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New figures have revealed that an increasing number of serious incidents relating to sub-optimal care have been taking place across NHS trusts in England, giving rise to a potential growth in the number of medical negligence claims as a result.
Serious incidents are defined as adverse events in healthcare whereby the consequences to patients, families and carers, staff or organisations are so significant or the potential for learning is so great that a heightened level of response is justified. This includes acts or omissions in care that may result in unexpected or avoidable death, unexpected or avoidable injury, abuse or instances where there may be a loss of confidence in the organisations ability to provide healthcare to an acceptable standard.
During the financial year 2017-2018 there were 636 serious incidents recorded against the category of the sub-optimal care of deteriorating patients in hospitals across NHS England. This marks an increase of 10% from 580 in 2015-2016. The increase in these incidents may result in a higher number of patients seeking a hospital negligence claim should they have suffered as a result of poor care.
Similar increases can also be seen across the 54 mental health trusts in England, who have recorded 106 serious incidents for sub-optimal care, marking an increase of 16%. The increase in such serious incidents may result in those affected pursuing a mental health care compensation claim. The increase is dramatically higher for ambulance trusts who have shown an increase of 28% to 119 incidents of a similar nature during 2017-2018 when compared to 93 in 2016-2017.
The sub-optimal care of the deteriorating patient is not the only category of serious incident to show an increase as serious incidents relating to treatment delays increased to 1,515 in 2017-2019 compared to 1,027 in the same period the previous year. Additionally, hospital trusts have shown an increase in serious incidents relating to surgery or other invasive procedures by 16% during the past two years. Diagnostic incidents which amongst others includes delays and a failure to act on test results increased by 28% to 1,195 incidents. These serious incidents encompass a range of potential failings which may have catastrophic effects on patients and their families. In instances where a patient’s outcome has been directly impacted by delays, families and loved ones may seek a delayed diagnosis claim for compensation.
Unfortunately, the figures, which are believed to have been leaked, do not detail the extent of the injuries that resulted due to the serious incident so this is unknown. In some cases, there may have been no injury at all, however, serious incidents do also include deaths or serious harm – both of which are likely to have lasting effects on the families and loved ones of those affected. Those who have suffered as a result may wish to seek a serious incident claim as a result. This is particularly true should the incident have been recorded as a never event – events that are so major that they should never have taken place, in these instances where medical negligence has taken place it may be possible to pursue a never event claim.