This site is intended for health professionals only

Patients who sue

You are going through your mail and your heart suddenly misses a beat. Its letterhead stands out from all the others – yes, it’s from ‘Parasite and Leach Solicitors’.

You put it to one side unread and wait for a quiet moment until you are feeling stronger to tackle it. You have an idea what it will contain already: a patient with a sprained ankle feels his recovery was delayed because he was distressed by the colour of the walls in your waiting room and he is suing you.

I am exaggerating of course, but not that much.

Getting sued by a patient will happen to all of us in our careers, probably more than once. There are times when patients do genuinely deserve monetary compensation for an error, but mostly it is greedy lawyers encouraging the unemployable and stupid to suck more of the life blood from the NHS.

What riles me is that so many of these so called legal advocates will have had their higher education funded by the tax payer and then instead of being grateful for the free education and professional qualification, they turn around and bite the hand that fed them.

You then arrive home and turn on the news to learn that only one in 10 women in South Sudan ever sees a midwife in pregnancy. Then the image is replaced by one of thousands squatting in filthy tents in a cholera ridden refugee camp in another part of the world.

What actually does go through the heads of ambulance-chasing lawyers when confronted with such images? I guess they are watching the advertisement for the new Audi on another channel.

Of course the NHS must always strive to improve, but we should remind patients how fantastically lucky they are to have a health service in the first place.

So the next ‘emergency’ patient you see with mild neck ache after a car accident, advise them to sack their sad excuse for an attorney and thank God they are not being shot at while standing in a queue for water with their sick child.

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London