I read with interest that the General Medical Council (GMC) has recently released figures revealing that complaints against doctors have increased by 40 per cent in the past 3 years, with more than half regarding verbal abuse or rudeness. Whilst the majority of healthcare professionals carry out their jobs with the utmost care and respect given to patients, unfortunately it is the cases involving a lack of sympathy and rudeness which stick in peoples' minds.
One of my cases immediately sprung to mind. My client was treated at the Stafford Hospital, which last year was at the centre of one of the biggest medical negligence scandals to hit the healthcare system. It is thought that potentially 1200 patients treated there could have died due to poor care.
My client presented to the Stafford Hospital back in 2009 with a fractured wrist. She underwent a manipulation under anaesthetic and a plaster of Paris cast was applied. As soon as my client came round from the anaesthetic, she knew that something was not right. She was in excruciating pain and immediately asked the nurses to remove her plaster cast as it felt far too tight and was hurting her. The pain was so bad that it often reduced her to tears and would stop her sleeping at night. Despite attending the plaster room on several occasions complaining that her cast was too tight, she felt like nobody was listening to her or believed her. It was only at an appointment 6 weeks later that the cast was removed to reveal a pressure sore the size of a two pence piece at the base of her thumb, which was so deep that bone was visible. Despite this, no one apologised for not having listened to her repeated complaints. It also subsequently transpired that the wrist had been set incorrectly and my client had to undergo a second operation to have a plate inserted in her wrist.
Despite the fact that there were various failings in her care, the main thing that has stuck in my client's mind is the fact that no one listened to her complaints. In her own words, she was made to feel invisible. I get the impression from many of my clients that if they were treated with more care and respect at the outset, and offered an apology for their poor care; they would probably not go on to pursue a claim. It therefore seems like simple things such care, kindness and sympathy could potentially save the NHS millions in compensation pay-outs each year. Michelle Woolls 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, fill in our short online claim form or email firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.