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The shocking costs of NHS spinal surgery errors

A recent report commissioned by the watchdog NHS Improvement has revealed that NHS spinal errors cost about one-third of its budget.

The statistics reveal that while the annual budget for spinal surgery is £300 million, the cost of litigation concerning spinal surgery averages more than £100 million. Put another way, for every £3 spent by the NHS on spinal surgery, £1 is paid out on litigation.

Spinal cord claims

Almost one-quarter of spinal surgery claims were in relation to a condition named “Cauda Equina” or CES. This is a condition which occurs when the bundle of nerves below the end of the spinal cord known as the cauda equina is damaged. Signs and symptoms include low back pain, pain that radiates down the leg, numbness around the anus and loss of bowel or bladder control. If the condition is not treated quickly it can cause significant damage including paralysis of the legs and incontinence.

It is therefore of importance that patients suspected to have CES undergo an emergency MRI scan immediately. Worryingly the recent report found that patients were sometimes not receiving scans quickly enough.

Between 2012 and 2017 more than 50% of spinal surgery claims involved matters of timing or judgment, 25% involved the interpretation of scans or results, 20% unsatisfactory surgical outcomes and 8% involved a failure to obtain informed consent from patients.

Specifically, in relation to the issue of consent, the report has recommended improvements to the information patients are given including holding special clinics about a month before surgery as opposed to the often continuing practice of obtaining consent on the morning of surgery.

How Thompsons NI can help

If you have concerns about the medical treatment you have received, please contact Joanne Kerr or Oonagh McClure on 02890 890450 for a free consultation, or complete our online claim form to start a claim.