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Clinical negligence litigation reform: the link between safety and the law

11 March 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 5


John Tingle, Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, discusses some recent reports on patient safety and clinical negligence

No health system is ever going to be 100% safe and there will always be some degree of error despite our very best efforts at managing risk. At the same time, it is clear from the regular reports of several organisations that avoidable errors are frequently made in the NHS at a level that is not acceptable. Add to this situation the injured patients whose lives have been ruined or even in some cases ended by avoidable error—they or their relatives can seek compensation in the courts. Here we can see the inter-relationship between patient safety and the law. We have poor care causing harm, which results in scarce financial resources being paid to patients as compensation.

The law's aim where a patient succeeds in proving negligence by a health professional is to put them back in the position that they would have been in had the negligence not occurred. In practice, this a hard thing to do as money is a poor compensator for the loss of a baby or losing a limb or faculty.

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