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Medical mistakes: what to do

Gail Waller, Associate Solicitor at medical negligence specialists Mayo Wynne Baxter ( said she has seen an increase among local people concerned about medical blunders which have led to unnecessary harm and injury. 

And she has called on anyone affected to take steps to raise complaints which can help prevent anyone else being harmed and could lead to compensation to help with future care costs. 

She was speaking after a Coroner concluded that an East London woman’s death from sepsis could have been avoided if hospital staff had followed sepsis assessment guidelines. Instead, she was misdiagnosed as having muscle sprain and given painkillers.

The case came soon after another in which a South East London woman died after sepsis related to a cat scratch was wrong diagnosed.

While both cases involved sepsis, Ms Waller stressed that medical negligence can occur in a wide variety of situations – from poor clinical decisions to failing to offer patients full treatment options so they can make informed decisions about their care. 

She said: “We are seeing cases of babies being injured in childbirth and facing a lifetime of disability, neo-natal deaths, still births, delayed cancer diagnosis, amputations, surgical mistakes, prescription errors, fatalities and brain injuries – to name just a few. 

“People can die or have life-changing injuries as a result of medical errors, and it is only right that people should be compensated when things go wrong.”

She urged local people who believe they may have been affected by a medical failure to take up the firm’s offer of a free initial consultation.

While most people tend to agree the NHS, in general, does a good job, accidents and mistakes can happen – last year medical negligence payments exceeded £2bn. 

The amount paid out to families and patients saw a rise of 50% on the previous year. 

However, despite rising complaints and compensation payments, Ms Waller said there appears to be worrying signs of similar issues being raised time and again – particularly in maternity cases - suggesting deep rooted issues within some areas of the NHS. 

She said: “For example, we consistently see obstetric cases that result in a baby dying or being injured at birth.

“We can see patterns in which the baby is in distress, the baby’s heart rate decelerating and one midwife looking after several women and running from room to room. 

“These kinds of cases can result in multi-million-pound compensation payments to help families cope with the costs of caring for an injured child for the rest of their lives.” 

She added that some people might not be fully aware that they have received poor care which has had had a detrimental impact on their health.

“In recent years there has been a shift towards greater patient autonomy. Patients should be able to give informed consent to treatment after being offered all the information about the risks and benefits, rather than just being told by the doctor ‘this is what you need’,” she pointed out. 

Mayo Wynne Baxter’s medical negligence team is led by a former nurse and has decades of experience in dealing with healthcare complaints. 

The practice has been rated by the prestigious Chambers and Partners Directory as the top-ranking legal firm in the south-east for medical negligence cases. 

Ms Waller added: “People are becoming more aware of the NHS complaints procedure. 

“However we know some people can be put off the idea of taking action against the NHS and potentially receiving money from the service. 

“However, taking action can help ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to someone else and help cover what can be substantial costs for future care.”

As well as its Crawley base, Mayo Wynne Baxter has offices in Brighton, Eastbourne, East Grinstead, Forest Row, Lewes, Pulborough, Seaford and Storrington.

Mayo Wynne Baxter legal specialists offer a free initial consultation to discuss potential medical negligence claims. Find out more here