The Real Cost of NHS Litigation: Basma's Story
It has come to light that in the past 5 years the NHS has wasted £1.125 billion fighting claims and failing to accept responsibility for the harm they have caused to victims of medical negligence. This has resulted in years of hardship for victims needing to fight their case in court, and often has a detrimental effect on mental health, with worsened symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The Government now hopes to cap the victims' costs at a percentage of the damages recovered. A Specialist Medical Negligence Solicitor
and Partner at Simpson Millar LLP recently helped a client who would otherwise have been denied access to justice under these proposals. Basma, speaks out about why the proposals will only cause more anguish for victims.
"On 5th February 2009 I slipped on a wet pavement and fell awkwardly with my left leg bent underneath me and my knee twisted. Afterwards my knee was so painful I was unable to walk on it. I contacted my GP, Dr Bedford and made an appointment to see her on 16th February 2009, which was the first available date I could see her. The doctor failed to examine my knee properly and because of this, I was not referred for an x-ray.""In fact, I had an undiagnosed displaced fracture of the head of my fibula which occurred at the time of my fall. This fracture was not diagnosed until May 2009, 3 months later, when I had an MRI scan on my knee. By that time I had been struggling to get about for 3 months on a broken knee and in the most excruciating pain."
Support from Simpson Millar
"I contacted, a lawyer at Simpson Millar for advice. He was very sympathetic and thought I had a good case in negligence against my GP. He wrote a letter of claim on my behalf to my GP and I could not believe it when she denied she had been negligent! The only way for me to obtain access to justice was to take my GP to Court. This was the last thing I ever wanted to do because I liked my GP, who I had always found to be very sympathetic."
"After a bitterly fought Court case lasting 5 days, the Judge found that my GP had been negligent and I was awarded damages of £9,000. The cost of having to take my GP to Court because she refused to admit her mistake was considerable and in excess of £250,000."
Toll on Mental Health
"My lawyer worked very hard on my behalf to obtain the justice to which I was entitled. The government's proposals to cap costs at a percentage of the victim's damages cannot work whilst Doctors refuse to be honest and open and admit mistakes when made. If the government's proposals pass, cases like mine can no longer be brought, denying victims of doctor's negligence access to justice.""My GP’s refusal to admit her mistake and then forcing me to go through 5 years of litigation and a bitterly fought Court case at the end of it took an enormous toll on my mental health. At times I was quite simply sick with worry and unable to sleep.""The government appears to be saying that I should have given up on my claim when by GP refused to admit she had made a mistake. That is not right, it's not fair and it's not access to justice".
Denying Access to Justice
The solution to the problem of the cost of litigation is that the NHS must start accepting responsibility for the harm they cause through medical negligence
. Capping costs will only further victimise those who have needlessly suffered harm."Basma would not have been able to bring her claim if the Government's plans for capping costs goes through. She would quite simply have been denied access to justice.""This government must stop attacking those harmed by medical blunders and those who fight every day for justice on their behalf and address the real issues."