The NHS employs dedicated doctors and nurses to provide dedicated full time care. Even the Hippocratic Oath contains the words “I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage”.
Things go wrong in hospitals; sometimes there are accidents and no-one is to blame but sometimes injuries occur because someone has been careless.
When that happens, a legal claim might begin. Files will be passed from the medical staff to the NHS Litigation Authority, the NHS legal arm.
Their ethical stand point is at times along way removed from that of their medical colleagues.
We are acting for the family of a man, who in his early 60’s succumbed to lung cancer. He passed away late last year. The tumour in his lung had been missed on an x-ray in 2010. The hospital had done an internal investigation and probably know very well who had misread the scan.
We asked for a formal admission of negligence. Our client was desperate for an urgent response; he knew he was dying and wanted to be certain that somebody would be accountable, that his family would be compensated and that lessons would be learned.
The response from the NHS Litigation Authority is that our client would ‘get a reply when they were ready’, and not before.
The legal response arrived last week, months late, and negligence was admitted. The claim for the family will succeed, but our client never had the comfort of knowing this.
The NHS Litigation Authority probably sees this as a job well done, but it would be interesting to sit them across the table from this man’s family and ask them to explain why their father’s death wasn’t important enough to investigate promptly.