A pledge in today’s Queen’s Speech to establish an ‘independent body’ to investigate serious healthcare incidents has been welcomed by one of the region’s leading legal authorities on clinical and medical negligence.
While the details have yet to be revealed, the announcement formed part of this morning’s speech, which is the first under Boris Johnson’s leadership and was presented at the state opening of Parliament.
The idea of an independent body to look at serious NHS incidents was raised back in 2015 in a House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee report. Called ‘Investigating Clinical Incidents in the NHS’, it highlighted how there were 12,000 avoidable hospital deaths every year in the UK, with more than 10,000 serious incidents reported to NHS England. It went on to say how patients and NHS staff ‘deserve to have untoward clinical incidents investigated immediately at a local level, so that facts and evidence are established early, without the need to find blame, and regardless of whether a complaint has been raised’.
Just last year, figures revealed how United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, (ULHT), paid out compensation and legal fees totalling more than £90million, which at that time made it England’s seventh costliest trust out of 258.
Jonathan Baker, a senior solicitor within the Medical Negligence team at Wilkin Chapman solicitors, supported this most recent announcement as a way in which staff, patients and their relatives can feel reassured of independent and thorough investigations.
“Whilst serious incidents are fortunately rare, when they do occur, it is essential for everyone involved, including professionals and the affected families, to understand what happened and why. Sometimes when complaining to the hospital directly, people can feel as though they are not told the full story,” said Jonathan, whose clinical negligence team has been praised once again in the 2019 Legal 500 for its dedication in ‘leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit of justice’. The Legal 500 is a comprehensive directory of law firms, using extensive research and clients’ experiences, to rank organisations.
“An independent body can look at everything, to ensure that, where appropriate, lessons are learnt, and action can be put in place for the future to either stop the event happening again, or at least minimise the risk of it occurring. In doing so, it can also ensure that those affected can have all their concerns addressed from someone not directly involved in what happened. This is why in medical negligence cases, we seek the opinion of independent medical experts, who do not know those involved, to comment on the care provided; keeping it as objective as possible,” he added.