With the starting pistol fired in the 2015 General Election campaign, the NHS looks likely to be a key battleground once again. For individual patients and staff in the NHS, the only thing that matters is the quality of the care they give and receive whether in hospital or in the community. Much is made in the media of the in 11,945 clinical negligence cases reported by NHS trusts over the last financial year compared with 6,562 in 2009-10. Politicians can argue over the reason for this, but each case lodged with the NHS represents a patient who feels let down and has not received the standard of healthcare they expect.
Negligence will not be found or proven in each claim, and in each case, independent medical experts will have to consider and comment on the standards of care provided. Claims will only succeed where the care is shown to be negligent (looking at what a reasonably competent doctor, nurse etc. would or would not have done in the circumstances). Medical care involved judgment calls and risks have to be taken to save lives. Negligence claims arise where unnecessary risks are taken, risks are not explained to patients so they do not anticipate or appreciate the complications which may arise or where human error/mistakes occur.
It can be argued that the circumstances leading to claims arise because of lack of, or inappropriate use of resources, poor management, rising cost of more complicated needs and treatments, increased willingness by patients to complain and claim, or falling standards. Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England has today called for more strategic approach to NHS funding at a realistic level for the population size and changing demands on the NHS to avoid a ‘boom and bust’ approach of cuts and then catch up spending. NHS leaders and the government (whichever party or coalition that may be) will need to consider that $64,000,000 question, but in the meantime the statistic shine a light on the personal experiences of patients.
If you or a loved one are concerned about the medical care received and would like advice on raising your concerns, obtaining more information, making a complaint or a clinical negligence claim for compensation, please contact Jennie Jones.