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Healthcare, is this for real?

There are a lot of headlines around at the moment involving the performance of care homes, hospitals, individual surgeons, the NHS itself and whether or not they are regulated properly. Unfortunately, behind all these headlines, are real people and families affected by treatment and care that has gone wrong.

Those people, will in all likelihood, find themselves in a situation that is distressing and unfamiliar to them and which puts them under a great deal of pressure perhaps from the health point of view and financially.

So what do you do if you find yourself in this situation?

1. Your health is the priority

The most important thing is to make sure your health is sorted out. If something has gone wrong this needs to be corrected if possible. So speak to your doctor; ask for a second opinion; ask to be transferred to another hospital or clinic.

2. Make a record

Write down what has happened to you. Start keeping a record or diary of what is happening to you and take photographs of injuries and what caused them. Keep copies of all correspondence sent and received and notes of any meetings you attend. Have someone with you to take notes and assist you when attending meetings. All of this will help you later.

3. Protect your financial position

If you find that you are not able to work because of what has happened you will be under financial pressure. Speak with your employer to see what they can do to assist you. Seek advice regarding benefits available to you in your situation. Contact the Citizens Advice Bureau – they will be able to advise and assist you as to benefits that may be available.

4. Talk to someone

You will need advice and support so speak with your family and friends. You are unlikely to have been the first in your situation and there are many support groups that exist who can help. A search on the internet will put you in touch.

When the dust has settled however you will in all likelihood want to know what went wrong and find out what you can do about it.

5. Ask what happened and why

First of all ask the person or organisation that provided your treatment for an explanation as to what happened. Ask them for an apology.

6. Complain

If you are still unhappy or you don’t receive an explanation the next port of call is the NHS Complaints Procedure. Ask your doctor or hospital for details of how to pursue this. This will involve putting your complaint and any questions you have, in writing. Your complaint will be investigated and an explanation given to you in writing and perhaps an apology.

If your treatment was privately arranged then make your complaint to the treating organisation under the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service Code of Practice.

7. Get your medical records

You might want to see your own medical records or if a patient has died the personal representatives can apply. Under the Data Protection Act you have a right to them. Ask the care provider for copies.

8. Tell the coroner

If a patient has died you should also contact the local coroner who may be able to investigate the circumstances of the death and arrange an inquest.

9. Recover your losses and compensation

You may also wish to claim compensation for what has happened particularly if it has left you and your family out of pocket. For this you should contact a specialist solicitor to assist you with the claim. Your solicitor will assist you in investigating what happened and if there are good grounds to do so obtain compensation for your pain and suffering, reimbursement for lost earnings and the costs of future treatment. If a patient has died, bereavement damages may also be available. There are many sources of assistance in financing a claim made through a solicitor which avoid you having to pay legal costs.

10. Time limits

Watch the time limits. Generally you have three years from the date of the incident to make a claim. There are exceptions for children (who have up to three years from their 18th birthday to bring a claim); for those who cannot manage their own affairs because of a mental disability and other limited circumstances. A solicitor will advise you.

Neil Hudgell Solicitors are clinical negligence specialists and can assist you with all of these matters

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