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NHS medical negligence costs: who pays the price?

Medical negligence costs in the NHS are soaring and need to be addressed, but who will pay the price?

More than £433million was spent last year on defending medical negligence claims against the NHS and costs are set to rise still further.

NHS Resolution has revealed that there were over 12,500 new claims in 2020/21, an increase of over 1,000 claims on the previous year.

The government response is to impose a cap on the legal fees payable for the lower value medical negligence claims. Here, they propose to limit the legal costs lawyers can claim for cases that are worth up to £25,000. This, they say will save the NHS almost half a billion pounds over the next 10 years. However, there are concerns that it could mean many injured people miss out on the compensation they deserve because law firms simply cannot afford to run the cases.

Perhaps there are better ways to save the funds desperately needed by the NHS.

Medical negligence compensation paid in the last year alone amounted to £2.2billion. While the average settlement was £50,000, around half of the costs were for brain injuries suffered at birth, which can attract compensation that runs in to the millions.

John McQuater, specialist medical negligence solicitor, said: “We work with families whose lives have been devastated by medical negligence, but who are then subjected to years of battling with NHS legal teams simply to obtain the justice they deserve.

“We see cases that have been unjustly disputed for several years, only to be settled literally on the court steps; this is totally unacceptable for the families and unnecessarily expensive for the NHS.”

Maria Caulfield MP, Minister for Patient Safety, said: “When things do go wrong, we must make sure lessons are learnt, and patients can claim the compensation they deserve if they have been harmed through negligence.

“We’re proposing to cap the legal costs lawyers can claim ….. we will also streamline the process to help resolve them more quickly, making it simpler and easier for patients.”

John added: “We welcome any move to ensure that claims are settled more quickly. Mistakes do happen, but if fault was admitted at an earlier stage, cases would not be as protracted and there would be less need for the expensive specialist reports in litigation.

“Prevention is better than cure, we would rather see NHS funds invested in training, staff support and better facilities to ensure that these events didn’t happen in the first place.”

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Childhood acquired brain injury (ABI)

As we continue with Action for Brain Injury Week, we look at childhood acquired brain injury (ABI).

When a child acquires a brain injury at birth it can have a devastating effect on the entire family.

The injury will most likely occur for reasons that are beyond the control of medical staff, such as the baby being born from a breach position or being born too early.

In other cases though, the child’s injury is an acquired brain injury (ABI) as it is the direct result of medical negligence and could have been avoided.

The injury caused by medical negligence can result in the baby suffering from cerebral palsy or Erbs Palsy – both with serious lifelong implications.

In these cases, families are often left without any support and have no idea where to turn for help.

They need to know what’s happened and how to cope.

There will be uncertain and often expensive times ahead – adaptations and equipment are not always available on the NHS.

Our team appreciates what you’re going through and will be there to help you in the most difficult of times.

How we can help

Firstly, keep in mind that you can talk to us about your options, with absolutely no obligation to take the matter any further – that will always be your choice.

If you do decide to go forward, and we think it’s something we can help with, as a first stage, we will help you get those all-important answers about why and how your child was injured.

If we can prove there was negligence, we will be able to help you get the medical and practical support you need to make life a little easier.

We will also work towards securing the financial support you need to safeguard your child’s future. As part of this, we can often negotiate interim compensation payments to help with your ongoing costs, including moving to a more suitable home, if necessary.

Families affected by childhood acquired brain injury

These are real families that we have worked with. Hopefully, these cases will help you see that whatever difficulty you are facing, however desperate you feel, you are not alone.

Child A had suffered from Athetoid, or dyskinetic cerebral palsy since birth. Her parents had always accepted her condition and so had never investigated the cause. But Child A often wondered about it and as she approached her 20th birthday, she decided that she wanted to know why she had the condition. With the help of a litigation friend, she turned to solicitors to help her investigate. Despite the incident taking place over 20 years ago, our medical negligence experts were able to establish that the likely cause of her condition was negligent failure to intubate in the early minutes of life.

Child B was born by a normal delivery at 37 weeks, following an uneventful 3rd pregnancy. At one month of age, the child was diagnosed with apnoea and hydrocephalus. Later, meningitis was diagnosis and an EVD was inserted to drain the fluid from her brain. The allegations are that the delayed diagnosis of meningitis along with the incorrect fitting of the EVD has led to permanent brain damage.

Child C was born with severe and permanent physical and mental disabilities. Allegations are that failure to interpret a pathological CTG and failure to provide any obstetric review at any time during labour resulted in a grossly prolonged labour which led to the child suffering severe brain damage and cerebral palsy.

Child D – A mismanaged caesarean delivery resulted in the child suffering major trauma to their head, including a fractured skull. As a result of the injuries the child sustained during the delivery, they now have cerebral palsy, which has grave and permanent consequences.

More cases can be found on our website 

Support Organisations

Deciding to speak to a solicitor can be a difficult decision. If you would like more information before you take that step, the following websites might help give you peace of mind:

Child Brain Injury Trust

Cerebra

 

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More accountability in NHS is needed to reduce costs

According to the BBC, NHS England is facing £4.3billion in legal fees to settle outstanding medical negligence cases.

John McQuater partner and head of litigation at Atherton Godfrey was a guest on the Mike Graham Show on Talk Radio today (21 January), discussing the news along with the fact that the NHS receives 10,000 new claims for compensation each year.

John, speaking as a representative of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, commented: “The figures need to be taken in context, but it’s about accountability and trying to put that right.
Many of our clients say they don’t want it to happen to anyone else. But it would appear that lessons are not being learned.

One of the problems is claims not being responded to appropriately – this is where you will inevitably see costs rise.

As lawyers, we don’t want cases to run on any longer than they have to. And of course, clinicians have the right to defend themselves. But there are cases where there is clear blame and these should have been admitted and settled much earlier. Early resolution is better for patients and better for the NHS.

It’s important to note that we’re not talking about inevitable risks to patients here. We’re talking about failures in patient safety – avoidable errors.

As for the amount of compensation, the level of damages is calibrated by the courts. It’s meant to put the claimant back in the position they were in before the incident; recovering lost earnings for example.

We see all types of medical negligence – right across the board. The less common ones are birth injuries, but these are the ones that attract the higher levels of compensation.
The key to reducing the litigation costs is accountability. Setting and meeting relevant standards and learning from cases where these standards have not been met. These are, after all, standards that the medical profession have set themselves.”

If you need to speak to someone about medical negligence you can contact us in complete confidence. For a no obligation chat about your options please call 01302 320621 or email info@athertongodfrey.co.uk 

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Seven year old boy wins £30 million compensation

What a great headline grabbing sum of money that is – but what about the people behind the headline?

First of all, let’s look at the word “wins” – he hasn’t WON anything. This is a child who will never get to live the life he was entitled to.

Instead of having an exciting adventure starting school, he was labelled naughty and disruptive and spent most of the time excluded because of his ‘grossly abnormal behaviour’.

He’s only 7 years old, but already needs the help of two support workers just to get through the day.

Then there are the parents who, day in and day out, were subject to intense scrutiny by social services, who blamed their ‘bad parenting’ and lack of discipline for their son’s unruly behaviour.

Throughout all this, his parents have had to fight to prove that their son’s behaviour is a result of medical negligence during his birth.

Following his birth by emergency caesarean at University College Hospital in London in July 2012, the boy had to be resuscitated and suffered seizures.

The hospital had not recognised the pregnancy as high risk and as a result, there had been a delay in calling a doctor.

Lawyers working with the family detailed how the outcome could have been very much different had the boy been born just 10 minutes earlier.

Besides the seizures, he also suffered from encephalopathy, hypoglycaemia, sepsis and high blood pressure that affected his lungs. He has since been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

The hospital only accepted liability after independent medical experts proved that the negligent treatment during his birth was the cause of his severe cognitive and behavioural problems.

Barts Health NHS Trust said it was “deeply sorry” and “pleased to have reached a settlement with the family.”

The settlement will be used to fund a support care programme to make sure that the child has the best life possible, for what is likely to be many years to come.

The boy’s mother said: “We are finally able to turn the page of one of the most difficult chapters of our lives.

I draw strength from my son, who has taught me forgiveness, patience and resilience. My son came into this world fighting for his life and so we shall embrace the warrior he is as the journey continues.”

If you have been affected in the same way as this family, call and see how we can help. We may be able to offer no win no fee or legal aid.

For a no obligation chat about your options, call 01302 320621.