The Health Secretary, Andrew Langley’s proposed NHS reforms have come under fierce criticism. I read an article in the Times and was particularly interested in the comments regarding the NHS’ alleged priorities for next year which include fining hospital for failing to end mixed sex wards.
Despite a spate of criticism, one of Langley’s central objectives is to focus on quality of care. The idea is that better care will lead to faster recovery, reducing demands on hospitals, saving money.
This focus on patient dignity can only be commended. It reminded me of the numerous enquiries we receive from devastated widows complaining of appalling nursing care. The complaints are commonly about elderly wards. We hear tragic stories of malnourishment, inadequate pain relief and patients not being bathed for days.
Unfortunately, we frequently have to turn these cases down. In a clinical negligence claim you have to establish both breach of duty and causation. That is that the nurses fell below an acceptable standard and that the breach led to an injury. Invariably these cases are stark examples of substandard care and we are confident that we would be able to establish a breach of duty. However, we are unable to prove that the poor care directly caused their death. It is simply too difficult to prove that their death was not caused by something else. Therefore any claim would fail. This leaves the bereaved robbed of their loved one, with no redress.
Often the bereaved entirely accept that their loved one’s death was inevitable. Their complaint is that the last days were made miserable by poor care. If these reforms successfully bring about an improvement in standards; restoring dignity and privacy for patients, it can only be a good thing.Iona Millais is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, or email email@example.com and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch