Clinical negligence claims arising from anaesthesia
Clinical negligence claims arising from anaesthesia

The following PI & Clinical Negligence guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Clinical negligence claims arising from anaesthesia
  • Overview of anaesthesia practice
  • Examining the medical notes
  • Determining the speciality of expert needed
  • Consent and anaesthesia
  • Establishing Anaesthetic failings
  • Damages in anaesthesia claims

Overview of anaesthesia practice

Anaesthesia forms the largest single hospital medical speciality and the skills of anaesthetists are used in all aspects of patient care. While perioperative anaesthetic care of the surgical patient is at the core of speciality work, many anaesthetists have a much wider scope of practice which may include:

  1. perioperative preparation of surgical patients

  2. resuscitation stabilisation of patients in the emergency department

  3. pain relief in labour and obstetric anaesthesia

  4. intensive care medicine

  5. transport of acutely ill and injured patients

  6. pre-hospital emergency care

  7. pain medicine

  8. sedation and anaesthesia patients undergoing various procedures outside the operating theatre such as interventional radiology and dental surgery

In short anaesthetics is a varied and complex discipline.

This Practice Note will assist the reader in identifying the correct discipline of anaesthetist, using the medical notes to identify potential anaesthetic failings, investigating whether there are failings in the anaesthetic care, what injuries may have been caused by that failing, and the interaction of an anaesthetist's duty of care with that of other clinicians, most obviously that of the surgeon leading an operation. It will illustrate how anaesthesia input in the investigation can turn cases around and how to instruct experts.

Examining the medical notes

When looking at anaesthetic records what practitioners need to examine is dictated by the nature of the care they are