Medical Negligence

The impact COVID-19 has had on treatment in Clinical Negligence Cases

November 3, 2022
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By Rhian Oates, April 2022

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK in March 2020, the waiting list for NHS treatment was far from short. Since then, there has been a massive increase on the wait time of patients receiving critical treatment, resulting in more undiagnosed cases and needless deaths.

Following each lockdown, the number of people waiting for treatment with the NHS grew substantially and continues to do so. 

The Growing of Backlog Care

The British Medical Association (BMA) estimates that between April 2020 and October 2021 there were 4.13 million fewer elective procedures and 28.62 million fewer outpatient attendances within the NHS.

The delay in services since March 2020 has not only affected those testing positive for COVID-19 needing medical care, but also for other patients who see no point in seeking out a crucial diagnosis or much-needed treatment because they fear they will never be seen or feel guilted into not burdening the NHS further.

Staff Shortages and Covid-19 as a Defense in Clinical Negligence Claims

We have seen retired and student doctors being asked to work due to the recognised staff shortages in the hospitals. The General Medical Counsel understand that different considerations will need to be applied when investigating complaints. The question is how different should those considerations be?

Whether the pandemic can be a recognised defense for the delay or omission of treatment has been an ongoing debate over the last 2 years. It is our role at Fletcher’s to ensure we argue that any life lost or prolonged suffering due to the pandemic delays in treatment receives the justice it deserves.

Though the courts may be reluctant to make findings against the NHS in the time of the pandemic, each case is assessed and considered based on its own merits, so it does not rule out a favorable opinion for the Claimant.

The Impact on Clinical Negligence Cases

There is a 3-year limitation period in personal injury and clinical negligence claims. This means that if the Claimant is an adult at the time of the negligence, they have 3 years to bring about the claim from either the date of the negligence, or the date of them finding out about the negligence. If the Claimant is a minor, the 3-year limitation period starts from their 18th birthday.

The impact of COVID-19 in hospitals not only interrupts treatment, but due to staff shortages it subsequently also means that administration tasks such as disclosure of records and corresponding with the hospitals is taking a lot longer than previous. This is putting more pressure on limitation periods and means that claimant’s must ensure they are able to provide their solicitors with enough time to investigate the claims.

If you think you have suffered as a result of substandard or delayed medical treatment, then we can help. Speak to us today for free legal advice on 0330 013 0251.

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