The stark warnings surrounding the precarious state of the NHS seem to grow louder by the day, as the health service struggles to contend with rising demand and dwindling resources.
Widespread breaches of performance targets, chronic understaffing and huge overspends by hospitals suggest that the NHS is heading back to the visible decline it last experienced in the 1990s.
But as experts and politicians try to find a way to fix the problem, the solution must not be to penalise patients who have already been failed by the system, as has been mooted in recent days.
Last week, health service leaders called on the Government to boost NHS coffers by cutting the cost of compensation payments following clinical errors.
In a joint letter to the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary David Gauke, the NHS Confederation, the British Medical Association and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges warned that the increase in negligence claims is “unsustainable and means that vast amounts of resources, which could be used more effectively, have to be diverted elsewhere”.
The letter, which was also signed by the chairman of the Family Doctor Association and the chief executives of the Medical Protection Society, Medical Defence Union and Medical and Dental
Defence Union of Scotland, claims that while the NHS in England spent £1.7 billion on claims last year, the estimated total liabilities – which is the cost if all current claims are successful – were £65bn.
However, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, a national not-for-profit campaign group of which Gotelee is a member, says the award of compensation is not a lottery win – it is calculated to the penny to provide for ongoing care and to attempt, in whatever way is possible, to enable the victim to live as independent a life as possible.
While the desire to protect the NHS from the current funding crisis is understandable, penalising injured patients and their families is not the answer.
The proponents are suggesting picking on some of the most vulnerable people in the country to foot the bill — people who placed their trust in the NHS but found themselves or their loved ones severely harmed or even killed through negligent treatment — rather than calling on the Government to invest in better patient safety to prevent the blunders happening in the first place, and funding the NHS properly.
As Peter Walsh, Chief Executive of Action Against Medical Accidents, says: “It is ignorant and uncaring to suggest that people who have been harmed or have lost loved ones as a result of NHS negligence should forfeit the compensation they need and deserve because the Government is not prepared to invest enough in patient safety or NHS services.”
How can Gotelee help?
When mistakes are made and the duty of care to which patients are entitled is not met, it’s important to hold the health service to account.
Making a claim could result in financial help to deal with the consequences of an error and could go some way to ensuring the same mistake isn’t repeated.
Gotelee has a wealth of experience in this area and can advise you whether or not you have the basis of a claim. If you do, our solicitors in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Felixstowe, Woodbridge or Melton can support you through the process.
To find out more, call us on 01473 298125.