If inadequate maternity care led to your baby being stillborn or dying shortly after birth, wouldn’t you want answers as to why it happened? Wouldn’t you want someone to take responsibility for the mistake that caused it? And wouldn’t you want the hospital to make changes to help avoid the same mistakes happening to other babies?
The parents who come to us for help after such a tragedy, do so to make their voices heard. The financial compensation – which is part of the legal process of making a medical negligence claim – isn’t a windfall. In fact, whilst the cases that often hit the headlines are the six or seven figure sums (which contribute towards either lifetime care needs or loss of earnings or both), in the majority of cases – which include stillbirths, baby deaths and deaths of the elderly – the compensation awarded to the families is less than £25,000.
Proposals will deny access to justice for many injured patients
However, recent proposals from the Government will mean that people whose claims are worth less than £25,000 be unable to get legal representation, because of the costs of bringing a case. At Gadsby Wicks we, along with patient safety experts and campaigners, are concerned that this will lead to a lack of learning from mistakes and, ultimately – in the case of stillbirth and neo-natal deaths – a further reduction in safety and competence in maternity care and delivery.
NHS can reduce legal costs by admitting liability earlier
“Reducing legal costs is, obviously, in everyone’s interests,” says Alan Mendham of Gadsby Wicks. “But denying injured patients access to justice because of the compensation value of their claim is short-sighted and puts the emphasis in cutting costs on the wrong area. The NHS needs to do more to learn from claims and to stop making the same errors over and over again.
“Legal costs are pushed up when hospitals and NHS Trusts drag out claims by not admitting liability when the case is clear, or when they wait until the 11th hour before settling a claim.”
Access to justice for preventable baby deaths helps improve learning and safety
Any health system needs to ensure that patient safety is at the top of their agenda and fostering a culture of learning is key to that. At a time when the UK has worryingly high stillbirth rates – at 33rd out of 35 in the developed world – and maternity care is under pressure, it is essential that patients retain their legal right to challenge negligent treatment. As specialists in our field, we will continue to help people and their families get their voices heard.
If your baby suffered health problems or was stillborn because of inadequate maternity care, talk in confidence to our specialists about whether you may have a medical negligence claim. Call 0800 321 3112 or click here to make an enquiry
Alan Mendham is also a member of the executive committee of the Society for Clinical Injury Lawyers (SCIL), a professional organisation of specialist medical negligence claimant lawyers who work closely with other interested parties to campaign on improving patient safety.
See also a recent article in The Telegraph Blunders behind NHS baby deaths risk cover-ups under new plansPosted 4th August 2017 | Posted in Birth Injury,Birth Injury to babies,Legal news,Neo-natal death and stillbirth