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How much is too much? Controversial case involving A&E services to be heard by the Supreme Court

How much is too much? Controversial case involving A&E services to be heard by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a controversial case concerning services provided to the Claimant whilst in an Accident and Emergency Department.

The Claimant’s appeal in Darnley v Croydon Health Services NHS Trust was dismissed by majority in the Court of Appeal last year.

The claimant alleged negligence by the receptionist in the accident and emergency department (A&E), and the case hinged on whether he (or the NHS trust) owed any duty to provide accurate information about waiting times.

The Claimant came to A&E with a head injury after an assault and was informed he could expect to wait up to five hours before treatment and decided to leave A&E after 19 minutes to go home. He was not informed about a triage system to examine patients within 30 minutes and had gone by the time the nurse came to look for him.

At home, his condition deteriorated, and by the time he returned to hospital it was too late to prevent permanent injury. He sustained partial hemiplegia and long-term disabilities.

On appeal, Lord Justice Jackson stressed the importance of wider issues, pointing out that around 450,000 visits are made to A&E departments across England every week. He agreed with the first instance decision that the nurses’ failure to triage the Claimant within 19 minutes was not a breach of duty. He also added that neither the receptionist nor the NHS trust owed any duty to advise the claimant about waiting times.

Lord Justice Jackson was concerned about ‘opening the floodgates’ to potential Claimant’s  adding: ‘Litigation about who said what to whom in A&E waiting rooms could become a fertile area for claimants and their representatives.’

However, not all Justices were agreed. Lord Justice McCombe said the NHS trust was in breach of its duty to the claimant and that that breach caused the claimant’s injury.

NHS Resolution welcomed the decision saying the ‘novel’ claim had to be resisted in the interests of the health service, and that ‘opening up receptionists to negligence claims of this kind would have had very serious consequences’.

The Supreme Court has allocated one day for hearing the appeal, with arguments set to be heard tomorrow (7 June 2018).

Johnathan Steventon-Kiy, specialist Clinical Negligence Lawyer says,

“This is a controversial case that divides opinion amongst Claimant and Defendant Clinical Negligence Lawyers. Defendant Lawyers have stated that imposing a breach of duty on the Trust would ask too much of staff in A&E Departments who are already stretched and overworked. Similarly, some Claimant Lawyers have stated that it was the Claimant’s decision to leave so quickly and if he was badly injured, he ought to have waited for treatment. However, some have argued that he was unable to make a full and informed decision due to the failure to advise him of the triage times. Wherever your opinions lie in this matter, what is clear is that should the Supreme Court find for the Claimant, this will drastically reshape the scope of the duty of care owed to patient in A&E departments”.

Johnathan Steventon-Kiy and the Clinical Negligence team at Swain & Co Solicitors regularly win compensation for their clients who have experienced substandard treatment. If you, a family member or a friend have experienced problems regarding substandard medical treatment contact our team today on 02392 483 322.

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