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June 2012

Who is really responsible for the costs of clinical negligence claims?

There are often articles in the press about the costs of litigation against the NHS and the amount that Claimant solicitors have to gain from Clinical negligence claims.

Earlier this year, statistics taken from the Government Accounts and scrutinised by MP’s detailed that Clinical negligence cost the government nearly £16 billion.

Dr Jonathan Punt, a Barrister who practices in Clinical negligence work, and a retired Neurosurgeon, shares our concerns about the increasing costs that are being incurred in cases where the NHS on the evidence presented should be aiming to settle or admit their fault. He has come across a number of cases where after the case is initially presented to the NHS, they deny fault, but when the same case is subsequently presented more formally through the court system, admissions are invariably received.

There are also cases where the admissions, unfortunately do not come until a lot later in court proceedings by which time unnecessary costs have been incurred at no fault of the Claimants themselves or indeed their legal representatives.

Recurrent issues include the failure to obtain independent expert medical evidence at an early stage. We have recently settled a case where the Hospital Trust misplaced metalwork in our client's back during surgery and thereafter delayed in diagnosis of the misplaced metalwork causing our client to suffer an extended period of severe pain and suffering and the need for additional treatment and surgery. Upon consideration of the case after the initial letter of claim, the Hospital Trust denied liability. We had chosen to obtain full medical records and obtain independent evidence which highlighted the errors that occurred prior to approaching the Hospital Trust in this case. In light of the denial of liability, we had no option other than to issue court proceedings, which clearly increases the costs

Upon receipt of the proceedings, the Hospital Trust decided to admit fault. When questioned as to why they had previously denied liability, a response indicating that they had made a conscious decision not to obtain independent expert medical advice earlier was received, and an inference that once independent medical expert evidence had been obtained, they had only at that point realised their fault in the matter. This begs the question, why this action was not taken earlier when the costs would have been considerably less.

In another case, we represent a family of a gentleman who very tragically passed away in hospital. A 4 day inquest took place and a verdict of neglect was found by the coroner with the assistance of multiple experts and medical staff involved in the process . The issues of concern included a failure to provide a CT scan to the gentleman who had suffered a head injury prior to attending the Hospital in question, a failure to fully assess him, a failure to diagnose a bleed to his brain, incorrect medication given and an overdose of the incorrect medication making his condition worse. The Hospital Trust have failed to fully admit their fault in this matter. Again, in this case we have somewhat reluctantly been forced into court proceedings in a case which could have been settled at an earlier stage minimising not only costs, but more importantly distress to a family who have clearly suffered enough in the circumstances.

There are of course examples of cases where the NHS have acted in a timely manner and have been prepared to admit fault at an early stage, however these cases unfortunately still appear to be too few and far between. Thompsons have raised issues with members of the NHSLA (National Litigation Health Authority), the representative of the NHS in claims, with respect to their conduct on a case by case basis and will continue to do so in effort to achieve the outcome that each Claimant deserves within the time scales that they deserve.

Making a Clinical Negligence Compensation Claim

If you or someone you know has suffered from any form of medical negligence, telephone us now for accurate claim advice.

There are strict time limits in place to make any personal injury compensation claim. For further information, contact us or visit our Questions Answered page.

Thompsons Solicitors are experts in all matters relating to clinical negligence and will be able to advise you as to whether or not you have a valid compensation claim. Our specialist clinical negligence solicitors and lawyers will be happy to talk you through the process of making a claim in plain English and will be happy to answer any questions or queries you may have.

Telephone us now on 08000 224 224 or complete one of our online personal injury compensation claim forms.