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Firm influence national medical practice

13.04.2012

Claire Levene of Barcan+Kirby Solicitors explains how making a claim can protect others and inform clinical practice. As a result of her work patients undergoing weight loss surgery will now receive potentially life saving follow up.

Many of our clients tell us that their primary motivation in instructing Barcan Woodward to act on their behalf, whether that be in connection with an inquest or a clinical negligence claim for compensation, is for the doctor or hospital involved in their care or the care of their loved one, to realise that a mistake has been made and for steps to be taken to prevent this from happening again to another person or family.

Both clinical negligence litigation and the inquest process can play an important role in improving clinical standards.

The NHS Litigation Authority which handles clinical negligence claims against NHS organisations states that its key function is to “contribute to the incentives for reducing the number of negligent or preventable incidents” and that this is achieved through “an extensive risk management programme”.

From 1 April 2010 it became compulsory for NHS trusts in England to report all serious patient safety incidents to the Care Quality Commission as part of the Care Quality Commission registration process.

Serious patient safety incident reports are made to the NHS National Reporting & Learning System (NRLS) which was established in 2003. The system enables patient safety incident reports to be submitted to a national database. The data collated is then analysed to identify hazards, risks and opportunities to improve the safety of patient care.

It is understood that since the NRLS was established, over four million incident reports have been submitted by healthcare staff. The NRLS is intended to provide a national perspective on risks and hazards so that this information can be used to improve patient safety at a local level.

It is not uncommon for us to discover during the course of our clinical negligence and inquest work to find that NHS bodies have changed their procedures to improve patient care and to reduce the risks to patients in the future.

However, we find, not infrequently, that until we get involved on a client’s behalf, whether that be in connection with an inquest or a clinical negligence claim, serious issues of patient safety have gone unrecognised. This often arises in cases where treatment has been provided to a patient at more than 1 hospital or clinic.

We recently acted on behalf of a family in connection with an inquest into the death of a young woman who died a number of years after having undergone bariatric (weight-loss) surgery.

Following the inquest the coroner made a number of recommendations to the NHS National Patient Safety Agency. It is understood that in light of the information provided by the coroner the NPSA has issued a ‘signal’ document making the following recommendations:

• All post bariatric (weight-loss) surgery patients are followed up for life.
• Any patient who has had gastric bypass surgery and who is not under the regular review of the hospital bariatric team should continue to take multivitamin and nutritional supplements
• Patients who go on to suffer health problems should be referred back to the bariatric (weight-loss) surgery centre at which they were originally treated.
‘Signals’ are notifications of key risks emerging from review of serious incidents reported to the NHS National Reporting & Learning System.

These recommendations would not have been made but for the legal process and it is clear that as a result of the lessons learned steps are being taken to improve patient safety and clinical standards.

For more information about this subject, or to obtain advice about your clinical negligence case, contact the Clinical Negligence Team on 0117 925 8080.

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