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A&E: Patient safety is being compromised

We’ve all come to expect the winter news headlines about overstretched A&E’s struggling to cope with the influx of patients because of flu epidemics and a rise in broken limbs following falls on ice and snow. However the tone of this winter’s headlines feel altogether different, and much worse than in previous years.

Patients are meant to be handed over by the ambulance staff to the hospital within 15 minutes of arrival, however more than 75,000 have waited at least twice as long as that….with some patients having to wait up to 5 hours to be seen.

Whilst a delay in itself is not ‘negligent’ within the context of a clinical negligence claim, there can be no doubt that in some circumstances a delay in treatment or a ‘hurried’ misdiagnosis will sadly give rise to a potential medical negligence claim. By their own admission, doctors are concerned that these delays are putting patients at risk, some even apologising for ‘third world conditions’.

According to a BBC news story, the performance of ambulances in the East of England was the second worst in the country for the period 20th November – 31st December 2017, with 18% of crews waiting over 30 minutes. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Trust in Norfolk was the third worst in the country with a delay rate of 38%.

It’s widely acknowledged that the reasons behind the problems in the NHS are highly complex and unlikely to be resolved any day soon. In the meantime, overcrowding is leaving patient safety compromised and hospital trusts at risk of being sued for negligence.

Let us take it from here.

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