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Thursday, 18 February 2016

NHS Catalogue of Blunders - these are not the fault of victims

I have written many times about the conduct of the NHS Litigation Authority, who regularly attack the victims of medical negligence and their lawyers.

Back in August 2015 I wrote the following in relation to plans to limit the legal costs recoverable by successful Claimants –

‘What is clear, is that this is an attempt to reduce the number of genuine claims and the amounts payable to victims. If the NHS does not have to pay full legal costs in those cases where they are clearly at fault, it is the victims who will have to pick up any shortfall.’

These attacks are designed to blame victims and their lawyers for allegedly draining the sparse resources of the NHS. Anyone who deals with such cases on a regular basis knows where the real problem lies. There are too many avoidable accidents. If there was a major drive on reducing these incidents then dramatic savings would be made.

But it is always easier to blame the lawyers.

All of this is highlighted by today’s disturbing report on what are ironically called ‘never events’. These are the very worst blunders which should never happen. The report talks of a poor man who had a testicle removed instead of a cyst. It mentions feeding tubes being fed into lungs rather than stomachs. Interestingly I am handling a tragic case where the opposite happened. A ventilation tube was mistakenly inserted into the oesophagus rather than the lungs of a young heart attack victim. She suffered massive brain damage and died within days. The list is frightening.

The NHS says that these events are rare. Thankfully that is right. But they still should not happen. And they only represent the very worst blunders, the sort that should never happen in any circumstances.   There are many more mistakes that are not so bad as to be included in this report.

In none of these cases are the victims to blame.

Lives can be changed forever. Those who represent victims work tirelessly to secure justice for them. Instead of blaming them for the ‘costs’ to the health service let’s hear the Department of Health work just as tirelessly to ensure that these incidents do not happen again.

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