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December 9th 2015

Hospital Negligence

‘Wall of silence’ over hospital blunders demonstrates need for families to have access to full legal support

‘Wall of silence’ over hospital blunders demonstrates need for families to have access to full legal support

By Simon Wilson, senior solicitor at Hudgell Solicitors

By Simon Wilson, senior solicitor at Hudgell Solicitors

A report by the NHS Ombudsman has concluded that families in the UK are being met with a ‘wall of silence’ when seeking answers after a loved one has died or been harmed due to ‘serious errors.’

It states that in more than half of 150 cases reviewed following official complaints, the NHS failed to carry out an independent investigation, with medics instead asked to review the blunders of their colleagues.

One in five NHS investigations were found to have been missing crucial evidence, including medical records, statements or interviews. In 73 per cent of cases in which the Ombudsman found clear failings in care, hospitals themselves had found none.

It is a hardly a report to instil confidence in the ‘transparency’ of the NHS under the Duty of Candour pushed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

And it is a report which will shock many people, leading to Joyce Robins, of Patient Concern, labelling it a ‘culture of cover up’ across the NHS.

As experts in handling cases of medical negligence, our team here at Hudgell Solicitors are all too aware of the difficulties families are faced with when seeking answers from NHS Trusts following serious errors in hospitals.

Too often, relatives’ complaints are simply dismissed and mistakes are denied, even though there have been clear errors and negligent care.

At Hudgell Solicitors, we pride ourselves in fighting for those people who have been badly let down. We are determined to get the answers, and to ensure our clients are fully compensated.

It is often only when starting legal proceedings that families get to the truth.

As medical negligence compensation experts, our teams are able to instruct independent medical reviews and gather opinions from senior doctors and surgeons over the care provided.

Often, the conclusions of these highly-qualified, independent medical experts are very different to those doctors at the hospitals involved.

It is by gathering expert evidence such as this which usually forces the hand of the Trust involved to finally admit fault and liability, perhaps even offer an apology, and then begin to discuss a possible compensation settlement.

Unfortunately, this culture of denial has a massive financial impact.

Despite obvious failings and clear negligence, many Trusts appear to take a stance of denying any blame until the final possible moment, only admitting to their errors when a date in court appears on the horizon.

Unfortunately, by then, costs have naturally spiralled in building the victim’s case, as not only have a number of experts needed to be consulted, but barristers will have been instructed, and insurance will have been taken out to cover the cost of running the case.

These spiralling costs have seen the finger of blame wrongly pointed in the direction of legal firms such as ourselves, the people who are representing families who have seen a loved one either suffer harm, or even death, through avoidable errors.

There is talk of introducing a limit on the legal costs which can be claimed from the NHS in such cases, but it is our firm belief that such a move would only encourage a greater ‘wall of silence’ across the NHS, knowing that they could effectively make it impossible for legal experts to instruct the experts needed to fully scrutinise their work, and hold them to account.

We believe this reported has highlighted this issue strongly.

People must have a right to be represented fully when they or their family members have been the victims of poor, sub-standard medical care.

At no time should patients be priced out of holding the NHS to account.

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