Medical Mistake Claims - Simpson Millar LLP

HOSPITAL BLUNDERS "Likely to Rocket" as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt Moves to Stop Claims by Families of Elderly Relatives and Infant Children Killed by Negligent Doctors

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 14/09/2015

It was reported this week how burn out and stress among senior NHS Doctors is causing 8 out of 10 to consider early retirement. This comes just weeks after reports that the number of Consultants in A&E "halves at weekends" and NHS data which has shown that death rates can be up to 15% higher at weekends. A Leading Medical Negligence Lawyer at Simpson Millar says "It's easy to see that such a situation is likely to cause hospital blunders to rocket with serious injuries and death caused to patients".

NHS Consultants have said they would consider quitting early because the job was having a damaging effect on their lives. Amid warnings the NHS could be left without enough Consultants, they claim stress is making them suffer sleepless nights and anxiety and, in some cases, is leading to the breakdown of marriages.

A survey of 817 experienced hospital Doctors by the Hospital Consultants and Specialist Association (HCSA), revealed that 81% said work pressures had led them to consider quitting before they reach retirement age. The HCSA, which represents 3,500 of the 48,000 consultants in the NHS across the UK, cited rising demand, long hours and the need to meet targets as reasons for the potential exodus.

"The number of Consultants that are considering retiring early is staggeringly high and a big worry for the NHS" Eddie Saville, the HCSA's General Secretary, told The Guardian.

"The NHS could be left without enough Consultants and the remaining Consultants would then be spread too thinly. If experienced Consultants are bringing forward their retirement age because they are burnt out, the loss of that amount of skill and expertise will have an impact on recruitment and retention of existing staff, and inescapably an impact on patient care".

This comes just weeks after the Royal College of GP's warned that some GP's were so tired and over worked they posed a threat to patients. Chairman, Dr Maureen Baker said Doctors were more prone to serious mistakes and called for urgent measures to reduce work loads, including compulsory breaks and an early warning system to flag up surgeries under pressure.

Making matters even worse Hospitals were recently told to draw up emergency plans to slash their budgets, including further cutting of staffing levels.

"Those patients likely to be hit first will be the elderly who are often frail, have more than one medical condition and need a high level of care. I believe we can expect to see a dramatic rise in deaths of elderly patients because of Hospital blunders".

It was also recently reported that we face a worsening crisis in the NHS as many female Doctors go on maternity leave or work part time. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has given a stark warning that children's wards face closure because so many Paediatricians are now women and have gone on maternity leave or work part time.

"Soon there simply wont be enough Senior Doctors left to run departments any more. One can easily imagine that this situation is likely to lead to a significant rise in infant deaths because of Hospital blunders".

So what is the Government doing about this situation? Peter explains "The Government plans to deal with a likely rise in death of elderly patients and infant children as a consequence of Hospital blunders by introducing a new scheme which will stop families from making any claim on the NHS when disaster strikes. The Government wants to deny them access to justice by making it as difficult as possible for them to gain access to a lawyer to represent them. The Government has already withdrawn Legal Aid from the majority of medical negligence cases and introduced a huge increase in Court fees. Now faced with a dramatic rise in death and injury because of Hospital blunders, particularly deaths of elderly patients and infant children, Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has come up with a scheme which will effectively put an end to any claim on behalf of families of an elderly patient or infant child killed by Hospital blunders under the pretence of capping lawyers fees. Hunt's proposals will leave families to fight for justice alone. This is astonishing hypocrisy on the part of Hunt who only a week ago blamed the Official responsible for investigating complaints about NHS failures of "faceless bureaucracy" and insensitive treatment of bereaved relatives of victims".

"Mr Hunt wants to introduce a scheme which will cap lawyers fees to a percentage of any damages recoverable if a family wins a medical negligence case against a hospital. He knows that claims for death of elderly patients, particularly where there are no dependents and infant children have a low monetary value but that of course is no reflection of the importance of the case to the families involved, something which Mr Hunt is choosing to ignore. Hospital Trusts will often adopt a "siege mentality" of fighting a claim at any cost. Doctors will often be unwilling to accept responsibility for the death they have caused. This means the family will have no choice but to take the Hospital Trust to Court if they want to obtain justice for the mother, father, grandparent or child they have lost. Mr Hunt knows that if a Hospital Trust unreasonably decides to fight a case to a fully contested Trial the costs of the case could easily be upwards of £250,000. He also knows that the value of cases involving elderly patients or infant children killed by Hospital blunders is likely to be less than £25,000. By capping costs to a percentage of damages recoverable Mr Hunt's intention is to stop families left bereaved by Hospital blunders from obtaining access to justice. If a family who has lost an infant child or an elderly relative are forced to take a Hospital Trust to Court because it refuses to accept responsibility for the death it has caused and win their case, how can they be expected to pay the costs of the case if they are capped to a percentage of say £25,000? The costs recoverable will not even pay the cost of expert and Court fees. Mr Hunt should quite simply be ashamed of himself for thinking he can pull the wool over the public's eyes by introducing such a scheme under the pretence that he is doing it to cap lawyer's fees! Everybody knows he is doing it to deny families who have lost elderly relatives and infant children access to justice! The knock on effect of Mr Hunt's proposal for patient safety is startling. Quite apart from the fact that bereaved families will be left to fight for justice alone, if failings in medical care are not highlighted Doctors will continue to make the same mistakes and more patients, including children, will be killed or injured".

A recent survey by Legal Marketing Agency RTS Media and endorsed by patient charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) has found that should a cap on legal fees be introduced, 83% of specialist medical negligence lawyers are likely to opt against representing families with claims worth less than £25,000 in damages. This "effectively means the majority of claims involving death of elderly patients and infant children. That cannot be what the public wants in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire Hospital scandal".

Families of those who have lost loved ones because of Hospital blunders have already started to come forward to support the campaign against the Government's proposals.

Grace Harris

Grace Harris died aged 84 after receiving negligent care at West Middlesex University Hospital. During her admission Mrs Harris lost weight and suffered a marked deterioration in her condition. Her deteriorating condition should have initiated an earlier referral to the Acute Medical Ward but this never happened. Making matters worse she was allowed to develop pressure sores, which progressed to grade 3/4 whilst on the Rehabilitation Ward which was a significant failing in her medical care.

Grace's son Nigel says "Compensation was not our motive in bringing a case against the hospital. We were quite simply appalled by the standard of care my elderly mother received and wanted justice in her memory. By highlighting those failings I would like to think that this sort of thing will not happen to other patients".

The lawyer, who represented the family in their claim against the hospital explains "This case highlights the fact that families are primarily motivated by seeking justice for the loved one they have lost by obtaining an acceptance of responsibility from the hospital for the part it played in a patients death and ensuring that failings in care are highlighted and do not happen to other patients. Sadly, under Mr Hunt's proposed new scheme it would not have been possible for the family to be represented by a lawyer and they would have been left to fight for Justice alone".

Hector Lyons

Victoria Burman lost her father, Hector Lyons because of negligent care at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Mr Lyons, who was aged 87, was admitted to hospital after falling and hitting his head. Over a period of 11 days, a critical time in Mr Lyons medical care, no blood tests were taken. His platelet count was falling and his drugs should have been modified. He should also have been given extra oral fluids and paracetamol. Because of the failure to obtain blood tests his progressive renal impairment and dehydration went unnoticed. When he finally had blood tests his sodium had risen to 173, the upper limit of normal being 145. This level was life threatening. It was also found that his renal function had substantially deteriorated with a urea of 50.7 (upper limit of normal 7.1) and his creatinine was 328 (normal 125). He was diagnosed with severe heart failure, with renal failure and dehydration. By this stage however it was too late to take action to save him. The hospital eventually accepted that Mr Lyons should have had blood tests and that it was negligent not to have done them, but then sought to argue that even if those tests had been done, Mr Lyons would still have died anyway. The hospital eventually settled the case.

Victoria says "Compensation was not why we contacted a lawyer. We wanted justice for my father and action taken to make sure this never happened again. We highlighted failings in my father's care which would not have been appreciated by the medical staff caring for him if we had not brought a claim against the hospital. By highlighting those failures in care at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital I hope that such mistakes will not be made again and lives saved".

The lawyer who represented the family in its search for Justice explains "This is another example of a family searching for answers and justice. Sadly under Mr Hunts new proposed scheme I would not have been able to represent the family and they will have been denied the answers and justice which they so desperately needed in order to obtain closure".

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