For any medical negligence claim to be made, neglect or error by a healthcare professional has to be proven. There is a difference between complications arising through the illness or injury you have and problems being caused by the treatment you have received. Bad health experiences are not always down to bad healthcare, and that difference is vital when it comes to making medical negligence claims UK.
As far back as human nature goes, people have tried to help other people that were unwell. They did not have the knowledge that we have today and often did not know what was causing the illness. They just tried to treat it the best way they could. In the Middle Ages, for instance, when the Black Death ravaged England killing nearly one third of the population, doctors had no idea what caused it and either gave the sufferers a concoction of herbs or bled them. There were no antibiotics or other drugs to help them cure their patients back then.
It was not until after the Middle Ages that the link was made between illness and a lack of sanitation, until then doctors blaming any health problem on the patient’s bodily fluids. They did have physicians who were university trained, but they also had barbers who acted as surgeons and apothecaries that had medications in with sweets and perfumes that they also sold. In some ways, the safest person to visit if you were ill was the local wise woman who would at least feed you potions made from medicinal herbs. Often they had more knowledge than the local medical professionals, particularly when it came to treating women’s problems and looking after pregnant women.
If any of the doctors, surgeons or apothecaries made a mistake, there was nothing anyone could do. It might have been through substandard care, but back then medical negligence had never been heard of.
Medical Negligence In Victorian Times
There was no NHS in Victorian times but there was the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 which produced a different relationship between doctor and patient. Medical negligence had become a well-known term although it was treated differently to how we handle it today. There were poor law inspectors who determined if a bad standard of care had occurred, and if they found the doctor guilty, punishment was handed down.
The patients could not do much themselves, although they were usually provided with the services of a different doctor to try and help them recover.
Medical Negligence Post World War 2
The biggest change in UK medicine after World War 2 was the creation of the National Health Service (NHS). Free healthcare for everyone was a new concept, and one that is still envied in many developed countries. For the first time, doctors, dentists, opticians, pharmacists, nurses and hospitals all came under one umbrella, providing health care for all, paid for purely by taxation.
The changes made to the system over the last 70 years have been dramatic, the biggest problem it has now being a funding issue. This is partly because the size of the UK population has grown beyond expectations to exceed 66 million, all of them entitled to free health care.
As well as being able to be treated free of charge, the NHS launched some preventative initiatives as well, such as children being vaccinated against polio and diphtheria, which was first launched in 1958.
As new technology has provided more efficient equipment, methods of testing for illnesses and better drugs, you would expect the NHS to run smoothly without errors. For most of the time it does, and the majority of the millions of patients it deals with every year are very grateful for the care they have received. However, sometimes mistakes occur, and they can happen to anyone by any member of the medical profession.
For a long time after the NHS was launched, if a doctor, hospital or anyone else made a mistake, patients just seemed to accept it and try to get on with their lives. They might complain, and the incident would be investigated, and the medical professional dealt with if the patients complaint was proven. Very few patients did little more than make that initial complaint.
Medical Negligence Today
Over the last 2 decades, patients have become more aware of their legal rights, and now many of them use medical negligence solicitors to claim compensation. The huge rise in medical negligence claims has caused some solicitors to break off from more general firms, and develop as special niche of firms such as The Medical Negligence Experts, dedicated to taking only medical negligence claims. The introduction of the no win no fee system has also increased the amount of people claiming, as it allows claimants to use the best medical negligence solicitors without concerning themselves about a bill they cannot afford if their claim is unsuccessful.
It could be a doctor who mistreats an illness, a dentist who misses the signs of oral cancer, an optician who damages the cornea during laser eye surgery, a pharmacist who dispenses the wrong medication and a whole host of other problems. Any healthcare professional that provides substandard care that causes injury or illness to a patient could have to face a claim for medical malpractice. This does not apply just to employees of the NHS, as private clinics, practitioners and hospitals have the same duty of care to provide high quality care for their patients.
The process of making a claim is complex, and it is always recommended that potential claimants should seek advice from medical negligence lawyers. The onus is on the patient to prove that an error was made, and they will need legal experts to help them achieve this. There is not just the pain and suffering to consider. Patients can suffer financial problems from extra expenses or a loss of wages until they have recovered, and those can be recouped as part of a successful medical negligence claim.
Claims take some time to conclude, although most of them are settled before reaching court and that does help the timescale a great deal, and keeps the costs down for the NHS or private practitioner.
Medical Negligence Of Tomorrow
It is hoped that the number of medical negligence claims made in the UK will reduce as technology helps to stops some of these errors happening. Things like computerised medical test results and medical charts will hopefully make a difference. Now the test results and medical records are there for everyone involved to examine before making a diagnosis or offering treatment. No more waiting for them to turn up in the post, they are instantly available on screen.
Testing methods are continually being improved as well so that any illnesses will be found sooner and with more accuracy. Equipment is far superior than it ever was in the past, and new technology brings new innovations in these things all the time. This enables the treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy to be delivered in a much more accurate manner, resulting in fewer mistakes for cancer patients.
Medical negligence will probably never disappear completely, as medical professionals are human and will sometimes make mistakes. However as technology continues to progress, some of those errors will be automatically eradicated, so the future looks brighter for a drop in medical negligence occurrences.