Guide to Claims for Gynaecological Negligence
Gynaecology is a specialist branch of medicine that is involved with the diagnosis, examination and treatment of disorders concerning the female reproductive system. It is inclusive of gynaecological oncology (female reproductive organs cancer, e.g. ovarian, cervical cancer & cervical intraepithelial neoplasia), infections (pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and chlamydia), ovarian disorders (genital prolapse and polycystic ovary syndrome) and uterine disorders (fibroids and endometriosis).
According to research and data gathered by the Department Of Health, the number of cases opened due to gynaecological negligence has witnessed an upward trend. 215 cases were initiated in the 2014/15, 200 cases were opened in 2015/16, 194 cases were opened in 2016/17, 236 cases were opened in 2017/18, and 259 cases were initiated in 2018/19. Due to practitioners failing to comply with the set standards, the government has had to pay a total amount of £2,549,449, which is inclusive of damages costs, defence costs and plaintiffs cost.
Negligent gynaecological procedures can result in devastating consequences for the woman, the unborn child and the family. With the possibility of life-threatening infections, patients should adopt a proactive approach to understanding gynaecological negligence.
Understanding Gynaecological Negligence
- What is Gynaecological Negligence?
Gynaecological negligence can lead to both physical and psychological trauma for the patient. There is a varied range of issues and scenarios that can present themselves due to gynaecological negligence or are an act of negligence, and they are as follows:
- Incontinence following a surgery
- Delay in the diagnosis of cervical cancer and smear test errors
- Keyhole surgery (laparoscopy) errors
- Injury in organs such as bowel, bladder or uterus, specifically during a caesarean section
- Failure to notice damages in bowel, bladder and uterus.
- Failing to diagnose third-degree tears post-childbirth
- Surgical/ medical errors leading to hysterectomy
- ‘Gossypiboma’- Retained instruments or retained swabs within the patient’s body
- Nerve damage
- Damage to obturator nerve due to tension-free vaginal tape (TVT)
- Contraception negligence
- Negligence in fertility treatment
- Damages caused during the termination of pregnancy
- Failure to sterilise properly
- Wrongful births
- Failing to remove uterine fibroids safely
- Failing to properly conduct tubal ligations or cauterise fallopian tubes
- Ineffective or inadequate post-surgical monitoring
- Flaws in consent for medical procedures
- Lack of expertise in handling complicated procedures, e.g. hysteroscopy which can commonly result in perforation and damage to the bowel leading to a patient having to have a stoma
- What are the short-term and long-term complications of gynaecological negligence?
A practitioner’s negligence such as improper preparation, lack of skills, taking shortcuts, fatigue, or complete failure to communicate with senior members, can lead patients to face life-threatening scenarios. These scenarios are both short- and long-term and comprise both psychological and physical damage.
The complications can result in a wide range of ongoing issues, such as having to live with a stoma, chronic pain conditions, failure to conceive, failure to give birth, failure to produce eggs, destruction of sexual function and in some cases, even death, due to gross negligence displayed by gynaecologists.
Do You Have A Credible Claim?
What qualifies as medical negligence when it comes to gynaecological issues?
Most of our clients are very surprised to learn that doctors are not expected to give excellent, or even good care. By law, as established in an old case of Bolam, only a reasonable standard of care has to be provided in accordance with the care that a responsible body of doctors in the particular speciality concerned would expect. If the care was not reasonable then it is substandard or negligent. This satisfies the first test to overcome in bringing a claim.
However, it is not sufficient to simply establish substandard/negligent care You have to show that there has actually been injury caused by negligent care. It has to be shown that negligence has made a difference to outcome. Provided it can be proven that care was not reasonable and that it has caused injury, then there is a potential claim to pursue.
Why you should bring a gynaecological negligence claim?
Women suffering both physical and psychological traumatic due to gynaecological negligence should feel perfectly entitled to bring a claim as the fallout from these type of injuries can be severe. Some ladies unfortunately are left with chronic pain, permanent in nature that can impact upon their day-to-day life to a high degree. This can have knock-on effects in relation to working ability, being able to care for themselves and of course dire financial effects at times.
The NHS in the UK is a great thing that will have that those who have had poor treatment and whose lives have been badly affected by such poor treatment should not hesitate to bring a claim against the NHS. The NHS self insures and budgets for claims and, despite misrepresentation in the press, claims are not increasing against the NHS year by year.
The NHS, just like any other organisation should quite properly be accountable for its actions. The only way to bring about changes for the better in the NHS presently is to bring mistakes to their attention, by way of complaints and claims, and in some cases this does cause changes in practice and protocols which helps the NHS to provide better care for others in the future.
With our ‘no win, no fee’ agreement, patients don’t have to worry about the expenses associated with bringing a claim. Our clients are never asked to pay any money to us in relation to the cost of their case as it progresses.
What essentially do you need to know about making a gynaecological negligence claim?
Claims have to be proven with independent medicolegal reports from the appropriate specialities. If a GP has delayed in referring the patient for further investigation, then a report on whether the care was reasonable has to be obtained from a GP expert. If an Oncologist (cancer specialist) is alleged to have put in place the wrong treatment plan for cancer, then a medicolegal report would be needed from an independent Oncologist.
Reports also have to be obtained from medicolegal experts to confirm that any unreasonable care provided did cause injury to the patient. In cancer cases this often involves multiple specialities, not only an oncologist, but also a histopathologist and sometimes also radiologists.
Provided supportive medicolegal reports are received, a Letter of Claim can then be sent to the healthcare provider and they have four months to respond. They can obtain their own independent medicolegal reports. If those reports support their position, they may choose to defend the action and proceedings would have to be commenced.
The typical timescale for medical claims is anywhere between 1 to 3 years, as an average. Cases involving children can take far longer and in relation to claims on behalf of adults suffering from brain injuries or who, for other reasons, have very high value claims. In such cases typically the value of the case is set to one side whilst the court deals with the liability issues and makes a decision about whether the claimant has succeeded. The claimant then receives an interim payment of compensation whilst the parties move on to deciding how much high value claim is worth.
An average payout by the National Health Service Litigation Authority is close to around £50,000. The payouts can range between £1,000 to millions, depending upon the severity of the case. If a patient or their child has been caused damages by a doctor, nurse, lab personnel, or even a pharmacist, then the patient is eligible to sue in negligence. I
Patients need to take the necessary action within the time period of 3 years. However, claims can be brought out of time where there are good reasons for the delay (such as a patient being unaware until much later date that the negligent treatment had occurred, or the patient suffering from severe psychological trauma).
The Experience of Medical Solicitors in Past Gynaecological Negligence Claim
Our specialist team of solicitors have handled many different types of gynaecology claims in the past. The right medicolegal expert will make a case, but the wrong medicolegal expert will break it. We are extremely careful to maintain an extensive register of approved medicolegal experts to give our clients the best chance of success in every case that we decide to fully investigate.
It is also of crucial importance to instruct the most competent barristers. We have an approved register of counsel with whom we regularly work and have established a relationship of trust.
At Medical Solicitors we are very conscious that the litigation process can be stressful for clients and we aim to pursue cases as quickly as possible, to minimise stress to our clients in the process, but also we are focused upon maximising recovery of compensation in every individual case.
During our experience in securing substantial damages for our patients, we have assisted several patients in receiving compensation for their gynaecological injuries and damages.