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01 March 2017

Large numbers of patients injured as a result of substandard GI surgery may be missing out on compensation

On 23rd February 2017, Professor Winslet delivered a lecture at 7 Bedford Row Chambers concerning medico-legal aspects of gastrointestinal malignancy.

At the start of his lecture he highlighted two issues in particular:

  1. That upper gastrointestinal surgery is particularly likely to become subject to a malpractice Claim, with such a surgeon being 33% more likely to face such a Claim than other medical specialists.

  2. That in his view, the number of Claims brought are “just the tip of the iceberg” and that most people who suffer harm as a result of potential medical negligence do not seek legal assistance.  

Professor Winslet made reference to studies undertaken in the USA which he felt supported his view.

Several reports have indicated that overall numbers of Claimants seeking damages for various types of injury and loss have been falling in recent years, possibly suggesting that injured people are reluctant or may find it difficult to seek support via the legal system.  

For example, in 2013 the Independent reported that statistics of workplace injury claims indicated that the number of cases being brought had fallen by around 60% over a ten year period.  Likewise, in November 2016, Unison announced that in 2015/2016 employment tribunal claims had fallen by 9,000 a month, in comparison to 2012/2013.

Longden Walker and Renney’s John Lowther said,

“I have frequently spoken with potential clients who have contacted us but are still somewhat reluctant to seek damages as a result of alleged clinical negligence.  Clients do not lightly pursue litigation at Court.  Some clients seem embarrassed that they are seeking compensation, even when they have suffered serious financial loss due to negligence.  

It is important that, as a minimum, a suffering person gets all of the support that our society has deemed fair.   Presently, that means lifelong medical care where required and the ability to seek financial support where substandard medical treatment has caused injury and loss.”

Professor Winslet highlighted concerns with regard to surgeons causing perforation of the bowel during colonoscopies, failing to identify lesions and delaying diagnosis of cancer and injuries that arise out of substandard/ inappropriate laparoscopic surgery.

He expressed particular concern that GI surgeons may be likely to be found to have provided substandard treatment due to failings to follow a proper consenting process.  Professor Winslet said that only 20% of consent forms used fulfil General Medical Council /RCS recommendations.

If you have suffered as a result of negligence, it is important that you obtain expert advice without delay.  Do not hesitate to contact us for legal advice. You can call us on 0191 566 6 500 to speak with one of our specialists or you can contact us by email or via our enquiry form and we will get in touch with you.