Caring for a sick child is a heartbreaking and challenging experience. Any parent or guardian who has had to watch their child suffer will understand just how difficult it is. However, many can rest assured that their child is receiving a high standard of care and treatment that will ultimately help them recover from an injury or illness.
However, what can you do if you are concerned that those treating your child are not carrying out their job to the correct standard?
First of all, it is understandable that as a parent you may be too close to the situation to view it objectively. This is your child and you will find it hard to see anything as good enough or fast enough when it comes to treatment. It is a wise to engage another person, such as a friend, to discuss your concerns with. You should also discuss your concerns calmly with the medical staff treating your child. What you perceive as a low standard of care may be the correct treatment depending on your child's situation.
If, however, you find that you have genuine concerns over the standard of care you child received, to the point that you are considering a claim for negligence then you should discuss those concerns with a legal professional.
In order for a claim to be successful, the standard of care must have fallen below the professional standard in order for it to be considered negligent, it must also have caused your child harm. Harm could be a delayed recovery, or a physical or psychological injury.
BUT WHAT CAN YOU DO?
First of all, if your child is currently undergoing treatment then your main priority should be to make sure that your child gets the care it needs. Your first point of call should be the immediate medical staff treating your child, if this is hospital care then the treating doctors should be spoken to, if this does not resolve your concerns then the hospitals patient liaison team will be your next point of call. They will instruct you and assist you with resolving any concerns you may have.
If your child is receiving another type of care, as an outpatient, e.g.: physiotherapy then you should speak with the provider. If that does not resolve the issue then speak with your child's GP, ask them to refer for a second opinion and relay to them your concerns.
If your child is no longer receiving care, and you have concerns regarding care they received in the past, then discussing such with a legal professional will be the way forward. The legal professional can advise you regarding complaints directly to the source or bringing a potential claim.
BRINGING A CLAIM
If you are looking to bring a negligence claim to the Courts then you can either bring a claim on your child's behalf now, or your child can bring a claim themselves after they turn 18. They have until they turn 21 years old to bring the claim themselves.
If you decide to bring a claim now on your child's behalf, you will be acting for them as their litigation friend. If you would rather not do this yourself but would perhaps like another family member or friend to do this on behalf of your child, then that is also a possibility.
WHO CAN BE A LITIGATION FRIEND?
The court can appoint a variety of people to act as a litigation friends including: -
- a parent or guardian
- a family member or friend
- a solicitor
- a professional advocate, e.g. an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA)
- a Court of Protection deputy
APPLY TO THE COURT
To apply to be a Litigation friend you will need to fill out a certificate of suitability and make the application to the Court.
When the application is made the Court will check that you, or the person who is applying to be a litigation friend, is suitable. They will make sure that your interests don't conflict with your child's and that you can make decisions about the case in a fair and competent way
A sick child is a terrible thing and knowing that they are getting the right standard of care is important. Relaying your concerns to the treating doctors is the crucial first step. If this does not resolve your concerns then you should be contacting either your child's GP or a patient liaison service.
Brining a claim for negligence is not a straight forward process and should be discussed with a legal professional. If you choose to go ahead with a potential claim then you can either act now as a litigation friend or allow your child to bring the claim themselves when they turn 18 years old. They have until their 21st birthday to issue the claim at Court.