A legal perspective on the concern over falling care standards in the NHS1st Oct 2012
Our specialist clinical negligence lawyer David Simpson gives an overview of the latest reports on NHS cuts.
The BBC has reported concerns about the NHS and that cuts will have to be made to the front line of the NHS if it is to cope. Whilst the government has promised to protect the health service, research indicates falling care standards over the next few years and that 2013 could mark a turning point.
What concerns me is that NHS cuts may lead to over-stretched staff and increased waiting times; with costly investigative scans and treatment being delayed or not pursued at all. It then seems inevitable that we will see an increase in potential medical negligence claims.
There are a number of important points here:
- It is much better to treat patients properly in the first place than to pay out thousands in compensation; not only because the money is better spent on treatment but also because money is a poor substitute for having to live with ongoing symptoms that could have been avoided with proper medical treatment;
- I deliberately use the phrase ‘potential medical negligence claims’ because to succeed in such a claim you must establish negligence; broadly, that the treatment has fallen below an acceptable standard; what is acceptable is judged against a responsible body of similar clinicians and if they would have acted in the same or very similar way then there is no negligence and the claim fails. My point is that many NHS hospitals may be in the same boat, providing substandard treatment but perhaps falling short of an actionable claim in negligence applying the appropriate legal test.
- Further, fundamental changes affecting Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence claims are due to commence in April 2013. The precise details have yet to be confirmed, however the upshot will undoubtedly be that solicitors are going to be far more selective in the cases that they are prepared to run on a ‘no-win, no-fee’ basis and that, coupled with the loss of Legal Aid, is surely going to result in a loss of access to justice.
So, falling standards of care; doubtful clinical negligence claims; less access to redress via a solicitor; it all looks rather bleak to me.
On a more practical front, if you have present clinical negligence claim then you would be well advised to consult a specialist Clinical Negligence solicitor before April 2013.