The NHS has had a difficult task coping with the effects of covid-19 and across the country, the focus has been on prioritising the care of covid-19 patients and otherwise easing pressure on the NHS in other aspects to ensure it doesn’t crash during the pandemic. Frontline medical staff have worked tirelessly to treat critically ill covid-19 patients but this focus has meant that millions of other patients have experienced delays in receiving much needed investigations and medical treatment.
As of February 2021, 10 million people in the UK were waiting elective medical procedures. This is an increase of 4 million people since before the pandemic hit. These patients are waiting for surgeries such as orthopaedic procedures for example knee and hip replacements, treatments for cardiovascular disease or treatments for diabetes related complications amongst others. Whilst these patients may not be in life-or-death scenarios, many have been left severely affected by the delays experiencing significant problems with pain and impairment to their mobility and quality of lives. Sarah Bainbridge of Macmillan Cancer has said that tens of thousands of people are still missing a diagnosis due to the disruption caused by the pandemic. It is not known how quickly the backlog can be cleared and what drastic measures will need to be taken to tackle such an enormous task. For some, their treatment options will have altered and their prognosis, in particular the cancer patients, may now be less favourable.
Whilst for some of these patients, their symptoms will have started during the pandemic and the delays in receiving investigation and treatment may unfortunately be unavoidable due to the unprecedented crisis the country and world faces, for others, their symptoms began before the pandemic hit and they were already experiencing delays in waiting for investigations and treatment. The pandemic and covid-19 crisis do not negate their right to investigate a potential claim for medical negligence. We have certainly seen an increase in the number of enquiries being brought to us by people feeling like they have nowhere else to turn because over a year on, they are still waiting to be seen at hospital for investigations or still waiting to attend their pre-operative assessment and be listed for surgery.
Our advice to anyone in need of medical treatment is to continue to seek assistance for this from medical professionals and not to wait until they need emergency care. If however people’s conditions have worsened due to delays in receiving treatment then they can speak to one of our specialist team and we’ll be able to advise if there is a potential claim to be pursued.