Can Medical Negligence Compensation Claims Improve Healthcare Standards?
26th July 2013
Medical negligence compensation claims are not necessarily motivated by money and can improve patient care. Naturally, we would think this, being clinical negligence solicitors, but recent research has supported this claim.
Joanna C Schwartz, University of California Los Angeles Assistant Professor of Law, revealed in an op-ed for the New York Times that she polled at least 400 professionals who are responsible for risk management in hospitals around the US and interviewed several more, asking their opinions about personal injury compensation claims.
She found that while historically, hospitals were secretive and adversarial towards errors and clinical negligence claims, in recent years this has changed, with the facilities becoming increasingly open and honest. Some of the factors that appear to have led to these changes include legislative changes that have required patients to receive full disclosure about risks, and confidentiality protections when medical negligence claims and clinical error are discussed internally.
Hospitals have also recently discovered that the frequency and cost of litigation can be reduced if they settle clinical negligence compensation cases at an early stage, the research revealed. It also discovered that 95% of the hospitals investigated in the study used the information revealed in lawsuits to improve patients safety standards. Respondents said that compensation claims can reveal mistakes and errors that were previously unknown – particularly those relating to mistakes in treatment and diagnosis.
Furthermore, 80% of hospitals studied apologise to patients should mistakes occur, which could dissuade them from making a clinical negligence claim but could bolster their case in court should they decide to do so.
Clinical negligence claims and investigations into healthcare standards
While Ms Schwartz only investigated US hospitals, there is no reason to believe that similar results would be found in a UK-based study. Clinical negligence claims protect patients from harm. In many of the cases our personal injury solicitors have handled, claimants are uninterested in the money, but instead want full investigations and explanations into the errors that caused them injuries so that other patients can be protected.
As a result, claiming compensation can be a completely altruistic act, only motivated by a desire to protect the public. Of course, in the majority of cases claimants need the money – medical negligence personal injuries can lead to serious financial difficulties, substantial lost wages, missed rent or mortgage payments and evictions, and compensation is the only way to prevent these problems from arising.
Nonetheless, we know for a fact that our medical negligence solicitors have helped hospitals identify, expose and detail medical error. With the Keogh Review into NHS mortality and scandals about the quality of healthcare treatment within certain NHS Trusts, the government and local authorities are investigating a variety of ways to improve standards and prevent negligence or malpractice.
While new initiatives are always welcome, these organisations should recognise the incredible value medical negligence compensation has been shown to have in driving up standards, and could try to make it easier for the victims of clinical negligence to receive compensation. Doing so would be a politically gutsy move – the media rarely report on the positive side of compensation – but it would also be an intelligent decision that could potentially lead to significant improvements.