Little things can make a big difference

Little things can make a big difference


Posted by: Jonathan Bamforth, Minster Law

Over the last few months I’ve noticed how quickly some of our most seriously injured clients are being discharged from hospital and how little they are being offered by the state once they are back at home.

One of my clients was recently released from hospital with very serious leg injuries several weeks before he had been led to believe would be the case.

He was sent home to a house with no downstairs bathroom, with no real way of getting upstairs and with no equipment.

When personal injury specialists, such as Minster Law, are aware that a client is going to be released in such circumstances, something can nearly always be done about it. In cases where we have a case manager working with the client, we’re able to liaise with the hospital discharge coordinators, ensuring that the arrangements around discharge are reasonable and high on his/her list of priorities.

However, in this case my impression is that discharge was only discussed with the client in the days immediately before it occurred and he went along with it thinking that he had no other choice.

The above scenario seems to be more common now than in the past and could be due to the squeeze on NHS funding and the need to free up beds which are in short supply – it’s no secret that the NHS is underfunded and overstretched. While the members of staff who provide hands on care to our clients are largely incredibly hardworking and dedicated professionals, the problem, I believe, is caused by resourcing and not the people who provide the service.

While this sort of situation may have more impact in cases where the injuries are as serious as they are above, the issues will apply to many patients who are sent home either from A&E or from a short hospital stay having suffered modest injuries.

Prior to discharge in larger cases we will usually arrange a full assessment of the client’s needs which will often be carried out by an Occupational Therapist (an Immediate Needs Assessment).

In more general terms the question we should be asking ourselves is: “What help should the defendant’s insurers provide for our client in these circumstances?” and the answer to that is the same in all cases irrespective of size.

In broad terms the client is entitled to have the equipment, support and therapy that he/she reasonably needs to recover from the effects of his or her injuries. Examples of these sorts of things are:

  • a taxi account if the client can’t drive
  • domestic assistance (cleaning, ironing etc.)
  • gardening
  • childcare
  • the cost of online shopping deliveries
  • equipment to help around the house and with wider mobility.

There should be no problem recovering the cost of things that clients reasonably need and things like stair lifts and mobility scooters can be rented for relatively short periods of time.

In a case where a client may have to live downstairs for several months after discharge from hospital, it may also be appropriate to consider whether the short-term rental of a bungalow or suitable ground floor flat where he/she will have access to a bath/shower/toilet and will be able to engage fully with the rest of his/her family would be appropriate.

I absolutely accept that there may be issues with funding when it comes to these sorts of things and the right course of action will be case specific. However, this is not a reason to discount the options available without due consideration.

Fundamentally, thinking carefully about what the clients need (and doing so creatively but sensibly) will make the recovery and rehabilitation process easier for them.

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