Archive for January 2014

Health Secretary Aims to Cut Hospital Negligence Compensation Payments

The Secretary of State for Health – Jeremy Hunt – has commented that he aims to cut hospital negligence compensation payments by “Saying Sorry”.

Mr Hunt´s comments were made in an interview announcing new guidelines for medical professionals when an error has occurred in a patient´s treatment. The guidelines have been sent to every hospital in England and Wales and recommend that medical professionals “say sorry” when there had been a failure in the duty of care that has resulted in a patient suffering an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition.

The Secretary of State for Health suggested that medical professionals in the health service are often reluctant to apologise because of the fear of litigation, and his opinion was echoed by the Chief Executive of the NHS Litigation Authority – Catherine Dixon – who said:

“Saying sorry is the human and moral thing to do. We won´t say that we are not going to cover you because you´ve said sorry. We are not like a car insurer who will withhold a claim because an apology has been given. Saying sorry is not an admission of legal liability”.

Mr Hunt used the University Hospital of Michigan as an example of how the approach works. Having adopted the guidelines of “apologising and learning when you are wrong, explaining and vigorously defending when we are right, and viewing court as a last resort”, the University Hospital of Michigan is now one of the safest medical centres in the United States, and has halved the amount of hospital negligence compensation payments it was making a decade ago.

The Health Secretary´s concern over hospital negligence compensation payments comes after figures revealed the number of claims against the NHS is expected to increase by 25 percent over the next twelve months to 12,000; and that around 20 percent of the NHS´s annual budget (approximately £22 billion) would have to be put aside to meet the state´s liability for medical negligence in UK hospitals.

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Widower to Claim Compensation from Nursing Home over Death of Wife

A widower is preparing a legal case in order to claim compensation from a nursing home over the death of his wife while she was in the home´s care.

Joy Saunders (76) from Ipswich in Suffolk was admitted to the physiotherapy unit at the Bluebird Lodge Nursing Home in Ipswich on November 27th last year after suffering a stroke while on holiday in Spain.

Her husband – David – specifically asked nursing staff to erect bed rails alongside her bed to prevent her from falling out of the bed as she was distressed; but, on the first night she stayed at the nursing home, Joy tumbled onto the floor and banged her head.

David received a telephone call the following morning to say Joy had been found on the floor alongside the bed, but nobody could tell him how the accident happened or how long she had been lying there on her own.

Despite severe facial bruising and incoherent speech- and her husband´s concerns – medical staff at the nursing home failed to conduct proper tests to assess the extent of Joy´s injuries for two days, after which she was diagnosed with a brain haemorrhage.

Joy required around the clock care, and was moved to a hospice in December, where she died as a result of her injuries.

David Saunders is now taking legal action to claim compensation from the nursing home and the security company Serco – which operates community healthcare services in Suffolk under contract to the NHS.

He alleges that his wife´s death came as a direct result of her preventable fall from the nursing home´s bed, and that there was an unacceptable failure in the duty of care to examine his wife´s injuries in a timely manner.

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Risk of Deaf Patients Suffering from Medical Negligence Identified

A risk of deaf patients suffering from medical negligence has been identified in a soon-to-be-published report based on research conducted in Ireland.

A soon-to-be-published report has highlighted the danger of deaf patients suffering from medical negligence due to a failure by medical professionals to communicate.

The report – “Critical Care Required: Access to Interpreted Healthcare in Ireland” – was prepared by Professor Lorraine Leeson as part of the EU-funded project “Medisigns” and conducted at Trinity College’s Centre for Deaf Studies in Dublin.

“Critical Care Required” focuses on facilitating better communications between healthcare providers, sign language interpreters and patients, and highlights the risk of deaf patients suffering from medical negligence when communications are misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Examples of deaf patients suffering from medical negligence featured within the report include:

  • One deaf patient was prepared for heart surgery after he attended hospital with a finger injury
  • Concern was raised when a woman failed to sleep for three nights in a recovery ward. It was later discovered that she could not communicate that she was cold.
  • One patient, who relied on sign language to communicate, had eye drops put in their eyes and could not see the signals being made to them or otherwise communicate.
  • A deaf patient was killed after being released from hospital as he attempted to walk home from Galway to Clifden – a distance of 50 miles.

Focus groups from Trinity College’s Centre for Deaf Studies who took part in the research also commented on the attitude of healthcare providers towards deaf people. They said that there was a lack of provision for those who are hard of hearing, and one case history revealed how hospital staff had to use a hospitalised child who understood sign language to act as an interpreter in the hospital´s accident and emergency department.

Shortage of Resources No Excuse for Deaf Patients Suffering from Medical Negligence

According to a Health Service Executive spokesperson, patients who are deaf or hard of hearing “have a right” to have a sign language interpreter present at healthcare appointments, and the healthcare provider must find the resources to ensure one is always available. This often happens when appointments are made in advance, but there is the danger of deaf patients suffering from medical negligence when they attend the accident and emergency department of a hospital or have an emergency appointment with their GP.

GPs in particular appear to consider engaging a sign language interpreter as an avoidable expense at a time when their funding has been reduced due to FEMPI legislation. However, Professor Leeson cautioned that a shortage of resources is no excuse for deaf patients suffering from medical negligence. She said: “At the end of the line it is [the doctors’] responsibility to make sure that they are gaining informed consent from their patients and to ensure that their patients understand, and what we are finding is that patients are saying that they absolutely do not understand what is happening.”

She added that failing to use the services of a sign language interpreter could have serious implications for both the patient and doctor: “what [would be] the cost if they were found to be liable for not actually clearly communicating with their patients and there are consequences arising from that”.

If you or somebody close to you has suffered medical negligence due to being hard of hearing, we appreciate that you may not be able to use our free medical negligence claim assessment service over the phone. We would therefore request that you complete the form at the foot of the “Contact this Web Site” page – using the text box to let us know that you cannot communicate by telephone, and supplying us with an email address or an alternative form of communication.

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