Earlier this month, a group of “names” in the Defendant clinical negligence field wrote to the Times newspaper calling for a reduction in what they insist on calling “payouts” to those who have been victims of clinical negligence.

That is, ordinary people who far from being healed by the National Health Service, have been injured through their negligence and through no fault of their own. This includes babies born with serious and permanent brain damage through mis-management of their births.

These “payouts” are not lottery wins; they are sums which try to compensate these injured people. The law says that if someone is injured as a result of someone’s negligence which is either accepted by the negligent person or body, or proved in a Court with the assistance of eminent medical experts, then they are entitled to be put in the position they would have been had the negligence and thus the injury not occurred.  To try and suggest that this much needed compensation is merely a cavalier “payout” or a lucky windfall is to dis-respect and demean the recipients.  If their case if proved or accepted by the hospital Trust concerned, they are entitled to fair and appropriate compensation as of right.

Make no mistake about it – they need this money to try and help with their future. Money cannot reverse brain damage, but it can try to ensure that someone with severe cerebral palsy can obtain the care they need to sustain life.  Someone paralysed when back surgery goes wrong may never walk again, but they can have comfortable, easy to use wheelchairs which will help them get out and about into the community again and even go back to work.  An amputated limb can be replaced by a state of the art prosthesis, often enabling a return to a largely normal life again. We have seen what can be achieved by our Paralympic athletes with the assistance of prosthetic limbs.

There are many misconceptions about clinical negligence claims. As lawyers acting for Claimants, we investigate treatment where something appears to have gone wrong.  Sometimes our investigations, which include obtaining reports from very eminent medical experts, show it hasn’t, in which case it goes no further.  But if it looks as though there might have been negligence, then we may advise a claim is appropriate.

Negligence occurs when a person or a body fails to act “reasonably”.

That’s all we ask – that when we are under the care of medical staff or a hospital, they act reasonably in treating us in a manner that would be recognised as acceptable by other practitioners in  the same field of medicine. We trust that they will do that.  Are we saying that we would willingly accept unreasonable treatment?

We know sometimes things do go wrong and it’s no-one’s fault. There are risks in treatment and sometimes these risks materialise.  We don’t seek to destroy staff or their careers.  Unless it is private care, we don’t even sue individuals.  The Trust employing them are responsible for the actions of their staff whilst in the course of their employment.

The Trusts have a budget for litigation and compensation as does every other business, large or small.  The NHS is the fifth largest employer in the world. It is inconceivable that they would not make provision for compensation awards and legal fees because in such a large organisation,  negligence is going to happen.

Rachel Rothwell, writing in the lawyers professional magazine The Gazette, suggests we are looking at the wrong target. We should not be looking to the injured victims to give up their rightful and much needed compensation to fund shortfalls in the NHS budget. The signatories to the letter agree that injured patients should be compensated, but say that has to be balanced with the NHS’s ability to pay.  Ms Rothwell however, takes a different view. Should the NHS be trying harder to prevent negligence and injuries in the first place, something as she says

“Claimant lawyers have been advocating for many  years”.

She further comments

“Only by moving away from blame and being more open about mistakes can the NHS develop a true learning culture that will keep patients safer”

Easier said than done? Or not an impossible aim?

Or further help or free initial advice contact the Medical Negligence team at Ringrose Law on 01522 561020 or go to www.ringroselaw.co.uk

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