Will an NHS Winter Crisis Mean More Accusations of Medical Negligence?

NHS winter crisis
BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam
Legally reviewed by: BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam In: Medical Negligence

Is Another NHS Winter Crisis on the Horizon?

The past month has seen a drop in temperatures across the UK, and it’s set to get colder still as we move further into December.

But what does this mean for the NHS?

They have notoriously struggled severely over the past few years, especially in the wintertime.

Will a winter crisis mean more medical negligence cases brought against the NHS?

More Accusations of Medical Negligence

NHS Winter Crisis: A Brief History

In recent years it has become common knowledge that the NHS is struggling due to underfunding, understaffing and overcrowding.

This is a problem which exists all year round, however with colder winters happening each year the health service seems frozen in a worse struggle during the winter months.

In it’s busiest months of the year, the NHS is under strain; patients are waiting longer than they should and mixed-sex accommodation breaches are increasing.


In January this year data from NHS England showed that only once in the eight weeks from the beginning of December 2017 to the end of January 2018 did bed occupancy across England fall below 85 per cent, which is the recommended level.

The winter of 2017 saw the NHS in perhaps their heaviest crisis ever, with hospitals cancelling tens of thousands of operations and outpatient appointments.

This frightful pattern is a recurrence for hospitals across the UK every winter – and it’s getting worse – so it is likely to happen again this year which in turn means that medical negligence claims are likely to rise over the next few months.

What Causes the NHS Winter Crisis?

One contributing factor towards an NHS winter crisis is simply the bad weather, which every year causes a spike in hospital admissions between November and February.

Of course, the weather is out of anyone’s hands, unfortunately as is the NHS crisis at this late stage in the year.

Less staff than needed and more admissions than usual obviously puts a huge strain on the NHS, which unfortunately for patients does mean that the service they receive may not be up to standard.

Are Negligence Claims Set to Rise in the NHS Winter Crisis?

It is fair to say that there will a be a rise in claims for things like misdiagnosis, incorrect treatment, and failure to refer for further analysis.

These all fall under the umbrella of medical or clinical negligence.

If doctors and other medical professionals are overworked and understaffed they are more likely to make accidental mistakes, which can leave a patient or their loved one injured or traumatised.

A large percentage of negligence claims are based on patients’ diagnosis and treatment having been delayed, leading to a worse outcome than if they had been given effective treatment more quickly.

An example of how the NHS winter crisis directly leads to an increase in negligence claims occurred last year; to deal with a staff shortage, doctors suggested lengthening the time between cancer treatments or reducing the overall number for some types of patients.

By doing so, the treatment that the cancer patient’s receive will simply not be as effective as it would if it was administered in the correct intervals.

This is just one example of how the NHS winter crisis negatively impacts upon medical professionals and their patients, leading to a rise in negligence and medical negligence claims.

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Having to go into hospital is never pleasant, but can be especially upsetting over the winter months.

What can make this experience worse is if the treatment you receive is below acceptable standards.

If you believe you have been a victim of medical malpractice and would like advice please do not hesitate to contact us on 0800 999 2220.

Our friendly and reliable team of medical negligence solicitors are here to help.
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