While there are many challenges facing the NHS (aside from the ongoing coronavirus outbreak), the financial impact of medical negligence claims remains one of the most pressing.
Although the volume of claims has remained largely stable over the course of the last two years (apart from a modest 2% increase in 2018/19), the NHS is facing the prospect of paying out £4.3 billion in legal fees to settle outstanding claims in the financial year just gone.
But what are the most commons types of medical negligence claim, and why do these place such a significant burden on the national health service in the UK?
1. Medical Misdiagnosis
Let’s start with medical misdiagnosis, which occurs when a healthcare provider fails to successfully diagnose a condition in a way that leads to unnecessary suffering on behalf of the patient.
This provides the foundation for most medical negligence claims, with as many as one-in-six patients treated by NHS hospitals and GP surgeries misdiagnosed on average.
Medical misdiagnosis falls into two distinct camps; namely where a condition is completely missed and ends up going undiagnosed or where an incorrect diagnosis is made.
In both instances, such clinical errors will lead to the failure to provide adequate treatment, which depending on the severity of the underlying condition can trigger incredibly costly claims and incur life-threatening risks.
2. Surgical Negligence
While the NHS provides exceptional healthcare in most instances. A sustained lack of spending and a fundamental lack of resources has increases the number of surgical errors made nationwide.
Surgical negligence tends to trigger the most serious and costly claims. With certain instances labelled as ‘never events’ as they should never happen and are completely unacceptable in the eyes of the law.
To provide some context. The period between April 1st and October 31st, 2015 saw 79 instances in which surgery was performed. The wrong body part and a further 46 cases where patients retained a foreign object after the operation.
While this type of negligence is incredibly rare. It also triggers the biggest payouts and can often stretch NHS resources to the bone.
3. Prescription and Medication Errors
Every day, hundreds of thousand of prescriptions are written and dispensed throughout the UK. With the vast majority of these processed without error.
However, errors do occur in some instances. Whether you tack the wrong drug or the prescription is wrong
Such errors may be the fault of either the prescribing doctor or the pharmacist administering the prescription. While there may also be some crossover between this type of case and aforementioned medical misdiagnosis claims.
In many instances, such errors are not hugely impactful, although taking the wrong medication. Or a larger than necessary dosage can have a negative effect on a patient’s long-term physical wellbeing.