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New report reveals how victims of medical negligence found making a claim a difficult experience

Patients who have suffered medical negligence have spoken out about their experiences in a new report published as MPs begin gathering evidence for the inquiry on NHS litigation reform.

Research for the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) carried out detailed interviews with 15 victims of medical negligence for the report entitled The Value of Compensation.

Those who were interviewed came from a mixture of backgrounds, age, gender, and ethnicity and showed a varied experience for all. Some victims of medical negligence received an apology from the medical staff, but some thought the NHS could have shown more compassion.

Others said they felt victimised for challenging the treatment decisions and for pursuing a compensation claim. Some victims felt the NHS had been very upfront about what had gone wrong, but the majority had a much less open experience. A few experienced NHS staff trying to cover up their errors or even lying about the events that occurred.

Guy Foster, from APIL who gave evidence at the committee, said:

I cannot stress enough that the money is never, ever a ‘windfall’ for an injured patient. It is critical that when things go wrong, injured people are cared for properly and have the chance to get back on track.

The report provides new insight into how compensation can help someone who has suffered medical negligence rebuild their lives. Compensation is there to help a patient with the many side effects of their injuries such as mounting debt or uncertainty about their future health.

Gill Edwards, Partner in clinical negligence at Potter Rees Dolan, said:

I recognise the experiences described by many of the interviewees: a Claimant’s experience is dependent on a number of factors, including the approach of the Defendant Trust, Defence solicitor and NHS Resolution case worker. Often Defendants delay disclosing relevant documents and are slow to investigate, with some not obtaining independent expert evidence for months or, in some cases, longer which can delay the Defendant’s full appreciation of the issues at stake.

Jeremy Hunt has suggested that we examine the approach of other jurisdictions to medical negligence, including Sweden’s no-fault system. This proposal has been raised at regular intervals over the past 30 years and it fails to acknowledge that the no-fault system in Sweden needs to be seen in the context of a more comprehensive insurance, health and social care system. Even if we had the necessary infrastructure, a no-fault system fails to address the need for those at fault to be held accountable for their actions and to generate changes in practice to improve standards.

Gill Edwards is a Partner in clinical negligence here at Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about this report or indeed any other aspect of clinical negligence and wish to speak to Gill or any other member of the team, please contact us on 0800 027 2557 or contact Gill directly.