28 November 2021

Opinion from Adrian Leopard & Co

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Should the NHS be liable for deaths of patients?
Adrian Leopard 209

Should the NHS be liable for deaths of patients?

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The trouble is that everyone wants someone to be responsible no matter what the problem is

The increase in fatalities in the NHS has raised the question about whether members of the NHS staff should be liable for deaths when they have to make what are potentially life and death decisions about who to treat, for example if there are two patients and only one ventilator.

But there is a bigger picture still and that is whether a free service provided by the taxpayer should be liable at all for the deaths of patients. The burden on the tax payer is bad enough without the prospect of claims for damages in the case of an avoidable death.

At the moment NHS staff are protected financially from clinical negligence claims by indemnity scheme where the states meets the costs.

Of course all professional people will know of the Sword of Damocles which hovers over them in their professional work and this is why they carry professional indemnity insurance. Such insurance is compulsory in most professions and it can be very expensive, especially if a renewal is due after a claim is notified. Insurance is never very fair, is it?

It is easy to see that there is a real difference between a properly run professional organisation and a free for all like the NHS where everyone just wants service without having to pay for it. Where it gets difficult is where the staff are no longer provided with adequate resources to carry out the work required or where they are simply overwhelmed which is what is feared in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic. And it certainly gets more difficult where a simple decision has to be taken – to treat or not to treat. How can a doctor justify the decision he takes? Whichever way it goes, someone is not going to be happy.

Of course there should always be protection of the public against criminal negligence but the definition of this is going to be very difficult. The whole area of professional negligence is really rather difficult especially when someone can be found liable for negligent advice given free of charge in a bar! Strange that people think they can get free advice and then sue when it turns out to be wrong.

Adrian Leopard 16-01-21

Photo Steve Allison

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Adrian Leopard & Company is the trading name of Alderney Offshore Ltd, a company registered in Alderney, Channel Islands number 1220.

Address P O Box 1027, Alderney GY9 3AS

Registered Office Seldomin, Longis Road, Alderney GY9 3YB.

Adrian Leopard & Co is represented in the UK by 3CL (UK) Ltd trading as Adrian Leopard Associates.

Telephone enquiries may be made on 08449-4-08449 or 01684-230360.

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