The Medical Defence Union ( MDU ) has suggested emergency legislation is needed to provide legal immunity to medics who are working through the pandemic. The MDU has an ongoing campaign in this regard however the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers ( APIL) , a not for profit organisation supporting those suffering injury commissioned a You Gov opinion poll and interestingly there was overwhelming public support for the current levels of safety to remain and for those injured by negligence to be able to bring a claim .
The pandemic cannot give blanket immunity for the actions of the negligent person . It has to be correct that practitioners are accountable for their actions. The Courts are able to take into account the pressures people have been under during this time and the effect the pandemic has had on waiting lists and treatments.
The moral dilemma about whether someone should make a medical negligence claim is a legitimate concern however it is important to look at the facts .
The pressures the NHS face in the current climate may be unprecedented but the strain on the NHS has been prevalent for many years unfortunately.
I don’t believe clients who seek advice do so lightly . I am confident that most will have some remorse at having to consider such an action .
As the lawyer having to assess the claims it is important to differentiate between recognised complications, poor outcomes and true negligence .
Compensation should not be seen as a windfall . Nor does it take money away from medical treatment or NHS salaries as is often bandied about in the press. The NHS as well as the practitioners who work within it are insured , as with any other profession.
Once liability has been found the Courts purpose with regards to compensation is to put the person in the position they would have been in had the negligence not occurred . It is not an aid to betterment, but it is a reflection of how serious the injuries are and the needs for treatment in the future.
Of course we should have appreciation for the NHS , deservedly so but that won’t fund the care that is needed for a person affected by a medical mistake to get on with their life . It won’t help a person who was previously independent now requiring high levels of care , get the equipment they need regain some degree of independence and dignity .
I read a comment from a Medical Negligence Lawyer who on this very topic said , “ Despite the appreciation we have for the NHS for the way the staff have dealt with the pandemic, there’s also a renewed appreciation for quality of life “
So in answer to the original question should there be legislation to allow blanket immunity during this time of crisis , my answer would be no .
Medical mistakes will happen despite best efforts whether we are in a global pandemic or not .