Page 13 - PIC Magazine Issue 21
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  What current campaign is on your agenda for patient safety?
One key campaign that I am working on in conjunction with the Harmed Patient Alliance is around promoting the need for harmed patients to have access to properly resourced and funded advocate support provided by professionals who are independent of the health service. We have
no end of evidence from those we advise and support, that many harmed patients need more than we can provide in terms of advocacy. And actually, whilst there is a price attached to that,
I suspect that many of the costs of such a service would be offset by reduced litigation costs as we also know that many patients who litigate only
do so because they hit a brick wall when trying
to get an explanation as to what happened and
a meaningful apology. I believe the case for such
a service can be made out financially but, in any case, the reality is that the health service has a moral duty to fund such a service given the
harms caused.
As the link between the medical and legal profession what can AvMA do to develop dialogue
and understanding between the two?
I believe conferences such as the ACNC, which
do bring medics into the same room as lawyers are important examples of getting the two sides talking and so breaking down the barriers between them. We should remember that most people
do not enjoy litigating an issue and often their motivation is about accountability and getting an explanation and a meaningful apology. The more we can keep reminding the medical community of that, the better.
From my costs perspective
what are your thoughts on the introduction of fixed recoverable
costs in clinical negligence cases?
AvMA has had a lot to say about this issue and rightly so. From an access to justice perspective, it simply cannot be right that a harmed patient who is awarded fair, and much needed, financial compensation as a consequences of harm
that they incurred, should see their settlement reduced because of a fixed costs regime. Apart from being morally wrong, this will not drive the right behaviours in terms of health care providers. But to be clear, AvMA does not object to fixed recoverable costs in principle, but in many clinical negligence cases it simply is not an appropriate nor fair a mechanism to apportion costs.
What makes Paul – Paul?
I hate these sorts of questions! Former colleagues
of mine have said of me that I am scrupulously honest, fair, objective, listen to both sides when judging an issue and always own my mistakes. But I don’t know what they said about me after I left the room!
And when I was very young my mum used to call me George Washington. I suspect this comes from the legend that when his father asked him whether he’d chopped down his cherry tree, young Washington said, “I cannot tell a lie,
I did it with my little hatchet.” The point being that he was rigorously honest. For these reasons I would struggle to
be a professional politician – although that has not stopped others recently!
When you are not working how do you enjoy your spare time?
In no particular order I like to read, ride my
mountain bike on the South Downs, play badminton (not to
a good standard I hasten to add), spend time with friends and family and enjoy a good glass of beer. I am also a person who is very interested in ideas and ways we can improve and do things better. So, in terms of reading, yes, I certainly read a good amount of fiction for pleasure, but I also get pleasure from reading books and articles about how we can change and improve aspects of society (or healthcare) for the better.
What inspires you and why?
As I look across the health service right now
there is plenty that is not very encouraging and actually quite depressing. But I take inspiration from the
many people I have come to know in organisations, charities, voluntary groups or just working off their own bat who
have the motivation and inspiration to build a better system and society. I get real energy from meeting many such people through my work at AvMA. These are people who
are passionate, dedicated and take the time to campaign for improvement often against a door that is resolutely closed and has to be prized open, sometimes over several years
of blood, sweat and tears. That gives me inspiration. That is why when I joined AvMA the first thing I did was to read the history of the charity and meet the founders as I wanted to connect with them and make sure that whatever I do, builds on their work – recognising, as I do, that I am standing on the shoulders of giants.
What words of advice do you have for anyone starting out as a clinical negligence lawyer?
I think quite simply remember to really listen to what your client is telling you and be clear about what they are looking for to resolve this matter. Your client has almost certainly suffered poor communication through the medical issue they have. You have two ears and one mouth and it’s best to use them in that proportion! Autumn & Winter 2023

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