Recently in the news, we’ve seen a woman speak publicly about finding bandages in her body several weeks after giving birth, which was also overlooked by a midwife when she directly asked her about her problems. This brave woman has gone on to speak publicly about her ordeal while the NHS launches an investigation which will hopefully mean nothing like this happens again. It’s a shocking case which makes you ask the question – what do I do if something goes wrong with my treatment?
With the help of experts in NHS claims Your Legal Friend, we’ve pulled together some advice that might help you when you’re at your most uncertain about your healthcare.
What can go wrong?
Like the woman above, issues may arise from something being left in your body when it shouldn’t have been, but that isn’t the only thing that can go wrong with medical treatment. A more common issue with medical errors is misdiagnosis, which means you’ve been told you have a serious condition like cancer when you don’t, or were diagnosed with the wrong type of cancer. Sometimes this can lead to unnecessary procedures or medications, like a mastectomy or chemotherapy, which are good treatments if you need them, but are damaging if wrongly prescribed. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes you may present with symptoms of a condition but they were missed, dismissed, or did not lead to tests being done, meaning you do not get the treatment you need when it might be most effective. Despite this, the rates of serious medical negligence are low, and many cases of medical negligence can be caught early on and sorted before something serious happens to you.
A lot of people aren’t even sure if what they’re experiencing is a problem, just like the woman above, they ask the medical professional they trust and believe their answer, even if their gut tells them otherwise. We find it difficult to question specialists or people we see as authority figures, even more so if we’re feeling vulnerable or embarrassed. So, what next? How do you raise questions about your care?
What can you do?
It can be intimidating, but simply ask questions. The main question should be “why?”. Don’t be afraid to ask “why am I being given this medication?” or “why are you not sending me for further tests?”. If you feel your doctor missed something, try and bring it up with them, but if you don’t feel that’s possible, you can try talking to the person in charge of your GP surgery or get in touch with NHS PALS. You can make a complaint or ask questions at this point this should be dealt with, and most people come away satisfied at this point.
If you feel, however, that what happened to you cannot be solved by an informal complaint or communication with the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (NHS PALS), you can make a formal complaint PALS, to your local hospital trust or to NHS England, Wales or Scotland. At this point, an investigation will most likely be launched but it may take some time for you to get answers, and they may not be what you were hoping for. Now is when most people who’ve been subjected to substandard care look to make a claim.
How to make a claim
Deciding to make a claim is not an easy decision to arrive at for most people as they feel some level of guilt or hesitation at suing the NHS, and we completely understand this. We’re constantly exposed to stories of a failing health system and are told we’re using it incorrectly which makes us feel we’ll do anything to save free access to healthcare – even ignore the mistakes made in our treatment. This shouldn’t be the low standard we hold this necessary and relied upon institution to; we want to keep the NHS but we need to make sure that no one’s health is expendable for “the greater good”. Once you are certain this is the right course of action for you, you can make moves to begin a claim.
Making a claim can is very straightforward, you simply contact a solicitor that specialises in medical negligence, like Your Legal Friend, and give them some basic details of your situation; they can usually tell quite quickly if you have a claim that will succeed or not and will inform you either way. If your case is accepted, you will then provide a statement and copies of medical records will be requested, with your permission – this is how an expert solicitor can find issues with your care and build a case for you. After the case is submitted, it is settled, which is true for the majority of claims made; only 1% of cases against the NHS went to court last year. The final stage sees you receiving compensation and hopefully some acknowledgement of wrongdoing or a change to procedure, however, this is rare and isn’t guaranteed by making a claim, which is frustrating for patients and solicitors.
Hopefully, this article has given you a little more insight into what can be done if your healthcare isn’t up to standard; how to spot it, how to complain and how to make a claim. What else do you want to know about steps to take?