There have been a number of claims brought recently against healthcare providers arising out of delayed care and/or treatment.
Whilst a very lengthy delay may be found by a court to constitute a breach of the duty of care, treatment waiting times are an issue of resource management and an area in which the courts are traditionally slow to intervene.
However, in a recent case, (Peter Moriarty v Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (2011)), a 58 year old man accepted damages of £12,000 as a result of a claim brought for what was alleged to have been an “unreasonable delay” of approximately six months on a waiting list for a hernia repair procedure in 2008. It appears to have been agreed between the parties that three months or thereabouts was an acceptable period of time to spend on a waiting list and that the additional three months was the period complained of. There were no complications or ongoing difficulties alleged to have arisen as a result of that delay which, on any objective analysis, appears to be one which is not unreasonable for surgery of that kind.
The £12,000 sum appears high in those circumstances but is, perhaps, evidence of the much higher expectations now held by patients and ‘consumers’ about acceptable waiting times.