THE NHS is preparing for a barrage of compensation claims linked to Covid-19 leaving hospitals facing millions of pounds in pay-outs.
A Sun on Sunday probe can today reveal that at least 17 families are already planning to launch legal action.
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But experts warn these are likely to be the tip of the iceberg and that our overstretched hospitals are staring at a ticking “time-bomb”.
Others say NHS trust bosses face years having to navigate their way around “potential legal landmines”.
Ambulance-chasing lawyers, who pocket huge fees, are already circling amid concerns the first cases could open the floodgates to thousands of additional claims.
The NHS is so concerned they have issued guidance to medics ensuring they are protected against any threat of legal action.
But last night the Medical Defence Union, which represents medical workers, warned that frontline staff must be properly safeguarded.
The union’s Dr Udvitha Nandasoma said: “Healthcare professionals must be offered protection from the stress of facing the claims for compensation which may result from the extraordinary efforts they are taking.”
Families of NHS staff who lost their lives and doctors and nurses left sick by personal protective equipment blunders could be among those to mount legal challenges.
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More than 100 NHS workers have been killed by the virus — from doctors to nurses, paramedics, other carers and housekeeping staff, many pictured on this page.
And patients who died or were left severely unwell after services were cut due to Covid-19 are also likely to bid for compensation.
In what is now set to be a landmark case, we can disclose that a devastated son last week took steps to sue an NHS trust after his father died from cancer 11 days ago.
Health and safety manager Stuart Cameron claims his 78-year-old father, also called Stuart, was fobbed off when he and other relatives asked their local GP practice to carry out tests.
But the pensioner’s surgery in Clydebank, near Glasgow, refused and would not send out a medic because of coronavirus fears. Stuart died on April 22.
Yesterday his son said: “If they’d acted quicker my dad could still be here now.”
The family’s decision to sue NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde trust for medical negligence could pave the way for thousands more claims.
The NHS Litigation Authority — which handles all compensation cases — is currently facing claims of £83.4billion.
According to the most recent data the average payout per claim is £50,000.
But record awards have seen some payouts of up to £40million.
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The costs are ramped up even further by lawyers’ fees. On average they make £3million a week from NHS compensation claims.
Last week Health Secretary Matt Hancock said victims of NHS staff killed by the virus would receive £60,000. He insisted it would not stop people taking legal action if they wanted to.
But many in the health sector believe the cash effectively amounts to Government “hush-money”, to stop people making claims.
They also hope the wave of national pride in the NHS will reduce legal action. But many families have already expressed concern about the care and want Mr Hancock to make a public apology.
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They include Intisar Chowdury, 18, whose doctor father Abdul, 53, warned about a lack of protection before he died.
Lawyers also predict there could be a huge number of claims from the families of people whose care was not prioritised.
And claims are expected to be brought by families of ethnic minorities who have died at a disturbingly higher rate.
There are also likely to be cases which centre on the Government’s 2016 dry-run into how to respond to a pandemic and the steps they failed to take.
One senior doctor told the Sun on Sunday: “Privately, hospitals are terrified that once this pandemic has passed a lot of people who died needlessly or didn’t get the care they should have will want more than just an apology.
“Solicitors are likely to have a field day.”
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NHS negligence expert Colum Smith of MW solicitors, said: “Many law firms will already be receiving claims.
“It is likely the legal cases will centre on the fact people in charge in England were warned and the steps they then failed to take in adequately protecting people.
“This is a time-bomb that has well and truly started ticking.”
’Doc was earning for kids’
By Amir Razavi
A DOCTOR and dad of six who came to Britain only seven months ago has died after battling coronavirus.
Burns unit plastic surgeon Furqan Ali Siddiqui, 54, arrived last October and was supporting his wife and kids, the youngest just two, in Pakistan. He is one of 145 health workers to succumb to the illness.
A family tribute said the doctor at Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, was “a true gentleman, friendly and loving. He always gave his selfless best”.
Other NHS victims included Yorkshire Ambulance Service paramedic Mark Stanley, 57, a dad of two and former soldier.
Mum-of-three nurse Philomina Cherian, 62, who worked at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, died on Friday.
Heartbroken husband Joseph Varkey, 63, said: “When she left the ambulance, I didn’t tell her goodbye. I didn’t know it was the last time I was going to see her.”
The son of care home nurse Suzanne Loverseed, 63, says lack of protection killed her.
Ian O’Neal said online: “She had no PPE but fearlessly she carried on.” It is not known where Suzanne was working.