In recent years the scale of clinical negligence compensation claims made against the National Health Service (NHS) has been described as ‘unprecedented’.
Under the coalition government formed in May 2010, the number of clinical negligence claims reported by NHS Trusts has doubled. As a reactive measure, the NHS now retains a fund of £15.6bn to deal with legal action taken against it – that’s a 79% increase on the £8.7bn it retained in 2010.
With pressure to provide an on-going level of service despite cuts to plug the financial demand of dealing with claims, it’s no wonder that mistakes continue to happen. Yet our doctors, nurses, medical personnel, pharmacists and other health professionals are the people we trust with our health and, ultimately, our lives.
Unfortunately this ‘chicken and egg’ situation means that instances of clinical negligence do arise – more regularly now than ever. Though not intentional, in many cases these accidents cost their victims their health and independence.
Any case of clinical negligence can cause patients harm and distress. But in many cases, they may also require on-going care and treatment which may not be readily available to them under the NHS . For some victims, compensation for their pain and suffering is essential.
We’ve taken a look at some of the most shocking recent medical negligence payouts from the last twelve months.
In January 2014, the family of 13-year-old Maisha Najeeb was awarded a potential sum of £23 million after Great Ormond Street Hospital accepted liability for a ‘mix-up’ that left Maisha with ‘catastrophic and permanent’ brain damage and requiring round-the-clock care for the rest of her life.
Aged 10, Maisha had been referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital for routine treatment for a brain condition she had suffered from since birth. The treatment, which involved monitoring blood flow through the brain with the use of a harmless dye, was one that Maisha had undergone multiple times during her short lifetime. Unfortunately on this occasion, a syringe containing glue was mistaken for one containing dye, resulting in ‘catastrophic’ brain damage.
Maisha will spend the rest of her life wheelchair-bound with severely limited movement, blindness in one eye and suffering from painful leg spasms.
The High Court approved a settlement that will see the NHS trust pay a £2.8 million lump sum, plus £383,000 a year until Maisha is 19, increasing to £423,000 per year for as long as she lives. Some experts have predicted that Maisha’s life expectancy stands at around 64.
In May 2014, transplant patient Robert Law was awarded an undisclosed six-figure sum to ‘rebuild his life’ after being given a kidney from a donor with an aggressive form of cancer in 2010.
An autopsy conducted after the transplant surgery revealed that the donor had ‘intravascular B cell lymphoma’, an aggressive disease that normally kills its victims within two years.
Following the diagnosis, Robert Law, 62, of Wirral, Merseyside had to undergo six cycles of chemotherapy. He has been left with aching bones and muscles, neuropathy and cannot walk without the aid of a walking stick and is receiving on-going care and treatment for both physiological and psychological damage. Speaking about his condition, Mr Law said:
"It is like a wasting of the muscles. I don't have any power. I am on various tablets to take away those pains. I am glad to be alive and I just get about in a slower fashion. I tend to wear T-shirts or shirts that are already buttoned up for me. Co-ordination is difficult. I am immunosuppressed and I tend to get any and every ailment going.”
NHS Blood and Transplant has stated that the incident arose from human error. Mistakes were made by a specialist nurse who had not completed the required training and, as a result, Mr Law received a kidney that would, under normal circumstances, have been rejected by his surgeon.
NHS Grampian agreed an out of court settlement in November 2014, to pay an undisclosed six-figure sum to 56-year-old grandmother Ann Milne after she underwent six months of chemotherapy before doctors discovered she was not actually suffering from cancer.
Ann Milne had been misdiagnosed with terminal liver cancer in 2008. Following the diagnosis, she underwent an aggressive form of chemotherapy in an attempt to save her life. Mrs Milne and her husband Graeme were told there was nothing doctors could do to stop the liver cancer and she was given the option of chemotherapy to give her more time with her family.
The fact that she had never had the disease in the first place was discovered a year after a six-month chemotherapy course, during which she was rushed to intensive care when her heart struggled to cope. The unnecessary treatment has also left her with permanent muscle damage, meaning she has to walk with a stick for long distances.
Speaking of her ordeal, the 56-year-old said:
“It has ruined my life, I used to be so full of energy and loved going for long walks with my family but now I struggle to walk a few metres without getting tired.
“The pain my family have been put through – they thought I was going to die, we’ll never be able to get over this.”
When we go to healthcare professionals working within the NHS, we expect to receive help to maintain our health. However, this is not always the case.
With the instance of medical negligence claims increasing dramatically in recent years, it’s clear that the country’s health provision is under increasing strain. Although we can’t tell at the moment what impact this will have on the future of national health in the UK, the fact that life-altering negligence cases like the above are occurring is of growing public concern.
If you have been a victim of medical negligence, don’t suffer in silence. Though any harm done to your health and wellbeing may be irreversible, the effects of flawed or incorrect medical treatment can be long-lasting. Every year, clinical negligence victims are helped to pick up the pieces by receiving compensation for their pain and suffering.
For more information, help or advice about how you could proceed with action following clinical negligence or misdiagnosis, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Your Legal Friend team.