When an individual brings a claim arising out of their catastrophic injuries, the most significant part in monetary terms is likely to be their claim for care.
The 100% compensation principle means that claimants should receive full compensation to put them, in so far as is possible, in the same position that they would have been in but for their injuries.
We regularly act for individuals who require support because of the injuries they have sustained. This can vary from a need for 24-hour care if they have profound disabilities to buddy type care if they do not need help with personal care but want assistance to access the community, for example. Proper care should be enabling for the individual who needs it – providing them with a good quality of life in the context of any disabilities that they may have. This includes being able to make choices about their activities and pursuing those as far as possible.
However, the recruitment of good carers to achieve these objectives can be challenging at the moment. The care sector has been under pressure for some time and, in terms of care in the community, there are reports of an unprecedented care crisis. There are a number of reasons for this, but Brexit and the Covid pandemic have certainly contributed to the problem. Skills for Care data indicated that there were 165,000 vacancies in the adult care sector earlier this year and a BABICM survey has referred to ‘a perfect storm’ in the context of the care sector.
Case managers have a difficult task recruiting sufficient carers and retaining them so as to provide a workable care package. There are often gaps in the care provision and the costs involved in employing carers are increasing as the pool of carers is reduced. The rates of pay being offered will need to be appropriate for the area concerned and also the level of care required. Agencies that might have been used in the past to plug gaps have also struggled to recruit carers to have on their books.
The problem may be compounded by plans to recruit more staff for the NHS. The Long Term Workforce Plan that was published by the NHS earlier this year, and backed by the Government, sets out how the NHS will recruit and retain thousands more staff over the next 15 years. With a proposed £2.4 billion fund, the ambitious plan seeks to significantly increase medical school and GP training places by 2031 and almost double the number of adult nurse training places, equating to 24,000 more nurse and midwife training places a year by 2031. The NHS indicates that, when considered alongside the plans to retain staff, inter alia, this could equate to an extra 170,000 nurses and 71,000 more allied health professionals in place by 2036/37. This is an admirable target, but raises questions as to where these extra nurses will come from. If the extra nurses are going to be recruited from the same pool of individuals as carers, the care in the community crisis is only going to get worse.
It is important that any carers are vetted appropriately for their expertise, honesty, and the extent to which they will get on with the individual being cared for and their family, as appropriate.
The importance of effective care and what happens when this is not provided was highlighted by the sad case of Tom Somerset-How. He is an intelligent history graduate with cerebral palsy, which significantly affects his mobility and eyesight, such that he is dependent on carers for his personal care and day to day living. His paid live-in carer and his wife were found guilty of enslaving him, using his money to fund their own lifestyles and controlling his life. Tom was left in bed for much of the time, with little attention being paid to his personal hygiene and being provided with limited food so that his weight plummeted. This is obviously a tragic case and is hopefully a one-off, but it does reinforce the need for careful vetting of carers.
Given the factors at play in the care sector, it is vitally important that the care expert involved in a claim is realistic in terms of the rates that will need to be paid to carers to ensure that the injured individual has sufficient funds to engage the number and calibre of carers required.
Alison Appelboam Meadows, partner in the Penningtons Manches Cooper clinical negligence team, comments: “The difficulty with recruiting carers has huge implications for our clients who need sufficient and effective care. Paying carers at the right level and for adequate hours is key and the input of care experts on these issues is vitally important.”
If you are interested in finding out more about making a clinical negligence claim, you can contact our specialist team on 0800 328 9545, email email@example.com or complete our online assessment form.