No surgery is completely risk-free. Patients who are able therefore always are asked to give their consent before any procedure is carried out, and should be made aware of any risks before signing on the dotted line. Rarely, even with the best efforts of the medical staff involved, things can and do go wrong.
Any type of surgery, even if it is an elective procedure, can be very stressful. When that surgery goes wrong, for whatever reason, the experience can turn into a nightmare. If the surgery has caused a preventable injury due to carelessness or incompetence of trusted medical staff, this can make the situation even more upsetting and stressful.
However, in these circumstances, it might be possible to make a claim for surgical negligence with the assistance of one of our experienced and specialist medical negligence claim teams. If your claim is successful, it can help alleviate some of the pain, suffering or financial, physical or psychological loss caused by the injury and its ongoing effects.
We always offer FREE initial phone advice, and a FREE initial interview for all medical negligence claims – so call today and find out where you stand.
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What exactly is surgical negligence?
There are many different negligence claims made in the UK for injuries which have been caused by surgical techniques which just did not come up to standard. These include:
• Injuries to a patient’s internal organs during keyhole surgery
• Damage to nerves or burns caused by surgical equipment
• Surgery performed unnecessarily
• Inadequate anaesthesia used during surgery
• Surgery on the wrong part of the body
• Surgeons leaving items like swabs or scissors inside the patient – see below
• Post-operative infection caused by poor sterilisation of instruments
• Failing to achieve the desired outcome of surgery
Surgical negligence can also include pain and suffering caused by poor care in the recovery period after an operation or failure to diagnose problems resulting from surgery.
Surgical Negligence Claim? Get In Touch With a Solicitor Right Away
You usually only have three years from the date of the surgery to make your claims for surgical negligence compensation.
The three years may also be calculated to run from the date on which the injury from the surgical negligence first became apparent – so even if your surgery took place more than three years ago you might still be entitled to claim compensation if you have only been aware for the injury for less than three years.
Whatever your circumstances, the best advice is always the same. If you think you might have a claim for surgical negligence, get in touch with a solicitor who specialises in medical claims without delay.
In order to win your compensation claim, your solicitor will have to prove that the surgeon who carried out the procedure was irresponsible, negligent, or should have been able to do a much better job, given their level of experience and medical qualifications.
Your solicitor will do this by electing together and analysing both witness statements from people involved, and medical reports produced by experienced and independent specialist doctors. The person who has been the victim of medical negligence will first make a formal complaint in writing to the relevant Health Authority. This complaint will then be investigated and a report will be sent to the victim. The solicitor can then look at the report to see whether a claim is likely to succeed.
Retained Surgical Items Claims
The idea that an experienced and highly trained surgeon could make a mistake as simple and basic as leaving a piece of surgical equipment in a patient body following surgery is deeply concerning.
But incredibly it happens far too often.
- Retained Surgical Items – the extent of the problem
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recognises a retained surgical item as a problem that should never take place under any circumstances. However, there are numerous examples of swabs, needles, clamps, sponges and blades being left in patients’ bodies. Around 1 in every 10,000 patients undergoing surgery in the UK is thought to fall victim to a negligent medical professional leaving a surgical item inside the body. Nearly 200 such compensation claims were filed between 2000 and 2010.
- Retained Surgical Items – the damage caused
Unsurprisingly, such errors tend to have a devastating effect on the victim’s health. The patient will feel probably experience severe pains in the affected area and there is a high chance that infection will develop. Although the pain may start locally due to tissue damage or infection it could spread and patients may also suffer internal bleeding and fever. These symptoms may not even become apparent until weeks, months or years after the surgery by which time a lot of damage will have been done.
There is no excuse for a medical professional to leave a surgical item inside the patient’s body. It is quite simply an example of carelessness and although doctors are of course under immense pressure in theatre, it is negligent for them to make such a mistake. There are various measures in place to ensure that such errors are never made and if they were all followed these mistakes would never happen. Quite simply, items should be counted out, tallied during surgery and counted back in following surgery and until the numbers match, the patient must not be sewn up. Even with new technology which is supposed to scan for a lost item, surgeons and medical staff continue to make mistakes.
Medical negligence claims can be pursued if patients are left with surgical instruments in the body. If you believe that you have suffered due to a retained surgical item, you should contact one of our specialist medical negligence solicitors about the possibility of making a compensation claim. You deserve recompense for the pain and suffering experienced due to the item itself and the need for a follow-up procedure. You should also be compensated for the earnings you will lose and any costs associated with your care. Ultimately, the incident was not your fault, so why should you shoulder the costs?
Why It’s Important to Make a Claim for Surgical Negligence
As well as ensuring that the victim receives the appropriate compensation for a traumatic event that could affect them for the rest of their lives, making a claim for compensation forces the medical professionals concerned to face up to their actions and improve their standards. This should help to guarantee that they are less likely to be able to harm patients in a similar way in the future.
If you have been the victim of an error made by a surgeon, whether at an NHS or private hospital, you could be entitled to compensation. Our team of highly specialist medical negligence solicitors can help you.
Click here to find out more about Making a Medical Negligence Claim
How can I pay for my legal fees?
If our team believe you have strong grounds for a claim, we may offer you a no win no agreement – so you don’t have to worry about paying legal fees but can focus on your recovery
Click here to read more about no win no fee agreements and how they can help you claim compensation.
Claiming compensation against a negligent anaesthetist
Anaesthetists specialise in using drugs and pain relief in order to put patients in a suitable state to have an operation. Whilst anaesthetists will often perform procedures such as epidurals during childbirth to relieve pain, the vast majority of their work requires them to use anaesthetising drugs during operations. These are either:
• General: therefore making the patient unconscious for the duration of the procedure, or
• Local: meaning that the patient remains awake throughout the procedure, although they may be sedated or require pain relief during the operation. This is usually for minor operations.
Negligent anaesthetists – common examples
Thankfully, most anaesthetists are very competent professionals and may few if any mistakes. However, some are less attentive and as a result people can come to harm at the hands of a negligent anaesthetist. Below is a list of some of the things that can go wrong with anaesthetics and which can give rise to a medical negligence claim:
• If the anaesthetists assessment of you prior to the operation is inadequate it could lead to them missing important things which would make certain anaesthetic drugs dangerous
• Whilst under anaesthetic the endotracheal tube can move out of position starving the brain of oxygen and ultimately leading to permanent damage. If this tube was incorrectly placed to start with or the anaesthetist failed to take the necessary steps to prevent is becoming dislodged, they may have been negligent
• The anaesthetist must also be alert after the operation to prevent accident biting of the ET tube, airway contraction or Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome.
In many hospitals, anaesthetists will also serve as part of the cardiac arrest tea, helping to resuscitate patients who go into cardiac arrest. If they fail to resuscitate patients safely, those patients could end up with brain damage and have grounds to claim compensation.
Anaesthetists are sometimes required to inject clients regionally or in the spine in order to relieve pain. However, when this is not done correctly, it can result in nerve damage, damage to the spinal cord and possibly even paralysis. This could be another example of an anaesthetist causing a medical negligence compensation claim.
Surgical Negligence Case Study – Swab Left Inside Patient at Salisbury Hospital
Managers at the Hospital have confirmed that this “never event” – the term given for an NHS mistake so severe that it should never occur – had in fact taken place. The Salisbury Foundation Trust said that the mistake was picked up quickly and that the patient suffered no ill effects. Both the patient and their family were told of the event immediately, and the Trust made a full apology.
Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust confirmed that this serious “never event” occurred in September 2014.
According to the NHS, never events are: “serious, largely preventable patient safety incidents that should not occur if the available preventative measures have been implemented.” This includes mistakes such as leaving foreign bodies inside patients after an operation and operating on the wrong part of the body.
In a similar event at Salisbury in 2013, a patient suffering from cancer had the wrong testicle removed.
In recent years, the UK government have tried to, has been raising the profile of never events, and has reiterated that they should simply never occur. An earlier BBC investigation revealed that over 750 never events took place in English hospitals between 2009 and 2012. NHS England said that these figures were far too high, and stated that they had introduced new safeguards to tackle the problem.