You may have heard in the news recently…
You may have heard in the news recently about the allegations against two midwives at Furness General Hospital and how their actions fell below standard and actually led to the deaths of four babies.
Marie Ratcliffe admitted mistakes which contributed to the deaths of a baby girl in 2004 and a baby boy in 2008 www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-32481192. Jennifer Bowns admitted failings in relation to two baby deaths in 2011 www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-25959106.
Everybody knows that our doctors and nurses work under immense pressure and by and large do a fantastic job. On a daily basis they are faced with a whole range of patients with different problems and they are expected and required to diagnose, treat and fix these problems. But did you ever stop to think about how difficult it is to accurately diagnose, treat and fix these problems? A person has a headache: is it just a headache or are they about to have a stroke? A person has chest pain: is it indigestion or are they about to have a heart attack? They work in a very high pressure environment and they know that getting things wrong can potentially ruin peoples’ lives, and sometimes lead to peoples’ deaths.
Whilst most people leave hospital in a better condition than when they arrived, some people leave hospital having to begin dealing with the consequences of mistakes. Mistakes can relate to all manner of things, but the most significant usually relate to wrong diagnoses (which can lead to people being given the wrong treatment and proper treatment being delayed), and treatment errors (such as during surgery).
Very often, incorrect diagnoses and surgery errors are caused by earlier, minor mistakes. For instance, some of the allegations Marie Ratcliffe admitted to included failing to document her actions and failing to request assistance from a doctor.
It is extremely important that doctors and nurses record all of their actions and all relevant information in a patient’s notes, including the patient’s description of the symptoms and history of the problem, what medication may have been given and the accurate recording of test results. Failing to do so can lead to a wrong diagnosis and wrong treatment.
It is also extremely important that specialist assistance is sought as soon as it is apparent that a patient needs to see a specialist or that the treating doctor or nurse may be out of their depth. Hence, a GP refers a patient to a hospital specialist, or an A&E doctor refers a patient to a specialist ward. Failing to refer when appropriate or at all can lead to wrong diagnosis and treatment and can sometimes lead to the death of a patient.
As Clinical Negligence Solicitors we represent patients whose lives have been affected by medical mistakes. Each case requires a very in-depth investigation into exactly what happened. Often, thousands of pages of medical records need to be meticulously reviewed. Sometimes the success of a case can depend on a single sentence in all of those records and it is our job to find it, understand it, and use it to win our client’s case.
But we are not claim-hungry lawyers trying to capitalise on every slight error a doctor or nurse may make. We receive a lot of enquiries for cases that we do not take on. The law actually allows for certain mistakes to happen because medical treatment is by nature difficult, risky and high pressure. For instance, spinal surgery is extremely risky and something could go wrong, but it may not be negligence. In such cases we advise our clients that they do not have a case. But where the mistake is such that the doctor’s actions have fallen below the standard to be expected of a reasonably competent doctor in their field, we will take on that case and run it to a successful conclusion, whether that be at trial or by way of out of court settlement, standing with our client all the way.
If you have received treatment from your GP or hospital – including private hospitals – and you feel that something has gone wrong and you are now dealing with the consequences, please call us for a free, no obligation consultation. We will advise you on whether or not you have a case, and if you do have a case, how it should be pursued and the funding options available to you. All cases are run on a no win, no fee basis.
Written by Dominic Jones,
Solicitor from Clinical Negligence Department