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Do clinical incidents, complaints and medicolegal claims overlap?

Paul Goldsmith (Neurosciences, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne , UK)
Jackie Moon (Clinical Goverance and Risk, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Paul Anderson (Patient Services - Corporate, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Steve Kirkup (Legal & Committee Services, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Susan Williams (Litigation, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Margaret Gray (Dermatology, Ophthalmology and Plastics, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)

International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance

ISSN: 0952-6862

Article publication date: 12 October 2015

370

Abstract

Purpose

Error reporting by healthcare staff, patient-derived complaints and patient-derived medico-legal claims are three separate processes present in most healthcare systems. It is generally assumed that all relate to the same cases. Given the high costs associated with these processes and strong desire to maximise quality and standards, the purpose of this paper is to see whether it was indeed the case that most complaints and claims related to medical errors and the relative resource allocation to each group.

Design/methodology/approach

Electronic databases for clinical error recording, patient complaints and medico-legal claims in a large NHS healthcare provider organisation were reviewed and case overlap analysed.

Findings

Most complaints and medico-legal claims do not associate with a prior clinical error. Disproportionate resource is required for a small number of complaints and the medico-legal claims process. Most complaints and claims are not upheld.

Research limitations/implications

The authors have only looked at data from one healthcare provider and for one period. It would be useful to analyse other healthcare organisations over a longer time period. The authors were unable to access data on secondary staffing costs, which would have been informative. As the medico-legal process can go on for many years, the authors do not know the ultimate outcomes for all cases. The authors also do not know how many medico-legal cases were settled out of court pragmatically to minimise costs.

Practical implications

Staff error reporting systems and patient advisory services seem to be efficient and working well. However, the broader complaints and claims process is costing considerable time and money, yet may not be useful in driving up standards. System changes to maximise helpful complaints and claims, from a quality and standards perspective, and minimise unhelpful ones are recommended.

Originality/value

This study provides important data on the lack of overlap between errors, complaints and claims cases.

Keywords

Citation

Goldsmith, P., Moon, J., Anderson, P., Kirkup, S., Williams, S. and Gray, M. (2015), "Do clinical incidents, complaints and medicolegal claims overlap?", International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Vol. 28 No. 8, pp. 864-871. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJHCQA-06-2015-0081

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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