The NHS treats over 1 million patients every day. Most receive good care but mistakes and accidents inevitably occur from time to time. HM Government statistics suggest that 1 in 10 patients suffer some form of 'Untoward Incident' although in most cases it does not cause loss of life.
NHS Trusts have an obligation to identify 'Serious Untoward Incidents', and to investigate them and report.
With all my years of experience as a Clinical Negligence Solicitor, I can say that not all these incidents, which include medical accidents, are recognised at the time let alone properly investigated.
For example, I represented a 39 year-old man who suffered a devastating and disabling brain injury after doctors failed to carry out a planned investigation. Not only did the Hospital Trust fail to identify the medical mistake at the time, but the response to a complaint contained a smoke-screen of irrelevant detail, completely failing to comment on the key error. The treating Clinician even said that if the same circumstances arose again she would not do anything differently. For details about this case please click here.
The object of Serious Untoward Incident 'reporting' is to learn from past mistakes. In my experience these reports are not particularly common and they vary in quality. Some Serious Untoward Incident reports are frank and honest about medical mistakes and clinical errors. Some are vague. In the worst reports that I have read, the recommendations are management-speak waffle full of good intentions although far too vague to make any difference to patient care at all.
When patients think they may have suffered injury as a result of medical negligence, it's important to make a written complaint to the NHS Hospital Trust, insisting that a Serious Untoward Incident investigation starts as soon as possible.
Paul Sankey is a Principal Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers. He is an accredited expert in representing victims of medical accidents and a member of the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel and Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA) Panel.
If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence issue, or for legal advice about a Serious Untoward Incident, call our Clinical Negligence Lawyers for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online.