03 March 2020

Long-term' impact of hospital delays on patients and their families

Liam May Senior Associate
Hospital Delays

Delays in the diagnosis of serious medical conditions and the subsequent treatments can have a long-term impact on NHS patients and their families, says a medical negligence lawyer.

The effects of such incidents are seen first-hand by legal experts - called upon when those suffering feel they are not getting adequate answers from the health service.

Liam May, a solicitor within the Medical Negligence team at Wilkin Chapman solicitors, spoke out after two recent reports. The first, from the Care Quality Commission, (CQC), revealed how the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust would remain in special measures, after an inspection found concerns over the safety of services and patients.

The second, released this week, showed that the same trust paid out more than £13m in medical negligence claims last year – a figure that includes actual damage along with defence and claimant costs. Its counterpart in Lincolnshire, the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, faced a £19.274 million bill last year, again including the relevant costs. That was down from £29.994 million in claims for the previous 12 months and hospital chiefs stressed that the payments were covered by an insurance premium which is paid each year to NHS Resolution.

Liam believes the two above reports are intrinsically linked with better performing hospitals being able to make a quicker and more accurate diagnosis, which in turn will see negligence claims fall. He called for a continued focus upon hospitals’ abilities to detect patients’ health conditions early and act upon diagnosis.

Problems surrounding staff retention and training, along with a lack of communication with agency workers and contract companies, had also been noted by the Wilkin Chapman Medical Negligence team as it supported patients. This, added Liam, often contributed to the delays in initial diagnosis and necessary treatment.

“Delays to diagnosis can have a significant impact on the treatment and recovery of a patient resulting in long term health issues, and we have direct experience of such. The wider impact of this can lead to patients suffering financially, with some seeing their careers ended. There can also be breakdowns in family relationships and the long-term psychological effects of such issues can also be very real and long-lasting,” said Liam.

“The compensation payable as a result of medical negligence claims can be significant, particularly for patients who require long term care and who suffer financially as a result of being out of work. As the second report shows, collectively the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust and the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust paid out more than £20m in damages last year,” added Liam.

Time and time again, stressed Liam, lawyers were approached by patients who were not receiving the information they wanted from the hospitals, notwithstanding complaints being raised.

“We see patients frustrated when they feel they are not getting satisfactory answers. They feel that, while investigations are held into their complaints, they are not being conducted from a patient’s perspective,” he said.

Recognising the improvements that were highlighted by the Foundation Trust, which runs Scunthorpe General Hospital and Grimsby’s Diana Princess of Wales Hospital, after the CQC report, Liam stressed the need for a continued learning of key lessons.

“We do see the same issues being raised time and time again, more often resulting from the communication that exists between relevant departments and the breakdown of such, which leads to unnecessary delays which is rightly deemed as unacceptable by patients,” added Liam.

Liam May, Wilkin Chapman LLP
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