There can be no doubt that our National Health Service is a cornerstone upon which our national identity has been built since its introduction in 1948. We cannot imagine life without it! We place such huge trust in its staff that it is vital it runs effectively and efficiently.
At the moment, we all know the NHS is under extreme pressure with staff shortages, under-funding and long waiting lists. Resolving the issue is not an overnight fix, and in the meantime we still expect to receive proper treatment. However, mistakes do get made – and unlike in most other jobs, even small errors can lead to major problems for patients.
If such mistakes are made, what can a patient do about it? Do they just sue the NHS? We look at the options below.
“Well they’re doing their best, considering”
People often feel guilty or nervous about making a complaint about medical professionals. Sometimes it is because they know the NHS is overstretched; other times we just assume the doctor knows best. Who are we to question the diagnosis or treatment we receive?! However, if you feel that you haven’t received the proper attention, or have been made worse by the course of action taken, you should not be afraid to raise concerns.
It is even more important to raise those concerns if the consequences of the potential error are serious. For instance, if cancer is not spotted during tests or scans, the delay in diagnosis could be disastrous. It is absolutely not appropriate just to shrug and attribute the mistake to a doctor’s busy schedule.
See you in court?
Starting a personal injury claim for medical negligence is just one option available to patients. Whilst it is an important step in recovering financial compensation, it is not the only way to hold the NHS to account.
Indeed, the NHS itself encourages patients to give feedback and to raise any issues. After all, they do not deliberately make mistakes in their treatment. But, if they do happen, they generally look to learn from it and avoid it happening again.
The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) was established to allow patients the chance to voice their concerns. Upon receipt of a complaint, the Trust will investigate the case and see whether they agree that mistakes were made. If they do agree, the Trust will often change its practices to ensure the error never happens again. Further, if they accept they were at fault, it makes the personal injury claim process much easier – meaning damages can be recovered more quickly for the injured person.
When we receive medical negligence instructions, we always check to see what steps a patient has taken themselves. We usually advise a client to pursue a PALS complaint before we proceed with a personal injury claim; it reduces any risk of criticism from the NHS that we have jumped straight into litigation.
Taking it higher
If the result of the PALS complaint is not satisfactory, a patient can escalate the case to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). The PHSO is an independent body responsible for handling unresolved complaints. It has authority to recommend changes to procedures, as well as to order financial awards to be paid to patients.
If the PHSO upholds your complaint, it can have a huge influence on the prospects of your personal injury claim succeeding. Therefore, it can be a very important step.
The outcomes from the above process can assist massively in how a claim is handled, so it is in your best interests to follow the complaints procedure first. Not only does it show that you have been reasonable in trying to resolve the problem, but also it gives the NHS every opportunity to handle it quickly and efficiently.
Proceeding through the courts should only be considered if all other options are exhausted. That does not mean you should not bring a claim: the vast majority of settlements never require the court getting involved.
Therefore, in order to help yourself, we will always consider whether you should explore the PALS or PHSO complaints procedure before we start your medical negligence claim. It may the whole claim process a lot easier at an already traumatic time.
Tel: 01924 692125
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