Landmark Supreme Court ruling finds hospital negligent following ‘misleading’ waiting time advice

Posted By admin - 30th October 2018

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court recently ruled that a hospital trust was negligent due to the ‘incomplete and misleading’ information a receptionist provided about waiting times in an A&E Department.

In 2010, Michael Darnley sought medical care at Mayday Hospital in Croydon after being struck over the back of the head. He was taken to the hospital by a friend where he reported a head injury to the receptionist. Reception staff informed him that he would have to wait up to five hours to see a doctor. Within 19 minutes of arriving at the A&E Department, Mr Darnley felt he was too unwell and unable to wait any longer and so returned home to take some paracetamol.  An hour after returning home, he collapsed and suffered a catastrophic bleed on the brain that has left him severely disabled.

The case went to trial and the trust successfully defended the claim. Mr Darnley appealed to the Court of Appeal but the trial judge’s decision was upheld. The Court of Appeal decision was overturned earlier this month when the Supreme Court unanimously upheld Mr Darnley’s appeal.

The Supreme Court justices found that the reception staff at the hospital had failed to inform him of hospital policy to offer a triage service to patients within 30 minutes of arrival, and so there was a breach of duty of care. The Court found that Mr Darnley’s decision to leave was reasonably foreseeable and was made on the basis of the misleading information. Mr Darnley would have made a full recovery if he had been at the Mayday Hospital when he collapsed.

Lord Lloyd-Jones stated that, “the pressures on medical staff are enormous, the demand for attention is constantly fluctuating and priorities are likely to change.”  He went on to conclude that, “it is not unreasonable to require receptionists to take reasonable care not to provide misleading information as to the likely availability of medical assistance.” He said that the Claimant would still have to prove that they had been given misleading information.

Mr Darnley’s damages are yet to be assessed by the High Court.

Moosa-Duke Solicitors are specialists in clinical negligence law. If you believe that you or a family member have been a victim of negligence, due to private or NHS treatment, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0116 254 7456 to discuss your concerns.