Medical Negligence Shake-Up

10th June 2009
By catherine in Medical Malpractice
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It is estimated that one in tewnty people in the UK feel dissatisfied with the diagnosis or treatment they are given by a doctor or GP.

As a result, 7,000 people each year make a medical negligence compensation claim because of the pain and ill health they have suffered, at the hands of a negligent practitioner.

Injury lawyer, Jeremy Newson highlighted the rise in clinical errors, when he said: "Some years ago, cases involving medical negligence were comparatively rare. But more and more frequently, we are helping clients recover significant damages as the result of clinical accidents and mishaps that have ruined their lives."

Doctor overdose error

A current medical negligence case has come into light, displaying just how common medical mishaps have become.

It has been revealed that the company which hired a doctor, who accidentally killed a patient on his first UK shift, providing out-of-hours cover, will lose its contract with the local NHS.

Cambridgeshire NHS, the health authority which was responsible, has guaranteed that "tough questions" will be asked to all the future firms who want to bid to run the services, including close examination of their induction procedures for staff and policies on the safe use of controlled drugs.

The reform comes after Doctor Daniel Ubani, killed a patient by prescribing an overdose of diamorphine in February last year.

All the cases involved Take Care Now, the company that hired the doctor, when he was on his first UK shift, who had administered a dose of the prescribed drug 10 times the normal recommendation level to the 70-year-old patient.

Laurence Vick, the head of medical negligence at a law firm stated: "Throughout this saga we have been concerned about the healthcare companies' recruitment policies," he says.

"Doctors employed from abroad by the companies on short-term contracts to carry our work for the NHS far too often are either inappropriately qualified for the work they are required to carry out or not inducted properly.

"Yet people's lives are at risk when the procedures go wrong, as the tragic case of the elderly man, only too vividly demonstrated," he stated.

Whistle-blower aid needed

A Welsh doctor believes he has the answer to clamp down on clinical negligence. He stated that a culture change to encourage whistle-blowing is required to protect patients and clinicians in Britain.

Peter Gooderham, is a retired practicing physician and is working toward a Ph.D at Cardiff Law School.

He noted that whilst patients expect doctors to protect them from potential harm, there is only limited cover that is actually available for whistle-blowers.

Gooderham said that hospital attitudes must change against whistle-blowers, if the system is to clean itself up and clamp down on negligence.

However, he stated that whistle-blowers are commonly made to feel that they are the problem and may even find themselves the subject of complaints and could face disciplinary action.

An example of this is an anesthetist, who exposed preventable deaths in children having heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary. His career was stalled when he published the findings and he had to leave the country along with his claims which were "cavalierly dismissed."

During a recent investigation into poor standards of care at a British hospital, staff were criticised for operating a "culture of silence."

"However", Gooderham says such criticisms "may worsen the situation by exacerbating a culture not just of silence, but of fear."
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