The Guardian newspaper reported last week on a worrying story coming out of Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton. 

In recent years Musgrove Park, like most other hospitals across the UK, has been in an impossible battle to reduce waiting lists in the face of increased demand and falling budgets. One solution to this problem, and the one it appears Musgrove Park has adopted, is to bring in private companies to “blast-through” the backlog of routine operations. 

The newspaper reports that Musgrove Park contracted with private healthcare company, Vanguard Healthcare, to clear its backlog of cataract operations. 

The story focuses on the experiences of one 84-year-old-man who developed complications from the surgery conducted by Vanguard. He describes the procedure as “very rushed” lasting just 15 minutes. Afterwards he was left with complications including blurred vision, pain and swelling.

Far from being an isolated case, however, it appears that half of the 60 patients who underwent surgery with Vanguard suffered similar complications. When this came to light the operations were halted and both Vanguard and Musgrove launched investigations. 

Musgrove and Vanguard can be commended for their swift intervention. What though for the 30 or so injured patients? Who helps them?

The simple answer is speak to a specialist: a medical specialist first and, once their medical issues are in hand, a legal specialist.

The reason for specialist legal advice is that litigation in this area of the law is complex. Not only must the usual investigations be undertaken to establish negligence and injury, but careful consideration also needs to be given to determine who is to blame. In this instance, is it Musgrove or Vanguard who are to blame? 

The answer will depend on the arrangements in place between the hospital Trust and the private healthcare company. For various reasons, including commerciality, getting to the bottom of this question can be difficult. Specialist knowledge is essential if the best result is to be obtained.

As a specialist clinical negligence solicitor I, along with my colleagues at Davies and Partners Solicitors, have seen many incidence like. In recent years the numbers seem to be increasing – no doubt for the reasons mentioned earlier in this article. Let us all hope it is not a trend that will continue.