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The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) recently reported that by June 2021 the NHS was seeing the highest number of attendances at NHS emergency departments and A&Es on record.

Accident and emergency departments are expected to provide safe, timely and often critical emergency care to patients who are experiencing acute or severe illness, traumatic injury or a life-threatening, medical emergency. A&E staff make important decisions about the severity, urgency and nature of a patient’s condition. Their actions determine whether a patient needs immediate treatment, specialist review, admission to hospital, discharge home or referral elsewhere. Their response to emergency situations can ensure that the patient receives the treatment needed to heal or manage their condition. Where the A&E team’s response is delayed, wrong or sub-standard it can cause severe harm to the patient from a worsening of their condition, life-long disability or fatal injury.

If you or a member of your family have suffered severe avoidable harm as a result of negligent treatment in A&E, Boyes Turner’s experienced medical negligence lawyers can help you claim compensation. 

Recent A&E claims cases

What is accident and emergency (A&E) or emergency department (ED) care?

A&E is the department of a hospital or healthcare centre which provides emergency treatment for people with acute or sudden serious illness, medical emergencies or severe accidental or traumatic injuries. A&E departments are also known as ‘accident and emergency’, ‘the emergency department’ (ED), or casualty.

Some A&E departments provide 24 hour a day service, led by a consultant, with full resuscitation facilities in an area that is designed to receive accident and emergency patients. Others provide consultant-led accident and emergency treatment for patients in a specialist area of medicine, such as eye casualty units. Other types of A&E units, sometimes known as ‘walk in centres’ or ‘minor injury units’,  may be led by a doctor or nurse and only treat minor illnesses and injuries.

Major A&E departments are usually open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Patients may arrive by ambulance or make their own way to A&E without the need for a GP referral or hospital appointment.

Part of the A&E or ED team’s job is to assess quickly which patients should be prioritised for treatment, depending on their condition. The process of deciding who gets priority is known as triage. Patients are then assessed by a doctor or nurse and may be referred for further investigations, such as x-rays and scans, or for review or treatment by a specialist. They may be admitted to hospital for urgent treatment, referred to another hospital or back to their GP, given an appointment to attend a clinic at a later date or sent home (discharged).

The NHS says that A&E deals with ‘genuine, life-threatening emergencies’, such as:

  • loss of consciousness;
  • acute (starting suddenly) confusion;
  • fits (also known as seizures or convulsions) which are not stopping;
  • chest pain;
  • breathing difficulties;
  • severe bleeding;
  • severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis
  • severe burns or scalds;
  • stroke;
  • major trauma (serious, life-threatening or disabling injury), such as a head injury, spinal injury or multiple fractures from a fall or road traffic accident. 

Not all life-threatening or disabling injuries are obvious from the way the patient looks without further investigation. Accurate diagnosis may depend on A&E staff finding out more from the patient’s medical history and other conditions, their symptoms and the results of further tests or investigations.

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What types of A&E/ED errors can you claim compensation for?

Claims for compensation for injury caused by negligent A&E care usually arise from one or more of the following mistakes:

  • incorrect prioritising of the patient’s need for treatment (triage);
  • delay:
    • in assessing the patient;
    • in diagnosing their condition;
    • in providing emergency or urgent treatment;
    • in referral or transfer to an appropriate hospital for the condition;
    • in obtaining specialist review of the patient;
    • in admitting the patient to hospital for treatment;
  • patient handling errors (lifting spinal injuries, using excessive force, dropping the patient or allowing them to fall);
  • diagnosis errors:
    • failing to assess or examine the patient properly;
    • failure to monitor or correctly observe the patient’s condition;
    • failure to take proper information about the patient’s medical history or condition;
    • failure to diagnose the patient’s condition;
    • incorrect diagnosis/misdiagnosis of the patient’s condition;
    • failing to recognise red flag symptoms of emergency conditions;
    • failing to carry out necessary investigations (such as blood tests, scans, x-rays);
    • misinterpretation of investigation results.
  • treatment errors:
    • failing to provide emergency treatment (such as resuscitation, IV antibiotics);
    • incorrect treatment;
    • medication errors;
  • equipment errors:
    • lack of necessary equipment;
    • use of incorrect or defective equipment;
    • incorrect use of equipment;
  • negligently discharging a patient:
    • who needs urgent or emergency treatment;
    • who has red flag symptoms of an emergency condition;
    • who needs admission to hospital;
    • without correct advice on action to take if their condition deteriorates (safety-netting advice);
  • communication and medical recording errors (such as failing to pass on important investigation results).

All areas of the NHS have a legal responsibility to provide safe care and to compensate patients who have been severely injured as a result of negligence. The patient’s right to claim is not affected by NHS problems such as:

  • staff shortages;
  • lack of training or trained staff;
  • lack of government funding;
  • lack of resources;
  • queues, overcrowding or lack of capacity.  

Claims for serious injury caused by negligent emergency care can also arise from:

  • GP negligence, such as: 
    • failing to recognise a patient’s red flag symptoms of an emergency condition;
    • failure to refer a patient to hospital or for specialist review;
    • delay in calling an ambulance;
    • failure to communicate the correct level of urgency;
    • providing incorrect or inadequate information about the patient’s condition.
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What kind of injuries lead to A&E/ED compensation claims?

Patients attending A&E have already suffered injury or illness, but correct A&E care can heal treatable conditions, or prevent deterioration and reduce avoidable, long-term harm. A&E negligence claims compensate the patient for avoidable, additional serious injury or disability which they suffered as a result of negligent treatment.

We recover compensation for our clients after negligent emergency care has left them with avoidable injuries, including:

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How much compensation can you get for medical negligence?

How to make a medical negligence claim?

How long do medical negligence claims take?

How to fund a medical negligence claim?

Will I need a medical examination if I make a medical negligence claim for compensation?

Can I make a claim on behalf of a child?

What can medical negligence compensation pay for?

What is HSSIB?

How can you prove medical negligence?

Is there a time limit for claiming medical negligence compensation?

Will I need to go to court to claim medical negligence compensation?

What is causation in medical negligence claims?

Can I claim against the NHS?

Who can make a medical negligence claim?

What is MNSI?

A&E cases

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"Julie Marsh is a first rate litigator"

Julie Marsh is a first rate litigator who adds real value to all her cases. I have always been impressed not just by her expertise as a clinical negligence lawyer but by the way she treats every client as an individual and works on their case as if it is the most important thing in the world, which to many clients it really is.

King's Counsel

"You have given fantastic support and guidance"

Boyes Turner have a great asset in Julie Marsh, she has handled my case with such professionalism and has kept me informed at every stage over the 6 years. She has given me guidance, support and that personal touch where I could ring or email at any time and she would always answer and give me answers to any questions I had. Would recommend without hesitation. Thank you

Boyes Turner Client

"I have been impressed"

Tara Byrne kept me well informed at all stages of my claim. I have been impressed with the way my case was handled, and the time scale within which a settlement was reached.”

Boyes Turner Client

"Very Professional "

Boyes Turner helped me through one of the toughest times in my life. They were very professional whilst remaining friendly. At times the process was emotionally tough but they were very patient with me and went through everything with me until I understood it. I cannot recommend them enough. 

Boyes Turner Client

"We cannot thank Susan and her team at Boyes Turner enough"

Words cannot express how grateful we are to Susan and her team for the level of commitment and dedication shown to our family during a time which would be difficult for anyone. Susan demonstrates a calm professional manner which helped us to feel at ease. Her level of knowledge has proven to be the best in the field and we fully recommend her to anyone seeking to investigate birth injury claims. You can be confident that Susan and her team will scrutinise the medical notes thoroughly and will keep you well informed throughout the process. We are very pleased with the outcome of our child’s case and know that her work has resulted in justice being achieved. Our family will now be able to move forward in the knowledge that the finances are securely in place for our child to receive a suitable care package, purchase equipment and receive necessary lifelong therapy. We cannot thank Susan and her team at Boyes Turner enough.

Boyes Turner Client