In the UK, two and a half million people suffer injuries from an accident which could or should have been avoided. Of these two and a half million, only a third claim compensation, the large remainder continue to struggle on living with their injuries, and the consequences, without receiving any support. For a large proportion of these people suffering in silence, the injuries they incurred are as a result of clinical negligence. Clinical negligence – also known as medical negligence – describes when a medical intervention in the treatment of a patient has materially contributed to a deterioration of a patient’s condition, be it physically and/or psychologically.
Clinical negligence has many guises, resulting from malpractice, medical errors and/or substandard treatment. These are included, but not limited to; injuries sustained via surgical errors, resulting in excess pain and painful scarring; wrongful neglect of a patient, leading to deterioration of their condition which can in many cases, causes fatality; a delay in diagnosis or a misdiagnosis which leads to complications or deterioration of condition, and again, even fatality; injury inflicted upon a mother or child, affecting pregnancy and/or childbirth; incorrect prescription and/or administration of medication leading to complications including side effects; an infection contracted within a hospital (HAI – hospital acquired infection), for example MRSA, the extremely contagious and often fatal virus, and so on.
A prime example of clinical negligence is that of the case of a 32 year old female from Lancashire, who incurred damage to her gallbladder during surgery for a different problem. This led to years of hospital admissions for investigations into the problem, which went undiagnosed for the majority of this time. She eventually put in a claim, and was awarded £65,000 in damages. Thankfully, she has gone on to make a full recovery and is no longer affected by her injury.
So, when to make claim against clinical negligence?
The answer is simple; if you feel you have suffered at the hands of a trusted healthcare practitioner, be it NHS or private, you may be eligible for compensation. As aforementioned, countless people do not go on to claim compensation for any clinical negligence they have suffered. However, as seen in the case of Mrs X, claiming compensation can have a very positive impact on yo ur quality of life. Although compensation cannot alleviate physical suffering, it can greatly assist in further care, be it additional medical bills, specialist equipment etc. It can also help relieve the financial burden associated with loss of earnings due to the inability to work, because of any physical or psychological harm endured.
Understandably, many people are hesitant to put in for a claim, as they perceive there to be a large volume of paperwork, along with the obvious emotional connotations of having to relive their experiences. However, in reality, highly experienced, professional and sympathetic solicitors will do the majority of the hard work – including the paperwork, so you don’t have to. If you think you have been affected by clinical negligence, the first step, which can usually be the highest mountain to climb, is to speak to someone.
It can be hard to disassociate yourself with particular incidents, especially if the elderly relative is close to you, but it is important to try and keep a level head when dealing with medical negligence. Unfortunately if you get over-emotional about a potential case, your testimony may be discredited as an overly-worried relative, so try to keep a handle on your emotions at all times and stick to stating the facts. If you have enough evidence collected and the authorities are doing their jobs properly, justice will be served if you persist!