By: 11 December 2015
NHS failure to investigate over 1,000 unexpected deaths is no surprise to clinical negligence lawyers, says Ed Fletcher

News that the NHS has failed to investigate the unexpected deaths of more than 1,000 people since 2011 has come as no surprise to clinical negligence lawyers, according to Ed Fletcher.

The CEO of medical negligence and serious injury law firm, Fletchers Solicitors, has said that the way in which the NHS often approaches patient complaints, even when they involve serious injury through negligent care and treatment, is far from perfect.

“The introduction of The Duty of Candour in 2014 was meant to lead to a fundamental change in approach, requiring medical practitioners and institutions to quickly own up when mistakes were made,” said Fletcher.

“This was not only to prevent future harm to others, but also to help reduce the ever-rising legal bill faced by the NHS (£1.3 billion and rising) by avoiding unnecessarily protracted legal disputes.

“However the recent report from Dame Julie Mellor, the parliamentary and health service Ombudsmen, confirmed what professionals dealing with claims already know, that the duty of candour remains a myth.”

In 73% of cases investigated by Dame Mellor’s office, where there was a clear breach of a duty of care, the hospital had concluded no fault existed. Fletcher said that if this attitude and lack of transparency doesn’t change, then more people are going to continue to suffer.

“It is crucial that this issue is tackled now before government potentially introduces fixed fees in clinical negligence cases worth lower than £250,000,” added Fletcher.

“Such measures will make it impossible to fund lengthy legal battles to establish the truth of what happened to patients injured as a result of negligence. And, in doing so, raises grave concerns that many victims of medical negligence could be left without any means of obtaining compensation for their injuries.”

He also said that fixed fees could become “a shield” for negligent doctors and surgeons to hide behind, as challenging such claims could become unsustainable for law firms to take on and investigate.