An interesting new Study of Medical Negligence Claiming in Scotland was recently published (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0039/00394437.pdf). Its main findings included:
Patient grievances appear to involve an often complex and overlapping mix of concerns about communication breakdown, poor staff attitudes, inadequate general care and generally feeling disempowered. However it was felt that the complaints system is not geared towards addressing these issues.
The main source of dissatisfaction around the complaints process was insufficient explanations, which pursuers suggested was the primary motivation for pursuing a claim. Another motivation was to protect other patients from similar expes.
In those cases which do settle, the cost of dealing with the claim often exceeds the award. At the lower end of cases, the costs of a no-fault scheme would be similar to the existing scheme, while at the upper end costs in a typical year could increase by one half
A no-fault scheme will not necessarily address non-clinical aspects of care, and this may leave some patients continuing to feel disgruntled. It is important therefore that any new scheme is tied into the entire process including the complaints process by which patients attempt to resolve disputes.
All of this is interesting and comes as little surprise to those of us who have followed medical negligence claims over the years. The need for explanation, reassurance and acknowledgement is well recognised in these sorts of claims and was identified in the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s 2001 report on mediation in the health sector.
It is a pity that more has not been done in the intervening period to spare patients, their families and medical staff the prolonged anxiety and uncertainty (not to mention the cost to the public purse) which medical claims can bring. This report must now surely focus minds on finding better ways of doing things.