Learning from clinical negligence claims

13th May 2021 Clinical Negligence

Getting it Right First Time (GIRFT) and NHS Resolution have published a new guide “Learning from Litigation Claims: The Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) and NHS Resolution best practice guide for clinicians and managers” in an effort to encourage NHS Trusts to learn lessons from clinical negligence claims to improve patient safety.

Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) is a national programme designed to improve the treatment and care of patients by reviewing health services. It examines how things are currently being done and how they could be improved.

The guide sets out a structure for Trusts to follow to ensure that they do learn from previous mistakes and includes recommendations such as appointing a clinician who has time allocated in their job to ‘review claims and integrate learning.’

GIRFT discovered that frontline clinical staff often did not know about the claims arising from care and treatment provided in their hospital department. To help change this the guide suggests that claims should be discussed on a regular basis; quarterly in clinical departments and annually at regional level.

The guide makes clear that trusts can seek support from their claims managers at NHS Resolution (NHSR) and NHSR’s panel lawyers too.

Crucially, the guide recognises the need for patients and their families to be involved in the learning process and recommends that trusts should work in partnership with patients, families and carers, which we at JMW know many of our clients really wanted to do but were not given opportunity to.

It makes clear that resources are available to assist trust staff in supporting patients when things go wrong. Staff are encouraged to be open and honest and to give an apology. The importance of ensuring that concerns of the patient and the family are ‘comprehensively and frankly addressed’ is recognised and ‘everything possible is done to maintain their trust in the process’.

As a specialist clinical negligence solicitor, so many injured patients who consult me say that one of their aims is to ensure that lessons are learnt from the mistakes in their care and to try to prevent the same happening to others. Despite that, usually they feel that their voice is not heard. They are often not included in the hospital’s investigation and we struggle to establish that lessons have, in fact, been learned, even when a NHS Trust admits to our clients that they have been negligent.

Whilst it is a shame that it has taken until now, I am pleased to see NHS Resolution and GIRFT focussing on the benefits of learning from mistakes in medical treatment and the emphasis put on the need to include patients and their families in that process. As is suggested that is really important in maintaining a patient’s trust, which I know from working with those injured or bereaved is so often lost in the complaints and investigation process currently.

I see that the guide points out that patient feedback and additional learning resources are available from claimant legal firms, such as ourselves. We would welcome the opportunity to work with Trusts and our clients to share their and our stories and experiences. 

I hope that this guide will lead to change and to proper and effective patient involvement in learning from mistakes and that lessons will be leant. This will benefit our clients, those other patients that have yet to have treatment, patient safety and, ultimately, the NHS as a whole.



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Nicola Wainwright is a Partner and Head of London Clinical Negligence located in Londonin our Clinical Negligence department

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