Thousands upon thousands of people attend hospital each and every year in the UK, and it is worth remembering that whilst there is a regular stream of stories within the news media about NHS negligence, the vast majority of treatment that patients receive is, at the very least, of a reasonable standard.
However, not everyone receives a reasonable and acceptable level of care when they attend their local hospital and the purpose of this page is to briefly explore some aspects of medical treatment where hospitals can, in this firm’s experience, sometimes be found lacking.
Claims for hospital negligence and compensation can include:
Medical negligence leading to a failure to diagnose or a wrong diagnosis
The failure by hospital medical staff to make a correct diagnosis of a patient’s condition is a complaint that we hear about within our medical negligence department perhaps more than any other. A diagnosis of food poisoning may have been made when in actual fact the patient was suffering with a ruptured appendix; or a diagnosis of back strain is given when it is a prolapsed disc in the spine; or a diagnosis of anaemia is made and it later transpires that the patient had cancer.
Whatever the failed diagnosis was, the consequences for the patient concerned can be truly devastating, and a claim for compensation arising out of medical negligence will often result.
This is another relatively common complaint that we deal with here at Burroughs Day. The issues that we hear about range from nerve damage during heart surgery, to long term pain following bunion surgery; and from the perforation of the bladder during a hysterectomy to surgery on the wrong part of the patient’s body.
There are risks associated with any form of surgery, and just because something happens during surgery that ought not to have done does not necessarily mean that the patient concerned will have a clinical negligence claim. One of the questions that our clinical negligence team must consider in such cases is whether the standard of care provided by the hospital surgeon was of at least a reasonable standard based upon what a responsible group of similar surgeons would have given. If it wasn’t, and if as a result the client suffers injury they would otherwise not have done, then a clinical negligence is very likely to be successful.
Failure to refer as a result of NHS negligence
It is not uncommon for there to be a breakdown in communication between different departments of the same hospital, let alone between different hospitals. Our medical negligence team here at Burroughs Day has seen many examples of this over the years. It may be that a Consultant within the orthopaedic department requests an urgent MRI scan of a patient’s spine but for some reason the request does not find its way to the hospital’s radiology department for several weeks if not months. Alternatively it may be that the orthopaedic consultant has requested that the patient be referred to a consultant in the Urology department but, again, the request is lost and significant delay results.
Such delays usually cause nothing else other than frustration for the patient while they wait for their appointment to come through. However, if the patient is already in pain then any delay that could and should have been avoided could mean that the patient continues to suffer unnecessarily as a result of NHS negligence. A worst case scenario is that the delay in the referral causes a delay in a proper diagnosis being made (of cancer for example) which could in turn reduce the patient’s prospects of survival.
Prescribing the wrong medication
By “wrong” in this context, we are not referring to doctors who, understandably, prescribe patients with appropriate medication for a certain set of symptoms which turns out not to relieve those symptoms, thereby meaning that a different medication is needed. What we mean by “wrong” is where a patient has a known allergy to a particular type of medication, or has a particular condition which means that certain medicines should not be prescribed, and yet the hospital medical staff still give this medication to the patient.
One example of a case we have seen is when the drug Gentamicin was prescribed to a patient with kidney disease and the necessary precautions in terms of monitoring that patient were not then followed. This drug is well known as being toxic to kidneys and as a result of this hospital negligence the patient suffered renal failure.
Poor nursing care
By no means is it the case that all examples of hospital negligence stem from treatment provided by doctors. It is sometimes the nursing care provided to patients on the wards that leaves much to be desired. The complaints that we hear again vary significantly in terms of severity, but some of the worst examples are where elderly and vulnerable patients are left for several days without being checked for the possible development of bed sores, otherwise known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers. At their worst, bed sores can destroy skin and tissue right down to the bone, so regular checks are essential for hospital in-patients, and swift effective action is vital if the initial signs of bed sores are found.
Infections such as MRSA and C-difficile have become increasingly well known to the public over the course of the last decade or so, and it is fair to say that most hospital Trusts now have proper procedures in place to, firstly, try and prevent such infections occurring within their hospitals in the first place, and, secondly, to combat these infections if they do occur.
It is of course one thing having the correct procedures in place on paper, but quite another to make sure that these procedures are applied in practice. Despite the various guidance issued by the Department of Health over recent years, it is still unfortunately the case that some Trusts are not doing everything that they ought to help prevent outbreaks of hospital-acquired infections.
Metcalfes – our experience
We have been helping people like you who have suffered from hospital negligence for many years and we can help you too. We offer you a free initial consultation to discuss your situation in detail and advise you about your legal position.
If you decide that you would like to make an hospital negligence claim we will explain the whole process to you clearly and without using legal jargon. We will also use the consultation to explore all the different options open to you to fund your claim. We can give you advice on which one will be the most suitable for you.
We want you to be completely happy with us representing you so we will spend time building a relationship with you and demonstrating our expertise too.
There is no obligation to make a claim following the consultation, so call our medical negligence team today. We are waiting to help.