With horror stories such as Staffordshire NHS Trust hitting the headlines for their gross failure to provide the most basic of care needs to their most vulnerable patients, it may be surprising to hear that it can be exceptionally difficult to hold the Hospital to account for their actions.
Poor Nursing Care - a Claim for Clinical Negligence?
In the case of Stafford Hospital The Quality Care Commission found poor standards within the Hospital put patients lives at risk. Reports of patients remaining unwashed for days on end, patients not being attended to after they had soiled themselves, food being placed out of reach, patients not receiving their medication on time, buzzers going unanswered was common place. The Quality Care Commission concluded that at Stafford Hospital “ between 400–1200 more people died than would have been expected in as three year period”
Should a private individual, who had taken on the care of a relative have acted in this way the person would be facing criminal sanctions. It is shocking that to date, greater sanctions have not been imposed on the offending hospitals and staff.
Therefore, the question remains, how can the hospitals be held to account.
Clinical Negligence as a Breach of Human Rights
All public bodies, including hospitals are compelled to act in accordance with The Human Rights Act 1998.There are several Articles that are relevant in the circumstances. It is unlawful for a public body to act in a way that is incompatible with the convention rights.
Article 3 prohibits public bodies, including hospitals to treat people in an inhuman or degrading manor. There are no exceptions to this right.
Article 8 rights may also be relevant. Article 8 provides for the right to privacy. However, this right is subject to expectations. Therefore, if the hospital can give a reasonable justification, then the treatment may not amount to a breach of person’s human rights.
For example in a recent case a woman argued that her Article 8 rights had been violated after the hospital trust would not provider careers to assist her with her toileting needs in the night. The woman had suffered from a stroke and found it difficult to mobilise. The hospital stated that they would not provide carers in the evening to assist her. Instead they stated that it was reasonable to provide her with incontinence pads despite the fact that she was not incontinent.
Human Rights claims after a Fatality
Where a person has sadly died, or suffered a near death experience it is possible to argue that the persons Article 2 rights, right to life were breached. Article 2 states that everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally.
In this instance the court will consider whether the hospital knew or ought to have known at the time of the existence of a real and immediate risk to person’s life and whether judged reasonably, they took all appropriate steps to meet that risk.
Time Limits for Human Rights Claims
If you believe that you may have a claim for the care afforded to you or a loved one, they you should act swiftly as claims under the Human Rights Act must be brought within a strict time limit of 1 year from the date of the breach of the individuals human rights.
If a person has also suffered loss or damage as a result of the negligent treatment then it might be possible to bring a clinical negligence claim. It is possible to bring a claim for clinical negligence within 3 years from the date of the incident or from the date of knowledge.
NHS Complaints Procedure for Clinical Negligence
In any event, if you are not happy with the care that you or a loved on has received, then it would be beneficial to enter a formal complaint via the NHS Complaints Procedure.
It is best to formally write a letter of complaint to the hospital where you or your loved one received treatment. Your complaint should fully set out the issues that you have with the care provided, and in some cases it may be useful to set out specific questions such as “why was my farther not washed whilst he was in your care” or “ why was my sister left unattended, to feed herself when she has difficulties swallowing.”
You should make your complain as soon as possible, the time limit for making a complaint is 12 months from the date the incident occurred or when you first became aware of it. In some cases the hospital may agree to waiver the time limit for example when it would be unreasonable for you to have complained within the 12-month time limit.
If you require any additional help or advice on a Clinical Negligence Claim or believe Human Rights have been breached, then please contact one of our specialist lawyers at Headinjuryuk who will be happy to assist you at this difficult time. All enquiries will be dealt with by specialist clinical negligence lawyers in the strictest of confidence.