A: My husband became ill in February. Our GP referred him for a consultant appointment at the hospital, but he ended up with a video appointment due to coronavirus. As his problem was internal this was little help. He was just told to take antacid medication. His situation worsened but, concerned about pressures on the NHS, he did not want to make a fuss.
Six months on, he has finally seen someone and been diagnosed with terminal cancer, with just months to live. We are both devastated, and I am angry as I believe he could have been treated and his life lengthened if an earlier diagnosis had been made. Would we have a case for clinical negligence? And would bringing a claim seem insensitive during the COVID-19 crisis?
A: The reasons for making claims are numerous. The most important reason is that the hospital will learn from this experience. It will also help give closure and answer questions about the care received.
It is important that the reasons for the failure to diagnose are explored. In the modern spirit of openness hospitals are co-operative and in terms of legal issues are quick to identify what can and cannot be agreed. From that point is where claims can become protracted and difficult – and usually not due to the position taken by the patient or their family.
During this new normal it is even more important that failings are explored and learnt from. The difficulty in all these cases is proving the impact that late diagnosis had on the patient. Perhaps the most appropriate action at this juncture is to ensure you keep a documented record of everything that has happened regarding your husband’s health and what happens in the future, including dates, names of people he dealt with etc. Talking matters through with a solicitor who is experienced in clinical negligence claims will give you a full insight into what you could expect to happen.
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