Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Rise of NHS Clinical Negligence

More and more patients are deciding to sue the NHS for clinical negligence. This demonstrates that people are more aware of their rights and better informed about the service levels they should expect from the National Health Service. There is a paradox here because as the NHS improves quality of service and makes their service more transparent by informing patients of what they should expect, more and more people initiate a case against the NHS due to any failure or dissatisfaction in the quality of care provided.

In 1990 legal claims nationally cost the NHS £65.5 million. This figure rose to £560.3 million in 2005/2006. It is said that in some hospitals the number of claims have risen by 300% in the same time period, with an average number of claims being 60 per annum. The NHS Litigation Authority estimates that at present there are around £8.22 billion worth of outstanding claims throughout England and Wales. Claims against the NHS are dealt with under the CNST (Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts) guidelines, which ensure that claims are dealt with efficiently and effectively. The current length of time that it takes to deal with claims is 1.46 years.

Patients who sue the NHS must make sure that they have a genuine and valid claim. The NHS receives many 'nuisance claims' that have little or no merit. It is very unlikely that these claims will be settled in the claimant's favour. With all claims the NHS Litigation Authority will carry out a risk evaluation to assess the NHS’s chance of losing. If the NHS determines that it may lose it will obviously make a settlement. However, with nuisance claims the NHS is unlikely to lose and will therefore not make a settlement. A claimant making such a claim stands to lose a lot of their own money and this makes such claims ultimately counterproductive.

The fear of making a nuisance claim shouldn't hinder the making of genuine claims. Genuine claims can be settled out of court or go through court proceedings. It is important for genuine claims to be made because they highlight areas of negligence within the NHS that can then be worked upon and improved. Ultimately these claims help improve the overall service of the NHS and the quality of care provided for all clients.

Patients who sue the NHS should be aware that the law in this area is extremely complex. Because of this complexity it is important to seek out specialist legal advice and representation. When you approach solicitors you should ensure that they are members of the Action for Victims of Medical Accidents (AVMA). You will also need to decide how your claim is going to be funded. Finally you will need certain information to substantiate your claim, such as your own personal details, details of the doctors or specialist who have provided treatment, the address of hospital attended and a list of pertinent dates.

About the Author

We deal in a range of claims, including medical negligence and compensation.

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