By Chris Gooderidge, Senior Medical Negligence Lawyer at Neil Hudgell Solicitors.
It’s never good reading of yet more allegations of blunders at Wexham Park Hospital, Slough in Berkshire. As a lawyer, who lives in the Thames Valley and over the years has dealt with many claims for medical negligence against members of the hospital’s staff, I know at first hand the suffering and heartache endured by many patients.
The complaints we encounter are wide-ranging but clients past and present all have a common expectation: to be treated competently and with care by professionals. Instead, as revealed in this latest report by the InPractice medical consultancy, whose findings were announced by the Heatherwood and Wexham Park Trust and reported in the Daily Mail, 48 cases of “possible harm” to patients had not been properly investigated. In addition, according to the Mail, the hospital has announced checks on the death rates for its 70 surgeons.
Sadly, I am not surprised by these findings as they are confirmed by the experience I’ve accumulated since I started specialising in medical negligence cases in Slough over 20 years ago. As local solicitors specialising in complex medical negligence claims, my colleague Karen McCarthy and I were regularly the first port of call by patients traumatised by their experiences at Wexham Park. In the last two decades we have dealt with some frightening cases including birth trauma incidents, failures in Accident and Emergency treatment and orthopaedic care.
So many of my Wexham Park clients are too ill or so adversely affected by their situation that they are unable to travel to my office. So, even though we are now located in central London, Karen and I often consult in a client’s own home. In many cases, this often informs the claim and helps to build a fuller picture of the impact the negligence has had on their lives and those of their families. Perhaps adaptations have to be made to the home to help clients with impaired mobility or extra nursing support is required to ensure the right level of care to a patient damaged by a medic’s lack of skill or care.
A constant plea from many victims of medical negligence is that a similar fate doesn’t befall someone else and that lessons are learned through their suffering. One heartening change that I have observed over the years is that Wexham Park does appear able to make improvements. In my view, this is not a hospital with a culture of wilful negligence and it’s certainly not on a par with the situation in Mid Staffordshire. Thankfully, we are now being approached with fewer claims relating to poor maternity care, for example, and I am sure that the bravery of many clients in making complaints and lodging complaints against the hospital has contributed to the reduction in this type of case.
The NHS can be brilliant and, when it works, it works well. Patients presume they will receive the best care possible. However, sadly, as the ongoing problems at Wexham Park demonstrate, in some cases a large gap persists between what’s expected and the reality.
Chris Gooderidge is a Fellow of APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) and a member of The Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel, The Pan European Organisation of Personal Injury Lawyers, and The American Association for Justice, The Birth Trauma Group and The Global Justice Network.