Transparency is the key to reducing claims!

I was interested to read the headline on BBC News yesterday that the NHS in England face a pay out of £4.3bn for Clinical Negligence compensation claims. Putting aside the veracity of the numbers, as a practicing Clinical Negligence lawyer, I wanted to reflect on the secondary angle of the story; that is, that behind every such claim, real lives have been drastically altered in each and every one of these cases.

Clients who have experienced life-changing injuries as a result of medical errors want, above and beyond everything, answers to what went wrong. However, it seems that seeking answers or clarity from Hospital Trusts, consultants, nurses and/or staff can prove to be difficult with no-one wanting to take responsibility for their actions, or even at the very least, offer an apology for the events that have taken place. Compensation is an inevitable consequence of pursuing a claim BUT it is by no means the driving motivation for the majority of clients.

The tragic case of Hayden Nguyen, reported by the BBC, strongly emphasises my point: “In the face of official silence and in a bid to get answers they took legal action”.

I have seen this repeated many times in my practice and believe it to be very typical of authorities and medical institutions seeking to, at best, prevent clarity and in the worst cases obfuscate or hide. Whilst this is understandable as no-body wants to highlight or emphasise their mistakes/errors, it serves to exacerbate a difficult situation.

It is of course understandable that concerns are raised when contributions from Hospitals into the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts are rapidly increasing. However, it is my strong contention that the increased level in claims would be reduced most significantly by a dramatic increase in transparency from the Hospitals when things go wrong. Such an improvement will undoubtedly reduce the number of people who seek legal redress purely to understand what went wrong in the case of their loved one!

Clare Gooch