AOP support

AOP Insight: understanding clinical negligence claims

New guidance from the AOP aims to inform members of what it means if a patient instructs a solicitor to bring a claim, and the steps they need to take

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Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio

Clinical negligence: Efa Schmidt, head of clinical negligence

What is the AOP’s clinical negligence guidance?

Efa Schmidt
AOP members benefit from a dedicated legal team who handle clinical negligence cases in-house, which means they understand the specifics of an optometry setting. The new Clinical Negligence Claims Guidance aims to inform members of what it means when a patient makes a complaint or instructs a solicitor to bring a claim, the steps they need to take, and the circumstances under which to contact the AOP’s legal team.

Why has the team produced this guidance?

The guidance has been created based on frequently asked questions received by the AOP’s clinical negligence team. This is a process we recognise can be complicated for members to understand, and a time that can be very stressful. A letter of claim can also be adversarial in tone, and so it is understandable that members may feel panicked if faced with this situation. Our hope is that the new guidance can reassure members who have received a complaint or a letter of claim, by providing advice in a format that is easy-to-digest, making it less overwhelming or intimidating for the member.

Why should members familiarise themselves with this process?

People often think that something like this won’t happen to them, but it is an unfortunate reality, and a variety of factors can lead to a patient complaint or claim. It is well worth members looking through the guidance to familiarise themselves with the processes and the tests that must be met and proved in order for a claim to succeed.

It doesn’t take a grave error for a complaint to be made or a claim to be brought – for example we are seeing an increase in the number of claims being brought where a practitioner has not kept comprehensive records or looked at an OCT scan that has been taken. Understanding what is to be considered in a clinical negligence claim may help you to improve your practice and protect yourself from a patient complaint or a claim.

What should members do if they receive a letter of complaint?

The first place members should check is the AOP’s website. The new clinical negligence guidance outlines in detail the steps that members should take if they have received a letter of complaint or a letter of claim, are asked to write a statement, or if they receive a medical records request. The advice is further broken down into the different steps members should take as a locum or as an employed optometrist, or if they are the practice owner or practice manager. Members should contact the clinical negligence team if they receive a claim from a solicitor or are notified of an intention to claim.