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Insight

NHS amputee claim payouts near £190m over 5 years

Mark Bowman
04/01/2023
Data reported by NHS Resolution – the legal arm of the health service - show that the NHS compensates two patients a week for a lost limb following negligence in care provided.

According to press reports, 605 patients won a negligence claim against an NHS trust for failings in care leading to amputation over the past five years. Associated payouts totalled £189m, with the average claim for the loss of an arm or a leg more than £300,000.

There were also 314 successful claims where a patient alleged poor care led to them losing their sight, resulting in compensation payouts of £80m, with average compensation at £255,000.

John McQuater, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, is quoted as saying:

"Compensation exists to help get injured patient's lives back on track, and to meet their additional needs. It is never a windfall, nor a reward for being a victim of negligence."

The trauma of being put into the position of having to undergo an amputation cannot be underestimated. Let's not pretend it is not life-changing. One's whole identity must be rewritten, most people need an enormous amount of care and support every day from friends and family and the future suddenly becomes a very different place.

Watch Tracey's story describing her experience of losing a leg following negligence.

My first-hand experience includes settling a case for Chris* for more than £2m against Barts Health NHS Trust following a delay in diagnosing his haemophilia following a total knee replacement which  led to him requiring an above knee amputation. Also against Barts, a case on behalf of client Mrs C involved a delay in diagnosing an arterial injury following a total knee replacement led to her requiring an above knee amputation; and a young client presenting at Northwick Park Hospital experience a delay in the hospital diagnosing sepsis in his ankle which led to him needing a below-knee amputation.

I also recovered £1.2m for a client following a delay in diagnosing her glaucoma at Worthing Hospital after left her functionally blind.

In nearly 20 years of practice, I am yet to meet a client who would rather receive compensation than have their limb or their eyesight restored. Such claims may appear high, but most clients need to move into adapted accommodation, need a level of external support such as treatments and therapy and ongoing prosthetic support to manage an artificial limb.

The NHS has said a new framework would ensure 'a significant shift in the way NHS responds to patient safety incidents'. We often talk about one of the benefits of bringing a claim is that it helps ensure repeat mistakes are avoided, but the truth is that standards are not materially improving and mistakes continue to be repeated.

I hope to see more improvements by individual trusts following notification of such serious injuries, with the details of failings and lessons learned shared in the health service nationwide. Unfortunately, my experience suggests that there is very little communication on a national level and that learning is rarely shared beyond the trust involved in a particular claim.

Read more about our amputation and limb loss claims and hear from clients following settlement including Claire Horton's claim on behalf of a young woman in her 20s who lost her sight following delayed diagnosis of optic nerve glicoma.

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