Posted On / 26.09.2016

Hospital Tests, Legal Claims and You

Having tests and investigations is a necessary and routine part of the diagnostic process.  How those investigations are requested and then processed is an important element of the healthcare service.  

Processing the right test for the right patient at the right time is critical, whether this is a simple blood test or a detailed MRI brain scan.  

Claims for clinical or medical negligence often involve issues with the use of investigations and their results.  

Being aware of the usual errors connected with the use of investigations can help patients to make sure that those errors don’t happen to them.  

This article is intended to raise awareness of the need for patients to be involved in their own care to help to avoid mistakes that could lead to serious adverse consequences.

Is it the right test for me?

The first priority is to make sure the appropriate investigations and tests are carried out. Patients can be proactive by asking why a certain test is required, what it will tell their doctor and when the result will arrive. Involving yourself as a patient means you can be part of the process and will be less likely to be forgotten. It also means you can be sure that your doctor or specialist has listened to you to fully understand what your actual symptoms are - this helps both of you towards the correct diagnosis. Remember, you can always take someone with you to make sure the right symptoms are relayed to your doctor or specialist. 

It stands to reason that if the investigation is not appropriate for the symptoms, the correct diagnosis will not be identified. This can only lead to a worsening of your condition and make it ultimately more difficult to treat.

Procedural Error

Keeping tabs on the progress of your investigation means you will not be forgotten.  

Claims are often seen where patients have slipped through the net. The patient may be left waiting for an appointment that never arrives while their condition worsens.  

Alternatively, the specimen or sample may never make it to a laboratory for analysis. This may be because it has not been taken correctly from you or just not passed to the laboratory.  

No result means you are no further to finding out what is wrong with you. And if no test results are sent back to your doctor, he may not be prompted to take the next step or to call you in again.  

Remember -if you haven’t heard anything, contact your healthcare provider for an update on the appointment, test date or results.  

Results interpreted wrongly

This is the error where the most claims are seen. Thousands of specimens, images and measurement investigations are taken every day, each one triggering their own report which may have significant importance to the particular patient.  

Reports on X-rays, scans and other imagery are a common source of claims and complaints. Only too often, X-rays are reported as ‘no bony abnormality’, only for it to be discovered later that early abnormality was present. Conditions can be left to deteriorate over weeks and months, with disastrous effects on prognosis.

Recently, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust was exposed as not properly assessing and writing up the results of scans for patients. Some 11,000 scans are said to be unreported, meaning 11,000 patients are without results and perhaps without treatment.  

It may not be a natural step for you as a patient to challenge the results of a scan or x-ray, but if you are still suffering symptoms, with no identified diagnosis, you must report your concerns to your GP or specialist in order that other investigations or even repeat investigations can be considered. This may help to prevent serious delay in diagnosing your condition.  

Failure to inform of results at all

Although this may seem a simple step in the process, it is alarming how often a patient is left in the dark, either by simple internal miscommunication or by a failure to send out reports to the correct healthcare provider. Again, patients need to be aware that a result is pending, and to be ready to chase up if they have heard nothing. Your intervention could mean your condition is caught in time for easy treatment.  

Assuming that no news is good news may not be in your best interests.

How We can Help

If you or someone you know has suffered medical negligence, get in contact with us to see if we can help. Contact Victoria Knight on 01935 846131 or victoria.knight@battens.co.uk

Visit our Clinical and Medical Negligence page by clicking here