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Astonishing sums are being paid out for medical negligence claims in the UK — £1.4 billion by the NHS last year. It’s an unfortunate sign that there’s just no slowdown in medical errors and harm caused to patients who thought they were on the mend.
These huge payouts are necessary, however, to cover such things as loss of earnings, medical bills, travel expenses, revamping a house to cope with a disability, buying specialist equipment and much more when patients become victims.
So what’s behind this wave of calamities in the operating room?
We must first remind ourselves that, just like us, surgeons are only human and, all too frequently, humans do make mistakes. It’s one of the reasons why medical negligence claims concerning botched surgical procedures continue to rise. Patients go under the knife hoping to be better when they come to, but in some cases, they wake up to find something horrific has happened to them instead.
It may seem surprising, but it has emerged that on the most basic level, there can often be a failure to follow essential guidelines in the operating theatre. Some — but certainly not all — surgeons feel it unnecessary to adhere to an essential safety checklist while operating, which can lead to mistakes. This World Health Organisation guide, which NHS hospitals are required to use, ensures among other things that the surgical team know the patient’s name, mark out the surgical site and have enough spare blood available and of the right type.
Checklists and other causes of errors aside, there is no doubting that medical professionals working in the NHS today are under considerable pressure and strain. On the whole, they’re widely recognised as doing a tremendous job under enormous workloads and financial problems. That’s certainly not an excuse for surgical malpractice that may end up in medical negligence claims, but it does show that with the sheer number of patients passing through the health service each year — over a million people every 36 hours in England alone — mistakes are bound to happen.
And as growing numbers of people make medical negligence claims for what happened to them in surgery, a sort of vicious cycle is emerging. Medical professionals are becoming wary of performing procedures in case they end up in court — or worse, behind bars.
A leading NHS adviser has even warned of a level of fear among doctors and surgeons as prosecutors become ever more “energetic” about trying to get them convicted in the event of a botched operation. This unhealthy scenario could have the effect of denying people the kind of healthcare they need, purely because a surgeon does not want to carry out a procedure due to the potential risks.
Operations and medical procedures are not, of course, always about a person’s health. Many times, they are about vanity: to enhance or reduce a body part to make the person look, and feel, better. Again, however, it doesn’t always go according to plan. A man is even suing his plastic surgeon following a facelift as he didn’t like his new-look smile.
Then there are the many cases of breast implants and the subsequent health issues the silicone material can cause. It can rupture or move, creating unbearable pain. More surgery is then required, and a whole lot of trauma goes along with it. So for these and medically necessary surgeries, how do you go about making medical negligence claims? Is it the surgeon or their team you sue? Or the institution itself, such as the NHS?
These questions and more are best answered by the very best personal injury solicitor you can get your hands on. Nowadays, this is made easier because there’s no need to come up with huge sums of money to hire the best in the legal business. That’s because many work on a No Win, No Fee basis, meaning there’s zilch to pay to get a claim started.
It’s not all over once you’re signed up with a top solicitor who’s highly experienced in medical negligence claims. They have to go about the essential legwork of finding the evidence to prove the medical team acted wrongfully and caused you to suffer. It’s not always an easy task.
Did they get your informed consent before going ahead with a procedure? And where is the form? Did they follow the NHS-required checklist and operate on the right site? There are many things your solicitor will need to find out, involving deep investigations into the medical establishment to get the facts that can then be presented in court.
It can only be hoped that in the years ahead, far improved practices will be adopted in the operating theatre and elsewhere. As a result, medical negligence claims will come down — for patients throughout Britain, as well as the NHS.