It’s Never Easy Claiming Against the NHS
Medical Negligence Expert John Pollitt comments on Covid-19, Cancer, Postponed Operations and the struggle facing claimants after a year of change.
“We ought to take pride in the fact that, despite our financial and economic anxieties, we are still able to do the most civilised thing in the world - put the welfare of the sick in front of every other consideration.” Aneurin Bevan
The NHS is a marvellous thing, the brainchild of Bevan it is envied worldwide and our support for the NHS during the past year and the Covid-19 pandemic has been unprecedented. We’ve clapped them weekly all summer, welcomed vaccines for frontline staff and admired their resilience and bravery in putting themselves on the frontline every day.
But there has to come a time when we also question the cancelled appointments and delayed surgeries, the postponed life-saving treatments that sadly now mean patients can only expect palliative care instead of curative solutions.
Delaying hip or knee replacements mean patients will suffer unpleasant symptoms longer, but delaying cancer surgery can be the difference between life and death.
Recent figures reveal that the number of patients diagnosed with cancer fell by a quarter from April to September last year and with survival rates for most cancers improved if they’re caught early this really is a time bomb for the NHS and for patients and their families.
Cancer.net claims that early localised diagnosis of bowel cancer can mean a 90% survival rate, however if it spreads this drops to 70% and this is for just one type of cancer. Multiply it by many more percentages for breast, lung and other common cancers and it really is going to be the next huge problem facing patients and the NHS.
Patients and their families call us and are quite rightly concerned about all these cancelled operations. In an eight month period from April to November last year 35,488 fewer patients started chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Even this year the figures are startling, with 800 cancer operations cancelled in January according to Public Health England (PHE).
The report by PHE’s National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service, revealed the gloomy figures.
At the same time, medical negligence claims have been falling during the pandemic. This could be because of our love affair with the NHS, our sympathy for doctors, logistical issues caused by us all being isolated and most essentially our reluctance to make a claim against doctors and other health professionals.
Figures from the Compensation Recovery Unit show 8,839 medical negligence claims in 2020, a 45% fall on the previous year.
The downturn reflects our experience and chimes with the perception that victims of medical negligence can be slow to claim. The vast majority of claimants are motivated to shed light on mistakes in the hope of improving standards. Whilst understandably sympathetic to the pressures placed on the NHS they also seek explanations for adverse outcomes and a sense of accountability.
I doubt that any right thinking person would object to any of this or would want to deny access to justice. When cases do proceed a responsible solicitor will have all these claimant objectives in mind.
We are all too aware of the pressure our hospitals are under and maybe the reluctance to pursue a claim is there now. Sadly I am sure these latest figures and this cancelled care will come back to haunt us in the missed diagnosis and treatments for thousands of patients, only then will self-preservation and a need to look after our families kick in and the long term financial care and support needed will make us all question what has happened in 2020/21 and how we can now get some advice on the best way forward.Subscribe to our newsletter
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