A&E Waiting Times

An interesting case is returning to the Supreme Court this week.   In Darnley v Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, Mr Darnley went to A&E with a head injury after an assault.   He was told by the receptionist that he could expect to wait up to 5 hours before treatment.   He therefore decided after 90 minutes to go home.    He was not informed about the triage system to examine patients within 30 minutes and had left the hospital by the time the nurse came to look for him.   At home, Mr Darnley’s condition deteriorated and when he did return to hospital, it was too late to prevent permanent injury.   He sustained partial hemiplegia (paralysis of one side of the body).

When the case first came before the Court, the Judge found that neither the receptionist nor the NHS Trust owed any duty to advise Mr Darnley about waiting times and it was not held to be a breach of duty for the nurse failing to triage Mr Darnley within 90 minutes.   The Court of Appeal was split and dismissed a challenge from the Claimant last year.

Could the case have the consequence of opening up receptionists to negligence claims? The decision may have serious implications for Clinical Negligence Law.

Tracy Rodgers