Negligent Treatment and Proof

In a recent court judgment, lawyers defending two surgeons managed to place the onus on claimants to demonstrate that injuries, where applicable, are due to negligent treatment. Specifically, the defendants – a health care trust and two doctors – did not necessarily need to justify their non-negligence.

Below, we examine some detail of this ruling. Read on as we show how the case emphasises the need for thorough preparation and research in compensation claims for medical negligence.

Collyer vs. Mid Essex Hospitals Services NHS Trust

In February 2014, the plaintiff, a Mr Collyer, underwent a laryngectomy at an Essex hospital. Unfortunately, a nerve injury sustained during the operation resulted in the almost total paralysis of his tongue. However, because such nerve damage was not a recognised medical complication of laryngectomies, the pre-operative literature, disclaimers and consent forms did not warn of this remote but apparently possible eventuality. Moreover, during the court hearing in 2019, the surgeon and the assisting registrar gave evidence to confirm that the surgical procedure was entirely routine.

In the summary of the hearing, the presiding judge noted that even though the nerve damage occurred during surgery, it was such a rare complication that the pre-operative documentation did not mention it. Significantly, the court heard four theories that might have explained the cause(s) of the paralysis. Of the various hypotheses presented for consideration, two involved injuries to the nerves.

After duly considering each of the possible explanations, the judge concluded that the cause of Mr Collyer’s injury was unknown. Moreover, the routine surgical technique and the patient’s anatomy did not give rise to any other explanation for the damage. Consequently, Mr Collyer’s counsel had not proved that the treatment or care he received was substandard.

Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust operates and manages Broomfield Hospital, an acute district general facility in Chelmsford, Essex. According to information published at the time of writing (February 2020) by the Care and Quality Commission, the independent regulator of health and social care in England, Broomfield requires improvement. The CQC is reviewing of quality at the 800-bed hospital, which first opened in 1940. It will publish a report when the investigation is complete.

Support for Medical Negligence Compensation Claims

Unfortunately, although the vast majority of medical procedures lead to successful outcomes, mistakes do still happen. Medical negligence cases might arise from momentary slips or a lack of concentration, even within reputable healthcare providers such as the NHS.

For unbiased expert advice about claiming for negligence during health service treatment, we invite you to contact us. Our experienced solicitors specialise in supporting patients affected by hospital negligence.

Sometimes, the circumstances might mean that proving that the care provided was substandard can be quite challenging. Nevertheless, you can rest assured that when we sue a hospital for negligence, our expert legal and medical team will prepare your case, seek proof and argue your case persuasively in court, ensuring that your legal representation is as straightforward and irrefutable as possible. To discover more, please call for impartial advice and a free initial consultation.

NHS Complaints

Finally, NHS complaints are different from legal proceedings to claim compensation. In fact, under the official health service complaints system, the two alternatives are mutually exclusive. It is not possible to pursue both options.

If you decide to make a complaint regarding negligence within the NHS, which might eventually lead to a non-binding apology, it is necessary to initiate complaint proceedings within six months of the incident or, if later, from noticing the adverse effects – but always within a maximum twelve months.