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‘Never Events’ Continue to Elevate Risk of Clinical Negligence in UK Hospitals

According to data released by health watchdog NHS Improvements, July 2016 saw a continuance in upward trend of “never event” occurrence in UK hospitals, highlighting a worrying trend towards greater risks of clinical negligence facing hospital patients. “Never events” represent critical, catastrophic failures in the delivery of care that rank so seriously they should never in fact be allowed to happen. When they do, patients are left in a position where they may be entitled to clinical negligence compensation as recompense for unnecessary suffering and loss, making it all the more important for a cash-strapped NHS to prevent them, if prevention of suffering is not reason enough. Nonetheless, NHS Improvements recorded no fewer than 31 July Never Events; up three on the preceding month and averaging one for every day of the month.

NHS Trusts Across the UK Continue to Make Serious Errors

Failures serious enough to be classified as Never Events include the likes of surgery being performed on the wrong part of the body, patients foreign objects being left inside patients post-surgery, incorrect medication administration and more. Whilst seemingly fundamental errors to make, it seems that NHS trusts across the UK continue to fail patients in these ways at an alarming rate. July saw a staggering 15 incidents of surgery at the wrong location on patients’ bodies, 4 patients retaining a foreign object post-surgery, 4 incidents of patients being fitted with the wrong implant or prosthesis, 3 incorrect methods of medication administration, 2 incidences of misplaced naso or orogastric tubes, an insulin overdose, 1 count of potassium being administered instead of saline and even a patient overdose of methotrexate whilst undergoing non-cancer treatment. Each one of the incidents represents a potential for clinical negligence, given the serious failing of staff in their duty of care towards the patient(s).

Multiple Surgical Errors Made at UK Hospitals

July’s most notable finding was for Barts Health NHS Trust; which recorded 1 incidence of surgery at the wrong site, and 1 of incorrect medication administration, and the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust; which saw one patient fitted with an incorrect implant / prosthesis and another retain a foreign object post-surgery. The remaining 27 Never Events occurred at hospitals situated across the country, indicating a growing nationwide trend sure to concern patients and clinical negligence solicitors alike. More worrying still, 3 further failures judged to be deserving of Never Event status were reported during July, but were later found to have occurred outside the dates under examination.

July Increase in ‘Never Events’ Suggests a Worrying Trend

July’s increase in rate of “never events” follows on from a similar increase in June 2016, and paints a concerning picture of an NHS struggling to cope, and to provide the necessary standards of care. The incidents cited are fundamental errors indicative of a failure to deliver a reasonable level of care we all would expect as a minimum.
If you or a family member has been affected by a “never event” at your local healthcare provider, you could be entitled to claim clinical negligence compensation. Contact Blackwater Law clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 083 5500, and receive specialist and free initial legal advice from a clinical negligence lawyer.

High Rate of ‘Never Events’ Recorded in Quarter 1 2016

A total of 91 never events were recorded between January and March of 2016, and the high rate of “never events” recorded in Quarter 1 2016 by health watchdog NHS Improvements suggests a worrying trend towards high rates of “never events” happening in NHS hospitals across the country. Defined as failures in care provision so serious and fundamental that they should in fact never happen, “never events” represent a concern not just to patients – who suffer unnecessarily as a result of them – but to healthcare providers and to clinical negligence solicitors, as victims may be entitled to claim medical negligence compensation as a result of their undue suffering and any financial loss. Despite this, the period ranging from the beginning of April to end of June 2016 has seen high rates of never events, to the point where they occurred at least two in every three days on average; a figure that still shows no indication of slowing.

28 ‘Never Events’ Recorded in April

Although much lower than the 38 “never events” that were recorded in October 2015, April records show 28 “never events” occurring in UK hospitals, with the most occurring at Barts Health NHS Trust and Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, who both logged two. Surgery at the wrong site was the most commonly perpetrated failure for this month (eight counts), followed by improper administration of medication (six counts).

22 ‘Never Events’ Logged in May

May saw a total of 22 “never events”, with the worst-offending trusts noted as being Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and Luton and Dunstable University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, who both recorded two “never events”. The most common form of “never event” during April was again related to surgical errors, with surgery being performed on the wrong part of a patient’s body (10 counts) the most common error, with patient retention of a foreign object post-surgery coming in second (four counts).

28 ‘Never Events’ in June

June figures show a total of 28 “never event” occurrences; returning to April’s levels and dismissing the notion that May’s reduction in numbers could be indicative of a trend towards improvement. Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust and York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust stood out with two “never events” each, whilst the most common failures were surgery performed at the wrong site (eight counts), and again; patient retention of a foreign object (seven counts).

High Rate of ‘Never Events’ Recorded in Quarter 1 2016 are Cause for Concern

The figures, gathered from trusts up and down the country, illustrate a nationwide problem that shows no sign of abating, with problems relating to surgery at the wrong body-site and the retention of foreign objects showing up consistently across different regions. Whilst it’s worth remembering these figures form only a small proportion of the total number of operations the NHS carries out every month, the fact that failures deemed so fundamental as to be “never” acceptable continue to happen at rates which are not reducing, is justifiably enough to worry patients, and spur clinical negligence claims to seek medical negligence compensation.

If you or a family member is concerned about the care you have received and the suffering this has caused, contact Blackwater Law Clinical Negligence Solicitors on 0800 083 5500. If you’ve been a victim of poor care from a hospital or GP, you will receive free initial legal advice regarding your potential eligibility to seek clinical negligence compensation.

High Rate of Delayed Diagnoses Amongst Bowel Cancer Patients

A September 2016 study released by the British Journal of Cancer suggests that as many as one in five UK bowel cancer patients identified through emergency diagnoses are exhibiting “red flag symptoms” that should have been picked up at an earlier stage of medical examination. This suggests that there is a high rate of delayed diagnoses amongst bowel cancer patients. As many as 16% are also thought to have seen their GP at least 3 times in the build up to their delayed diagnosis of cancer, implying many patients could potentially be eligible for clinical negligence compensation where GPs may be reasonably culpable for the delayed diagnosis of cancers.

GPs Fail to Identify 35% of Colon Cancer Cases

Researchers from the University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at diagnoses collated from English patients from 2005 to 2006, focusing particularly on the five years preceding their eventual diagnoses of cancer. Amongst a sample size of 1,606 patients gathered from more than 200 nationwide GP practices, it was found that 35% of colon cancers and 15% of rectal cancers were only identified as a result of an emergency presentation, rather than being picked up on by GPs in the years preceding. Of these, 17.5% of colon cancer patients and 23% suffering from rectal cancer were found to be displaying “red flag symptoms”, known to include rectal bleeding, blood in stools, significant changes in bowel habits and sustained stomach pain.

Researchers Claim Delayed Diagnosis of Cancer Could Have Been Avoided

Researchers emphasise that had these red flags been picked up on sooner, patients could have avoided delayed diagnoses of cancer, and had a greater chance of successful treatment; a point iterated by head researcher Cristina Renzi, before issuing the following statement to the BBC:

“…in most cases they [patients] visit their doctor for various reasons multiple times during the months leading up to their diagnosis, which could represent opportunities to diagnose the cancer earlier…”It’s important to find ways to ensure these patients can be diagnosed at an early stage…And this study highlights the need to support GPs and give them the tools to diagnose and refer patients promptly when they feel it’s necessary.”

Opportunities for Early Diagnosis Wasted

As Renzi’s statement highlights, most patients did in fact visit their GP in the period leading up to their diagnosis, regardless of whether or not it would prove to be an emergency one. This supports the notion that the opportunities for an earlier diagnosis may have existed, and that there is indeed a high rate of delayed diagnoses amongst bowel cancer patients across the UK.

Head of Patient Information and Health at Cancer Research UK Dr Julie Sharp also issued the following statement, observing the fact that GPs may often struggle to diagnose the kind of cancers examined in the study because of ambiguous symptoms:

“…research like this, to understand more about people’s symptom histories, is crucial to find better ways to diagnose the disease at an early stage, when treatment is more likely to be successful.”

With such instances of potential misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of cancer amongst some patient demographics, some may understandably worried.

Our Thoughts on the High Rate of Delayed Diagnoses Amongst Bowel Cancer Patients

Commenting on the findings, Jason Brady, clinical negligence solicitor at Blackwater Law in Essex, said:
“It is concerning to see such a high number of cancer diagnoses resulting from emergency presentations when there may have been opportunities to diagnose at an earlier stage.”

If you or a loved one has suffered unnecessarily as a result of delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis, you may be entitled to claim clinical negligence compensation. Contact Blackwater Law clinical negligence solicitors today on 0800 083 5500, for free initial legal advice from a specialist solicitor.

Link Between Traumatic Brain Injury and Criminal Behaviour

Blackwater Law personal injury solicitors advise and represent clients across in the country in relation to claiming compensation for brain injuries sustained in accidents. We therefore keep up to date with the latest commentary surrounding the impact of such injuries on the lives of those affected and found a report published by The Centre for Mental Health into the potential link between traumatic brain injury and criminal behaviour of some interest.

Studies Reveal Link Between Traumatic Brain Injury and Criminal Behaviour

It is documented that there is at least some link between traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and criminal behaviour, including that of a violent nature, in those that suffer from such injuries.

Studies conducted in populations across the globe have identified cognitive and behavioural changes in individuals that have sustained serious brain injuries which heighten the risk of impaired judgement, reduced control over impulses and elevated levels of aggression. These are factors known to be associated with criminal behaviour, and whilst not everyone who has sustained a traumatic brain injury will go on to engage in criminal activity, the evidence illustrated in the report by the Centre for Mental Health is cause for concern.

Multiple TBIs Could Increase the Risk of Violent Behaviour

Estimates now place the proportion of adult offenders aged 18+ who have sustained a TBI at 60%, with the figure for under 18s at 30%. Multiple instances of serious brain injury have been shown to have a cumulative effect, further increasing the risk of criminal behaviour with each subsequent affliction. Offenders with a history of traumatic brain injury have been specifically linked with a higher probability of committing violent crimes, and an increased risk of re-offending.

Further Research Required into the Link between TBIs and Criminal Behaviour

It is worth noting however that the notion of head injuries and criminal offending sharing a common determinant has not been ruled out. Whilst it is safe to associate serious brain injury with an elevated risk of criminal behaviour, the topic is not sufficiently well understood that we can simply state that there is a link between traumatic brain injury and criminal behaviour – common factors may be at play which render some individuals at an increased risk of suffering a brain injury as well as being involved in criminal behaviour.

Additional longitudinal studies are required to assess a causal link, with particular focus being paid to instances where conviction of a criminal offense takes place after a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury, rather than before; as has previously been the case with investigations into prison populations. Should such studies go ahead, findings would have to be compared to controlled matches within the general population. Thus far, studies in the field have also centred largely on US populations, with a greater need for investigation into UK offenders, and those of other nationalities, moving forward.

Recent Study Reveals High Percentage of Offenders with Brain Injury

One such UK sample examined by Pitman et al., 2015, looked at 613 male prisoners on admission to HMP Leeds, and found that more than 76% had experienced more than one brain injury, with 30% having experienced more than five. 70% were found to have sustained a brain injury before committing their first offense, and 41% of those who claimed to have suffered a serious brain injury committed their first offense before the age of 18, as compared to 20% of those who did not. Of those who had suffered a traumatic brain injury, it was also found that 44% had been in prison on five or more occasions, whilst 60% reported to have committed a violent offense, compared to 38% amongst prisoners with no history of brain injury.

Further research is indeed required to develop a comprehensive understanding of the topic and any potential causal link, which would be of significant concern. In the meantime, head and brain injury solicitors should be aware of this report and the potential link between traumatic brain injury and criminal behaviour.

If you or a close friend or relative have suffered a traumatic brain injury, use our brain injury compensation calculator to find out how much compensation you could be entitled to. If you feel that you have a case for compensation, call our brain injury experts on 0800 083 5500 for a free, no-obligation discussion about your case.

Southend Hospital Providing Substandard Care

Southend Hospital is providing substandard care across multiple fields and continues to place patients’ wellbeing at risk, according to a Care Quality Commission (CQC) report made public at the end of July 2016. Having assessed the Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust-site for three days in January 2016, the CQC deemed a number of operational fields at the hospital as “in need of improvement”.

Staffing ratios frequently fell below the standards required to meet patients’ needs, and indeed those set out by NICE guidelines. Whilst hospital authorities were quick to respond when these concerns were highlighted, the CQC still deemed failures to have impacted negatively on patient safety. This issue was compounded by inadequate staff training, deemed by the CQC to have arisen as a result of inadequate safeguarding processes put in place by hospital authorities.

Back in 2013, we reported on the failings of several Essex hospitals – one of which was Southend Hospital – and in June 2014 Southend Hospital was singled-out as having one of the worst A & E departments in the country.

Concerns were also raised in relation to the frequency of serious incidents at the hospital, with the ophthalmology department alone recording 16 during the period examined. What’s more, despite these incidents being accurately recorded, there was limited evidence of procedural and personal lessons being learned, and subsequently little prospect of improved patient safety at the hospital. This may in part have been due to the inconsistent nature of investigations into such incidents, which followed different procedural templates, rarely remained “robust” in their approach and frequently failed to identify key learning points.

Staff at the hospital were also frequently found to be failing to meet their “Duty of Candour” to patients. Essentially, this relates to a policy of openness and apology when failures take place, with patients kept informed and fully supported in such instances. Whilst staff understood the nature of their duties in this respect, few had access to up-to-date literature on the topic and several patients did not receive adequate responses when care fell below acceptable standards. Record-keeping in regards to this issue was also marked as an area of concern, particularly for medical directors.

The CQC also concluded that more clinical input must be put into decisions to cancel operations, and that the trust must invest more effort into clearing the backlog of patients currently on the waiting list for follow-up appointments in in ophthalmology and respiratory services.

One area of particular concern related to the need for better record-keeping in relation to the temperatures of medicine storage rooms. Concerns were raised surrounding whether or not medicines were stored at the correct temperatures, and as such could remain effective or indeed safe.

Whilst the CQC report acknowledges general improvement in care standards at the hospital since their last evaluation, patient safety remains compromised across a number of fields.

Commenting on the report, Jason Brady, clinical negligence solicitor at Essex based law firm Blackwater Law, said:
“Whilst Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust appears to have made improvements, it seems patients are still at risk of receiving sub-standard care and the potential for medical negligence still exists, particularly in departments where there are staffing issues.

“It is also very disappointing to hear of the current reporting practices that fail to provide for effective organisational learning where mistakes are made. Without rigorously investigating, reporting and learning from mistakes, instances of clinical negligence will continue to occur and patients will continue to needlessly suffer as a result. Any instance of avoidable clinical negligence is a tragedy for the patient involved and their family.”

If you or someone close to you has been impacted by substandard care at Southend Hospital, or any other hospital, you may be entitled to seek clinical negligence compensation to cover any on-going care needs, incurred expenses and compensation for pain and suffering.

Contact Blackwater Law clinical negligence solicitors in Essex today on 0800 083 5500 today and receive free initial advice and support before deciding whether to seek recompense. You will speak with a specialist clinical negligence solicitor based in Essex, who will give you expert, free medical negligence claim advice.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

What is Cerebral Palsy, and How Can It Affect Your Child

Cerebral Palsy is the collective term for a wide range of neurological conditions that can afflict a child in the build up to, during or immediately after birth. They relate specifically to the brain and nervous system and have lasting implications on the victim’s ability to coordinate movement, as well as in some cases perform communicative or cognitive tasks. Although appropriate treatment can help victims and their family manage the symptoms of cerebral palsy, there is no known cure.

Main Types of Cerebral Palsy

There are three main categories of Cerebral Palsy. Spastic cerebral palsy occurs in approximately 75-88% of victims, and relates specifically to restricted movement owing to overly stiff or tight muscle tone. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy afflicts around 15% of victims, and refers to a multitude of uncontrollable, sustained and / or involuntary movements as muscles struggle to loosen from a state of stiffness or contraction. Ataxic cerebral palsy is rarer and relates to the inability to accurately and effectively activate the correct muscle patterns during movement, resulting in poor balance and / or spatial awareness. The reality though is that most victims of Cerebral Palsy suffer a mixed form of the condition comprised of two or even all of the aforementioned manifestations.

A wide range of factors can contribute to a child developing cerebral palsy, including infections or complications during pregnancy or birth, genetic mutations relating to the child’s neurological development, internal bleeding of the child’s brain, restriction of oxygen supply to the foetus, or in very rare cases; hereditary acquisition.

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

Symptoms typically appear by the age of about 3, vary in terms of severity from case to case, and can come with associated conditions such as frequent fits / seizures and problems controlling drooling or swallowing (known as Dysphagia). Victims may also struggle to speak and display some learning difficulties, although it’s thought that raw intelligence is not affected by the condition.

Coping with Cerebral Palsy

Families of those affected by the condition must often bear a life-long commitment to caring for the victim, and although some suffer only minor difficulties, many are severely disabled, requiring constant care and supervision. This can take a significant toll on the mental, physical and financial health of all those involved, and as a result groups like can play a vital role in supporting families. This can come in the form of advice, provision of important contacts and in some cases help in securing appropriate legal counsel for the pursuit of cerebral palsy compensation claims. This is applicable where medical professionals might reasonably be judged as being at fault for affliction of a child with the condition.

Cerebral Palsy is not thought to limit life expectancy in its own right, as the affected areas of the brain and neurological system remain unchanged. However, a life spent battling the symptoms of the condition can cause them to worsen, making it ever more important that affected families receive the support they deserve.

Blackwater Law are Here for You

Blackwater Law has clinical negligence solicitors specialising in birthing injury compensation claims, assisting families across the country in seeking compensation for injury or illness afflicted during or after birth by medical error.

For free intimal advice from a specialist clinical negligence lawyer, call Blackwater Law clinical negligence solicitors toady on 0800 083 5500.