NHS Waiting Times

The consequences of NHS waiting times: delays in treatment and the impact on Clinical Negligence Claims


In the realm of clinical negligence claims, the issue of NHS waiting times has emerged as a significant concern. Timely access to medical treatment is paramount, and any delay can have far-reaching consequences for patients. Pinney Talfourd LLP, a long established law firm committed to legal excellence, explores the implications of delayed treatment.  In this article, we look at the challenges patients face due to prolonged waiting times and the role these delays can play in legal claims.

The impact of NHS waiting times

The BBC have recently reported that the waiting list for hospital treatment has topped 7.5 million people in England for the first time.  It means nearly one in seven of the population is on an NHS waiting list for routine treatment, including hip and knee operations.  NHS waiting times have long been a subject of public debate. While the National Health Service strives to provide quality care to all, the reality is that delays in treatment can occur for various reasons, including resource limitations, staffing shortages, and the complexity of healthcare systems. These difficulties can have a knock-on effect to performance standards and can have profound consequences.  However, a delayed waiting time does not, of itself, necessarily lead to negligence and, it is the cause of the delay and not the delay itself that is usually at the heart of the problem.

Clinical Negligence Claims

Legal implications: In cases where delayed treatment contributes to harm or worsened health outcomes, patients may explore legal avenues, including clinical negligence claims, seeking compensation for their suffering and losses. Delayed treatment can form the basis of a clinical negligence claim when certain criteria are met:

Breach: The test of whether a doctor breached the duty of care owed to a patient is whether he or she has failed to meet the standard of a reasonable body of other practitioners also skilled in that field.  This often involves showing that the delay was caused by something avoidable or unnecessary such as misreading results, failing to carry out the correct tests etc.

Causation: Claimants must establish a direct link between the delayed treatment and the harm suffered. This requires expert medical evidence to demonstrate that, had treatment been provided earlier, the outcome would likely have been improved.

Losses and damages: Claimants can seek compensation in the form of damages for various losses, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of earnings, and future care needs.

Legal expertise: Pursuing clinical negligence claims requires the guidance of experienced lawyers who understand the complexities of these cases and can navigate the legal process effectively.  Although delay may be a factor, it will depend on why the delay occurred and therefore, clinical negligence lawyers have to scrutinise cause and effect carefully.

How Pinney Talfourd can help

At Pinney Talfourd, we recognise the profound impact that delayed treatment can have on patients’ lives. In cases where these delays result from negligence or substandard care however, clinical negligence claims may offer a path to better understanding and financial redress. If you believe you have a clinical negligence claim, do not hesitate to contact our Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence team. Our team is here to provide you with comprehensive advice and work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Emma Hardie, CILEX Lawyer in the Personal Injury and Medical Negligence Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of September 2023



Emma Rayner

Emma Hardie

CILEX Lawyer

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