Medical Negligence Solicitors’ Response to Plan for Patients

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Kate Sweeney

Head of Clinical Negligence

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In September 2022, the Health Secretary at the time, Therese Coffey, set out her ‘Plan for Patients’ with the intention of making sure that patients are the top priority within our health system.

As Medical Negligence Solicitors, we’re in complete agreement with the opinion that patients should always be put first but we’re particularly interested in what this will mean in practice and for patients in reality.

In this article, we’ve set out the main proposals put forward as part of the new Plan for Patients as well as giving our own thoughts on whether we think they go far enough to secure patient wellbeing and safety.

If you’ve been affected by medical negligence, our expert team could help you. Get in touch to find out if we can support you on a No Win No Fee basis.

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What are the Main Proposals Outlined in the Plan?

Informing and Empowering Patients

One of the main focuses of the Health Minister’s plan is increasing the role that patients play in decision making around their health and treatment.

The plan states that from November 2022, “easy to use” data will be published that will allow patients to view how many appointments general practices near them are delivering and how long they can expect to wait between booking an appointment and receiving one. The idea behind this is that patients will have the information they need to make a well-balanced decision about which GP is right for them.

There are also plans to empower patients by improving access to medication outside of practice settings. Patients will be informed on “alternative pathways” such as using pharmacies. This will run alongside a new community pharmacy offer that will enable pharmacists to manage and supply more medicines without GP prescriptions.

Prioritising Prevention to Support Healthier Lives

In a bid to improve overall health and reduce demand on the NHS, the Plan for Patients is prioritising prevention. This will involve moving prevention services closer to patients, such as mobile breast screening units and home blood pressure monitoring.

The aim is for 160 community diagnosis centres (CDCs) to be set up by March 2025 in local settings like shopping centres and football stadiums, so that people can get results quicker through faster diagnosis.

The plan also outlines services to support children and reduce the chances of them developing significant mental health problems later in life as half of mental health conditions take root when a child is 14 years old. The government will improve access to NHS talking therapies, expand on children and young people’s mental health services and enhance the support given in schools.

Meeting Public Expectations in Primary Care

Primary care refers to general practices, pharmacies and dentists, and this is how the majority of people experience the NHS. The Plan for Patients has identified primary care as the “foundation” for effective NHS services. The prioritisation of primary care will include:

  • setting an expectation that everyone who requires a GP appointment within two weeks can get one;
  • identifying patients with urgent needs and making sure that they’re seen on the same day;
  • making it easier to contact your GP, this will include opening 31,000 additional phone lines for GP practices;
  • informing patients through the publication of data around appointment waiting times;
  • requiring integrated care boards (ICBs) to hold practices to account and support improvements.

With the prioritisation of primary care, the aim is to ensure that serious health conditions are addressed early, reducing the need for hospital admissions.

Improving Performance and Productivity through Partnership with NHS England

Delays to accessing care has become more of a concern for patients over recent years with many delays taking place at crucial moments where patients are transferred from one care setting to another.

The Plan for Patients has set out four key areas for action to reduce delays and improve performance:

  • Ambulances – reducing delays and response times for people who call 999
  • Backlogs – eliminating waits of over 18 months by April 2023
  • Care – helping people out of hospitals and into social care support with a £500m Adult Social Care Discharge Fund
  • Doctors and dentistry – making it easier to access general practice and dental services

Ministers and the health department will build strong relationships with NHS England to improve patient outcomes and hold the frontline to account whilst helping them to succeed.

Our Thoughts on Health Minister’s New Plan

In our line of work, we regularly speak to people who were unable to access the care they needed soon enough, or who were misdiagnosed, and we know that the consequences of both can be devastating.

We’re pleased to hear that the Plan for Patients has put an emphasis on access to GP appointments and quicker routes to diagnosis. But we’re also aware that even two weeks (the time limit to be put in place for patients to receive an appointment) can make the difference between a disease being easily treatable or more serious.

Dr Scriven, the former president of the Society for Acute Medicine has stated that the plan to have better access to GPs will only be successful with “a plan for resilience”. We also recognise that changes will need to be made in the long term that address workforce and capacity issues in order for primary care to improve over time.

We’ve spoken in the past about ambulance delays within the NHS and we were glad to see that this is one of the priorities laid out in the new Plan for Patients.

Ambulance delays are largely caused by queues at A&E departments, meaning that the number of ambulances available is significantly reduced. The consequences of this can be devastating and we know of multiple cases where patients have died whilst waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

We had hoped that the former Health Minister’s new Plan for Patients was a step in the right direction for improving patient services however unfortunately recent statistics show that not enough is being done to protect patients. 

In November 2023, it was reported that almost 8,000 people were harmed in 2022 as a direct result of enduring long waits for an ambulance or surgery. In addition to this, a total of 112 people died in the same time period as a result of these waits and delays.

Sadly, the fatalities included a man who died of a cardiac arrest after waiting 18 minutes for his 999 call to be answered by the ambulance service and had died by the time the crew arrived.

The figures show that patient deaths arising directly from care delays have risen more than fivefold over the last three years, from 21 in 2019 to 112 last year, as the NHS has come under huge strain. The number of people who came to “severe harm” has also jumped from 96 to 152 during that period. The overall number of people suffering some degree of harm in such circumstances has leapt from 3,979 in 2019 to 7,856 in 2022, which is a rise of 97%.

Commenting on these statistics, the Chief Executive of the Patients Association, Rachel Power, said:

“These data are alarming and show quite clearly the human impact the crisis in the NHS is having on individual patients.”

“We have been watching a disaster unfolding across the NHS and have repeatedly warned about the threat to patient safety because of it.”

The Patients Association is an independent patient charity campaigning for improvements in health and social care for patients. They work with patients directly through a helpline to provide information to thousands of people each year about the health and social care system. In addition to this, they also speak to government, the NHS and other stakeholders about patients' priorities and concerns, to ensure the patient voice is heard and acted upon.

Their purpose is to ensure that everybody can access and benefit from the health and care they need to live well, by ensuring that services are designed and delivered through equal partnership with patients.

Despite this, Trusts are reducing the amount of planned surgery they perform after the government’s refusal to provide a £1 billion bailout to help cover the cost of staff strikes. Power said this would “translate into even more patients waiting for care and potentially coming to harm”.

Data from GP practices in England unfortunately don’t show much of a change in the number of appointments being offered to patients either. Data from NHS Digital shows that 43.9% of appointments at GP practices in England in May 2023 took place on the same day that they were booked. That’s 12 million appointments booked and delivered on the same day by GP practices across the country in one month alone. Looking back a year, or even two years, shows that this figure hasn’t changed much, although there has been a slight downward trend, as this figure previously stood at 44.4% in May 2022 and 44.8% in May 2021.

How We Can Help

If you believe that you have experienced medical negligence, it may be appropriate to seek compensation after going through the official NHS Complaints Procedure. This procedure may assist you in understanding what happened, why certain decisions were taken and/or what went wrong. If you remain unsatisfied by this or believe that you are still entitled to compensation for negligence after going through this process, we’re here to help.

Our team of qualified Medical Negligence Solicitors will undertake all the necessary investigations for you, run your case from start to finish and arrange appointments with all of the appropriate medical specialists. This means that you don’t have to be concerned about the complexity or stress.

Our expert team will regularly provide you with support and clear, straightforward information and advice throughout the whole medical negligence claims process to reassure you and guide you every step of the way.

If you are looking for a no obligation chat about a possible medical negligence claim our friendly and dedicated team is ready and waiting to take your call on 0808 239 6043. Alternatively, you can request a call back and one of our team will contact you as soon as possible.


NHS. (n.d.). How to complain to the NHS. Retrieved from (Accessed: December 30, 2023).

Patients Association. (n.d.). Mission and Vision. Retrieved from (Accessed: December 30, 2023).

NHS Digital. (2023, May). Appointments in General Practice, May 2023. Retrieved from (Accessed: December 30, 2023).

Nuffield Trust. (2023). How long are patients waiting for a GP appointment in England? Retrieved from (Accessed: December 30, 2023).

The Guardian. (2023, November 26). NHS England: Care delays harmed 8,000 people and caused 112 deaths last year. Retrieved from (Accessed: December 30, 2023).

Patients Association. (2023). Primary Care Recovery Plan. Retrieved from (Accessed: December 30, 2023).

Simpson Millar Solicitors. (2022). How Does the NHS Plan to Tackle Ambulance Delays? Retrieved from (Accessed: December 30, 2023).

iNews. (2022). Therese Coffey unveils NHS plan: 7,000 extra hospital beds, £500m social care fund, and new staffing plan. Retrieved from (Accessed: December 30, 2023).

UK Government. (2022). Our plan for patients. Retrieved from (Accessed: December 30, 2023).

Kate Sweeney

Head of Clinical Negligence

Areas of Expertise:
Medical Negligence

Kate has extensive experience both in leadership and in the field of Personal Injury. She has 10 years of experience in Clinical Negligence where she handled a wide range of client files as well as managing and growing the team. For the last 16 years, Kate has worked in the area of Personal Injury, leading the team alongside managing a small caseload.

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