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Crisis in NHS emergency care? Clinical Negligence Solicitor Laura Morgan discusses

The NHS’s strength comes from it being a comprehensive healthcare system. Private care may take place in more comfortable hospitals but what it can lack is the joined-up NHS service.

As a private patient you do have to rely on each hospital consultant and each private hospital communicating with each other, but in the NHS we assume that this happens automatically. That is why it is so worrying when we see headlines like “Doctors hit back as GPs blamed for crisis in A&E”, the Times 26 April 2013, “The GP’s Cushy Deal Means We’re All Left to Suffer in Casualty” Sunday Times 28 April 2013, and when the Royal College of Nursing annual meeting warns that A&E units are struggling with rising numbers and talk of “Safari rounds” – the term used to describe efforts by nurses and doctors to find patients who have been lost in hospitals in an increasingly chaotic emergency service.

Accident & Emergency Departments deal on the whole with acute conditions; it is there we turn when we have a health crisis. Crises by definition cannot be planned so the system has to be sufficiently flexible to deal when crises come all in one go. Getting A&E provision wrong increases the risk for medical accidents and A & E negligence claims in all areas within the NHS.  

As a Clinical Negligence Lawyer I know that the Accident & Emergency Department staff need time and resources to carefully consider signs and symptoms that have led a patient to attend if they are to provide the standard of treatment that patients have the right to expect, and clinicians want to offer.  Depriving these Accident & Emergency departments of these resources can lead to them missing serious life threatening conditions such as sepsis or a Brain Injury requiring urgent treatment, the wrong diagnosis, missed fractures, musculoskeletal conditions diagnosed rather than myocardial infarction, inappropriate discharge home, and dangerously long waiting times. If the Accident & Emergency cannot function properly patients are at risk of correspondence to GP’s and consultants going astray or being inaccurate, all administrative errors which can have catastrophic consequences leading to serious injury and even death as a result of Clinical Negligence.

It is no surprise that Accident & Emergency Departments are fertile ground for Clinical Negligence Claims properly brought by injured patients. Whilst it is only those that result in significant injury or death that reputable specialist lawyers will be able to take forward. There are many medical accidents that do not lead to litigation. Slater and Gordon see all too many of these cases.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Age UK last week that the pressure on Accident & Emergency Departments was the biggest operational challenge facing the NHS. However, due to recent health service changes the GP’s out of hours service is now the responsibility of NHS England rather than the Department of Health, we would be right to ask whether such a separation suggests a sensible approach to this huge operational challenge.

Whatever the cause for the current and justified concerns about the standard of care in our hospitals’ Accident & Emergency Departments, and many explanations have been offered including; ageing population, poor out of hours service, lack of beds for admitting patients, increased patient expectations, increased medical treatment available for people living longer with complex medical conditions resulting in them going back and forth to hospital more frequently, unless the NHS gets it right there will be more A & E negligence claims and more people’s lives will be devastated as a result.  

If you or a family member have been affected by poor treatment in Accident & Emergency at your local hospital please contact Laura Morgan on 0161 3833 619 to discuss whether we can help you.

Click here for more information on Accident & Emergency Claims and Hospital Negligence.