Whether you need emergency care, an outpatient procedure or treatment such as chemotherapy for cancer, getting the right medical care at the right time is often critical to protecting a patient’s health and achieving the best long-term outcome. Any delays in hospital treatment can therefore have a very negative impact, with the potential for lifelong health consequences or even death in the most serious cases.
Unfortunately, the NHS has recently been experiencing a worrying increase in delays for certain types of critical hospital care, with the potential to place patients at serious risk where those delays lead to patients not receiving the care they need promptly.
The impact of emergency treatment delays
When someone experiences a medical emergency and an ambulance is called, getting the patient swiftly to a hospital can make the difference between life and death. Operators and paramedics often need to make swift decisions over who needs the most immediate attention and when they get this wrong, or there simply aren’t enough ambulances available, it can have disastrous consequences.
A coroner in North Wales, John Gittins, recently issued a Prevention of Future Deaths notice in relation to the death of Gladys Williams, a 93-year old from Wrexham who had to wait more than 12 hours for treatment after she fell and broke her spine in April 2018. Following an initial 999 call, it took 10 hours for an ambulance to arrive and further 2 hours before treatment began at the A&E department of Maelor Hospital, Wrexham.
While it has not yet been established whether the delay was ultimately responsible for the patient’s death, it does highlight how highly serious medical emergencies are not always treated with the urgency patients might expect.
In another striking case, an ambulance taking a grandfather with a life-threatening blood clot to hospital stopped to pick up hitchhikers. Glenn Buscombe, 60, was being rushed to Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital A&E department when the ambulance driver pulled over on a dual carriageway to pick up two hitchhikers and then gave them a lift to the next town.
While Mr Buscombe was able to receive treatment, his condition was critical, with doctors at one point considering amputating his leg. Any delays could therefore have resulted in a significantly worse outcome for the patient. Mr Buscombe ultimately made a complaint to South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, who launched an urgent investigation into the incident.
The rise in outpatient treatment delays
It is not just emergency patients who can be put at risk by hospital treatment delays, with the Auditor General for Wales recently revealing that the average number of patients on the waiting list in Wales has increased by 12% in the last three years.
The Auditor’s report also showed a 55% increase in the number of patients waiting twice as long as they should according to NHS targets, up from 128,000 in 2015 to nearly 200,000 in 2018. This follows on from figures released earlier in 2018 that showed targets for starting cancer treatment were being routinely missed across the UK.
These types of treatment delays can risk a patient’s condition deteriorating, potentially resulting in treatment being less effective or ineffective, leading to long-term health problems or the death of the patient which could have been avoided with prompt treatment.
What to do if you have been affected by hospital delays
Has your health been negatively affected by delays in your treatment? Depending on the circumstances, excessive hospital delays could be considered medical negligence, meaning you may be entitled to compensation.
Our highly experienced medical negligence solicitors can advise you on whether you have grounds for a claim and how much compensation you may be entitled to. We can then guide you through the entire process of making a delayed treatment claim, giving you the best chance of securing a fair settlement, whilst keeping the process as simple and stress-free as possible for you.