Duty of Candour and the truth

John Bennett
John Bennett

Published: July 20th, 2022

7 min read

An article by Oliver Quick says "Healthcare harm is a global public health problem. The World Health Organization estimates that adverse events in medical settings cause more deaths than lung cancer, diabetes, or road injuries, and that 80% of adverse events are avoidable."

"The additional annual financial cost of providing further care to harmed patients would equate to employing over 2,000 salaried general practitioners (GPs) and 3,500 hospital nurses"

Despite this, lessons are still not being learnt and the Government are proposing the introduction of fixed recoverable legal fees for lower value clinical negligence claims. Whilst it is in everyone's interest to limit the exposure of the NHS to additional costs, those costs often escalate when claims are defended, sometimes necessarily. Fixed costs may restrict Access to justice. Clinical negligence claims are often complex, requiring the input of medical expertise.

Here at Forbes Solicitors, we have conducted many claims over the years where the NHS have denied liability only to go on to admit it in the face of court proceedings. Even when fault is admitted, lengthy and costly arguments can develop about the extent of the damage, harm, and loss the poor treatment has caused.

One way of saving on costs is to be open and honest when things go wrong. Patients are often happy to accept the apology and move on, accepting things can sometimes go wrong. Offering to help with their ongoing problems and support can be a great help. Unfortunately, we come across circumstances where there has been no explanation of what has gone wrong. Patients are discharged and left to fend for themselves. This often drives them to look at alternatives, including instructing lawyers to investigate whether there is a claim.

The NHS duty of Candour has gone some way to address this. However the Government are proposing to introduce a new Health and Care Bill, which may undermine some of the openness and prohibit disclosure of certain information following an NHS safety investigation.

Everyone wants a better and safer NHS. The best policy is to be open and supportive. In the long run it will save costs, time, and effort. We learn from our mistakes and when things go wrong, we should do our best to put them right.

If you, a friend or loved one, have been unfortunate enough to suffer an injury as a result of a medical mistake it may be worth writing to the organisation setting out your concerns. They should acknowledge your letter within a few weeks and provide you with a full written response within a few months. They may call you in to discuss it face to face. Either way we recommend you ask for a response in writing.

If you feel you have been let down or need some help with recovering any losses arising from a medical mistake, please contact one of the team for some no-win, no fee, no obligation advice.

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