The legal job market has been relatively sluggish in recent years, with around 1.2 million vacancies registered at the end of 2021. This was a record number according to the O.N.S., while it impacted all legal sectors in the UK.
What’s more, more than 50% of companies reporting these staff shortages said that they were struggling to fill their vacancies, with this trend unlikely to change markedly any time soon.
However, some market niches are growing at a faster rate than others, with medical negligence offering a relevant case in point. But just how popular is this, and what does a typical healthcare case look like?
How Big a Field is Medical Negligence?
There’s no doubt that medical negligence remains a huge area and fast-growing area of law, thanks largely to growing awareness and the popularity of the so-called “no win, no fee” mechanism.
Due to this, people are pursuing paralegal courses that cover the basics of legal procedures, including how to conduct legal research, draft legal documents, and navigate the court system. This knowledge can assist them in gathering evidence, preparing legal documents, and assisting attorneys with case management in medical negligence cases.
The value of this market is also considerable, with some of the more complex and significant medical negligence claims capable of generating huge compensation payouts on behalf of patients.
Together with smaller and more simplistic claims, the NHS in the UK had a staggering £1.7 billion worth of successful negligence claims made against them in 2016/17. This number increased by £300 million when compared with the previous year, while the number of clinical claims made against the organisation has increased since 133% in 2006/07.
What Does the Typical Healthcare Case Look Like?
There are numerous types and iterations of medical negligence case, some of which are more popular than others.
For example, one of the most common triggers is the failure or delay in treatment, which results in the patient’s condition worsening or further symptoms being developed over time.
This is often the result of either a misdiagnosis or the failure to diagnose a condition at all, which is known to cause potentially irreversible damage to patients. Interestingly, the recent coronavirus pandemic also caused a rise on the delay to treatment, particularly in the case of cancer cases.
Sadly, the period between March 1st and April 18th 2020 saw an 80% in referrals for suspected cancer, while the British Medical Journal has forecast that cancer deaths will increase by 20% thanks to the pandemic.
Other common negligence claims revolve around birth defects and surgical errors, while prescription mistakes (in terms of the drug administered or the recommended dosage) are also widely reported.
What Skills do Healthcare Lawyers Require?
If you want to target this field as part of your education or career, there are a number of key skills that you’ll need.
Certainly, empathy and patience will be needed to deal with damaged clients, who may be incurring a number of physical or mental issues. These must be deployed alongside knowledge of healthcare law and guidance, along with the duty of care that doctors must adhere to at all times.
Excellent negotiation skills are also highly sought-after in the medical negligence field of law.
The reason for this is simple; as healthcare lawyers often have to negotiate compensation payouts on behalf of their clients, during which time they’ll go up against powerful organisations, trusts and insurers.