Another nail in the coffin of good medical care, free to all at the point of access?

Collapsed Carillion construction and services company which went into compulsory liquidation on Monday 15 January 2018 has forced the already ailing NHS to trigger emergency contingency plans across 14 hospital trusts, just to maintain essential services, not least maintenance, catering, cleaning and portering services. There will also be a halt to ongoing construction of two new NHS hospitals for the time being.

All this as the NHS comes under worst winter pressures for a decade, with bed occupancy running well above safe operating levels making cleaning and portering services even more essential

We are advised by NHS Improvement, the organisation responsible for overseeing foundation trusts and NHS trusts and supporting them to give patients consistently safe, high quality and compassionate care in financially sustainable systems that contingency plans are in place to meet short term challenges such as this. It is difficult to see how, although it appears staff has been deployed to the 6 largest hospital sites to offer assistance but other contingency plans promised are woefully short on detail

It does not require the skills of a prophet to foresee that there is a significant risk of spiralling medical negligence claims arising from this latest catastrophe where solutions include recruiting the good will of unqualified medical students to man pressured accident and emergency departments.

Against this apocalyptic scenario the legal test for medical negligence has not changed, nor is it likely to. The Claimant must only show that the standard of care he has received has fallen below that which should be expected – not a gold standard – just a reasonable standard – and that he has suffered resultant harm or loss. This week’s news engenders the fear that reducing the burden of claims on the NHS budget is an increasingly unlikely pipe dream.

 

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