019

About this blog

Alison Eddy

Alison Eddy is Managing Partner for London and medical negligence specialist at Irwin Mitchell solicitors. Alison has a national reputation as a leading medical negligence lawyer with extensive experience of claims, particularly those  involving obstetric, paediatric and neurological care.