Unfortunately the UK is well down the road to becoming a litigious society suing whenever the opportunity arises in order to achieve cash compensation for what in most cases is a genuine accident or an unintentional error on someone’s part. Probably the worst example must the NHS where something like £800million is paid out each year from a now cash strapped yet still brilliant service.
Apart from the rare as hen’s teeth rogue nurse or doctor, I think we can agree that no one in the health service actually wants to do any harm to a patient and indeed, positively wants a good outcome. In any organisation, particularly one as big as the NHS, from time to time things will go wrong, mistakes will happen and only a fool would believe that perfection is possible, although, of course, that is what should be the aim as that way lies continuing improvement.
What to do when things do go wrong? Obviously the patient must have the best possible treatment to put right, wherever possible, any damage. Where serious injury has been caused requiring long term care or even adaptations to the home or mobility needs then these are already covered by our health and social security systems at no cost to the individual. In parallel an investigation into the cause(s) of the error should be carried out with no threat of financial penalties to the establishment concerned followed by full and public disclosure of the report including what measures have been taken to improve the system.
No amount of money will take away pain or discomfort or, in extremis, loss of a limb and as stated, the State will provide all that is necessary to cope with the future. Therefore Government should pass a law making it impossible to sue the NHS for monetary reward and thereby freeing up some £800million each year to improve the health service including accident prevention.
On a final note it may seem that the NHS must be absolutely appalling if it pays out that much compensation annually. In reality it pays out in many cases ‘without admitting liability’ rather than face huge costs and time fighting in the courts defending actions brought hoards of unscrupulous lawyers only too happy to scrounge off society.