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'Compensation culture' or 'lessons to be learned'?

View profile for Robert Dempsey
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In response to the recent article in the Lincolnshire Reporter, (“Lincolnshire hospitals payout over £30 million for medical negligence”), and as a medical negligence solicitor at Roythornes, I felt the attached screenshot could not be more telling.

Whilst everyone recognises pressures on the NHS, as long as there is ongoing medical negligence, there will be medical negligence claims to right any wrongs.

It should be remembered negligence does not mean simple errors or mistakes but the medical profession failing to meet the standards they set themselves.

It is encouraging that, by reference to the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) figures, the vast majority of that £30 million goes to compensating victims of clinical negligence.  This will cover loss of earnings, ongoing care and medical treatment.  If these costs are not recovered as part of a medical negligence claim, claims will become dependent upon the social care system and the burden would again fall back to the public purse in any case. 

Whilst the article is largely balanced, there is a risk that headlines of this nature, and the unsupported suggestion within the article that “there is a rising trend of compensation claims nationally”, lend credence to the myth of a “compensation culture”.  As the article suggests, lessons must be learned, but not only by  the medical profession in seeking to reduce avoidable errors, but by anyone left with the impression opportunistic claimants are putting an unfair burden on the NHS.

In my experience of dealing with medical negligence claims, it is abundantly clear people would rather be in a position whereby they did not need to bring a claim in the first place. Nobody seeks treatment expecting things to go wrong. If they do however, it is important to know guidance and support is available in seeking a remedy.