16th July 2015

Peter Henry, Consultant in our Clinical Negligence department provides his insightful comment on a recent article in the Daily Telegraph headed “Medical Blunders cost NHS billions” in which the reporter has gone all out to bash Claimant Lawyers pursuing claims for those victims of clinical negligence.

This article completely misses the point.

The very same paper stated on the 13th July 2013 how a Government report would outline that the fourteen worst Trusts in the NHS had needlessly killed 13,000 people. Where is the public outrage? Where is the media interest? Why are the public not up in arms about it?

It appears that instead of focusing on the cause the media would prefer to engage in Government and NHS friendly lawyer bashing. It’s the fault of the ambulance chasers and the fat cat legal aid lawyers not the poor NHS.

Billions of pounds of taxpayer’s money is ploughed into the NHS to pay compensation to a tiny minority of those injured and the relatives of the deceased. Every single one of them would give you every penny back to put the clock back. Countless thousands do nothing about the negligence because they cannot afford to or because they still believe in the dear old NHS.

There has been no change because those with the power to address the real issue appear either unable to deal with it or reluctant to even acknowledge it. Rather they continue to use this issue to put forward their own agenda ably assisted by the media.

The national press are currently regularly reporting about escalating costs in clinical negligence cases. They appear to support those whose interest and agenda is solely to cut costs and not address the real problem. It is no coincidence that the Government has recently stated its aim to bring in fixed costs payable to Claimants solicitors in these cases.

The NHS deliberately, recklessly or negligently refuses to learn from its mistakes and those who supposedly have the power to protect patients deliberately, recklessly or negligently have failed for decades to do anything about negligent mistakes, other than complain about the amount they cost.

This NHS friendly agenda misses another glaring point. Only three of the solicitors’ firms shown in the graphic attached to the article act for claimants. The remaining firms are panel members for the NHS Litigation Authority. It is this special authority that drives up a significant amount of the costs incurred in clinical negligence litigation. Continuing just like the NHS itself to defend the indefensible, delay settlement and seek to minimise the extent of the injuries or the effects of the negligence. Decades after it was created with the purpose of reducing delays and costs in these cases is it not about time that it was acknowledged that the NHSLA has singularly failed. It is now part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Lucy Cookson’s story is added at the end of this article in some vain attempt to create balance. I ask the question if this was your mother, sister or daughter whose life had been completely destroyed as a result of basic flaws in medical care how would you feel?

Do something about the blunders instead of ploughing money into denying legitimate claims brought by people like Lucy. Delaying justified claims in the hope that people like Lucy would give up at some point in the future or even better not be able to afford access to justice at all appears to be the current agenda.

Why is it that our national press are afraid of addressing the real issue? Every article written on the subject supports those seeking to reduce the fees paid to those who fight on behalf of the victim, it is a fight, rather than focusing on the elephant in the room, why can the NHS never learn?

Blog by Peter Henry, Consultant in the Medical Negligence department