When most of us think of medical negligence, we think of a doctor whose work isn’t up to scratch. They might be incompetent, lazy, or a poor match for the profession. To be sure, cases like this aren’t unheard of. But this kind of problem represents just a small portion of the overall bulk of medical negligence in the UK.
So what other forms might medical negligence take? Let’s have a look.
Care homes for the elderly are charged with looking after some of the more medically sensitive members of the population. Residents often have highly specialised needs, and a failure to account for those needs can amount to medical negligence. In some cases, the details of neglect cases can be shocking. In 2013, a care home manager and owner were handed jail sentence over their neglect of three elderly women, and one man who had developed pressure sores during a week-long stay.
The pair were not providing medical care directly, but they had created the conditions where medical negligence could occur. The home was understaffed and underequipped, and the guilty pair had lied, and persuaded others to lie, in order to cover up the problem.
In the sentencing remarks, Judge Rose said, “The punishment I impose is also intended to send out the message that those who are entrusted with the care of vulnerable people […] have a duty under the criminal law to achieve a high and proper standard of care and to maintain that system in every respect at all times.”
Prisons are another situation in which those running the facility have a duty of care over those staying in the prison. That means keeping them safe, and ensuring that their medical needs are catered to. If a prisoner fails to receive medical treatment which the prison authorities are aware that they need, and their health deteriorates as a result, then the organisation could be charged with negligence. Any medical practitioners operating within a prison are subject to the same rules concerning negligence as everyone else.
Mental health facilities patients
The same rules concerning medical negligence apply in a psychiatric facility as do in a prison or care home, except here the ability to prove that neglect took place becomes more complex, as the patient may be less able to understand that they’ve been mistreated. In these cases, the advice of a specialised medical solicitor is invaluable; it’ll help to determine whether or not the case is worth pursuing.