Hospital Protocols – A Guide for You


What do hospital protocols mean for medical negligence claims? As you might expect, hospitals have internal procedures and rules which they are obliged to follow for different medical situations.

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The protocols can be technical and sometimes difficult to understand for the lay person but they offer members of the public the chance to consider what they can expect to happen in certain scenarios. For medical negligence solicitors like us, they are an opportunity to examine what happened to you in light of what should have happened.

What is a Protocol?

The structure of the guidelines can differ between hospitals, and sometimes between whoever wrote them. They generally contain similar information on how to prepare and carry out a procedure, points for the clinician to consider, and documentation and records they need to make.

Finding, Reading and Understanding the Documents

A quick Google search of your hospital and the word 'protocol' or 'clinical guidelines' can help you find the relevant protocols. By way of example, we've found the Great Ormond Street Hospital's clinical guidelines for measuring a child.

This simple, but real hospital protocol, illustrates clearly the kind of useful information which can be taken from hospital protocols, without being overwhelmed by medical jargon.

The protocols we're using begin by explaining the importance of measuring children, and what certain situations, such as a lack of growth, can mean:

  • "A healthy adequately nourished and emotionally secure child/young person grows at an optimal rate…"
  • "A slow rate of growth could suggest a pathological disorder requiring diagnosis and possible treatment, e.g. malabsorption, an eating disorder…"

The protocol then set’s out each of the procedural steps in measuring a child, detailing all considerations that must be made by the medical staff carrying out the task. To prepare for measuring a child, it is relatively straightforward: explain the procedure, the reasoning behind it, and what it entails. You also have to observe dignity, privacy, and cultural/religious observations.

Based upon the age of the child as well as children with postural problems or other similar medical conditions, different methods or measurement may be more appropriate. For example, any child under the age of 2, or who has trouble standing due to illness or disability, should be measured lying on the back, face up.

What Does it all Mean?

Some guidelines contain a section called the 'Rationale'. In our example, you will see after some of the procedural steps, there is a link to the relevant numbered rationale. This section provides explanations for certain elements of the guidelines. For example, part of the guidelines state, "The positioning of the child/young person is crucial [when measuring them]" and the rationale section explains this with "Poor positioning results in inaccurate measurements." While it's stating the obvious for something like measuring a child, it's easy to see how this information can be helpful when you're looking up the procedure for a medical operation or more complicated procedure.

What We Can Do With This Information

As well as giving you information on what the standard procedure is in the hospital, it can also assists us to see if and where something has gone wrong.

We can take a witness statement from you, and at the same time examine the clinical guidelines. This allows us then to identify specific areas where something may have gone wrong with your medical treatment.

By going through the evidence of your experience, and comparing it to what should arguably have happened, we're able to construct the best possible case for a medical negligence claim.

Financial compensation cannot necessarily put things right where a medical professional has failed in the duty they owe to you to keep you safe. It can help you practically put your life back together, and recompense you for the financial losses you have suffered as a result of the avoidable harm they have caused you.

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