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Patients who receive poor hospital treatment must “fight for their rights”

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    A health watchdog body has urged patients to become “savvy consumers” rather than “grateful patients”, after a survey showed that less than half of those patients who experience poor hospital treatment report it or complain about it.

    By Simon Elliman

The survey carried out by Healthwatch England, a body set up to act as a patients’ champion earlier this year, suggests that many patients are reluctant to complain because they feel that they ought to be grateful for receiving care at all. Perhaps this is because of the undoubted privilege that we have in the UK of healthcare being to available to all, and free at the point of delivery.

The news that the majority of instances of poor care do not even result in a complaint, let alone a claim for compensation, gives the lie to the suggestion that there is a “compensation culture” amongst patients in this country.

“SAVVY CONSUMERS”?

The NHS Litigation Authority, the body responsible for defending compensation claims against the NHS, may not be pleased at Healthwatch England’s chairwoman Anne Bradley’s urgings for patients to act as “savvy consumers”; it is certainly tempting to imagine NHS chiefs preferring the majority to remain as “grateful patients. But time moves on, and the concept of the paternalistic doctor, who “knows best”, is a thing of the past. Patients, quite rightly, want to be properly consulted about their treatment, and to make informed choices. And if things go wrong, they want to be told that things have gone wrong – the often quoted “duty of candour”.

A LIST OF RIGHTS

Healthwatch has set out a list of rights for patients:

– The right to essential services
– The right to access
– The right to a safe, dignified and quality service
– The right to information and education
– The right to choose
– The right to be listened to
– The right to be involved
– The right to live in a healthy environment

OUR EXPERIENCE

One of the more worrying results from Healthwatch’s survey was that of 2,000 patients surveyed, one in five had experienced poor care. This seems an unacceptably high proportion, certainly, although the definition of “poor care” probably leaves scope for some relatively minor failures in care to have been included. However, certainly it chimes with the experience of solicitors in the Clinical Negligence Team that of these 400 patients less than half reported the shortcomings in care they experienced.

We would applaud Healthwatch’s encouragement to patients to stand up for their rights, and to complain appropriately when standards are not met. It is of course not always the case that a claim for compensation for medical negligence is appropriate wherever there are shortcomings in care, but the more that instances of poor hospital treatment are highlighted, the less likely it is that avoidable injures will occur to patients.

If you have experienced poor hospital treatment then contact the Clinical Negligence Team who can guide you through the options available to you.

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