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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

New report reveals 'human cost of clinical negligence'

New report reveals 'human cost of clinical negligence'


The report has been published as the government gathers evidence for its inquiry on NHS litigation reform

Research commissioned by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), a not-for-profit group which campaigns on behalf of injured patients and their families, has given an insight into the “human cost of clinical negligence”, with a new report published as MPs examine how to cut the health service’s bill for causing harm.

The Value of Compensation research was carried out by strategic insight agency Opinium. In the report, injured NHS patients shared their experiences of clinical negligence, as the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee gathers evidence for its inquiry on NHS litigation reform.

“There is a fixation on the financial cost of clinical negligence, rather than on the human cost and the reasons why injured patients have to make a claim for compensation at all,” said APIL’s Guy Forster.

“There are a lot of voices and opinions in any debate which concerns the NHS and patient safety, but they are almost never the voices and opinions of the patients. This is why APIL has commissioned The Value of Compensation report,” said Mr Forster, who presented evidence to the committee for APIL on Tuesday (11 January).

Patients who took part in the research, conducted by Opinium, cite mounting debt, uncertainty about their future health, isolation, abandoned careers, relationship breakdowns and loss of independence, as some of the many side effects of injuries sustained through failures in care.

The report includes examples of clinical negligence, such as:

·       Diagnosis of lyme disease in a man in his thirties was missed repeatedly over a period of six months. He was forced to give up work due to his debilitating symptoms. Compensation helped him get back on track financially, but was unable to return to his career in IT. In a fast-moving tech sector, six months is long enough for skills and knowledge to become obsolete.

·       LB was placed in a broken bed while giving birth. She was given an epidural. During labour, her foot dropped out of the stirrup causing nerve damage to her back. She was unable to move and spent a month in hospital and was unable to walk for several months. Her mother took six months off work to care for LB and her new baby.

·       A 36-year-old mother of four is living with a severe and incurable lung condition caused by the side-effects of medication. She lost her job and her marriage broke down. She finds it difficult to move around her home.

Forster said: “Patients are devastated to have trusted the NHS with their health and then have to live with the pain and suffering of an injury which should have been avoided. This report provides new insight on how compensation can help rebuild their lives.

“None of them relish having to make a claim for compensation. I cannot stress enough that the money is never, ever a ‘windfall’ for an injured patient.

“It is obvious that full and fair compensation is critical for injured patients. It should go without saying that the cost of compensation would be cut if the harm were not caused in the first place. But it is critical that when things go wrong, injured people are cared for properly and have the chance to get back on track.”