Category Archives: News

Our 25th anniversary!

On 1 October 1992, Hilton Armstrong and Peter Foulkes set up Armstrong Foulkes, with their intention being to set up a firm of solicitors specialising in clinical negligence and personal injury.  At the time, there were no other firms in the area that specialised in clinical negligence and we were the first firm in Teesside to have a legal aid contract for clinical negligence and the only one to have such a contract for many years.

Peter retired on 1 October 2013 when Joanne Davies and Ashleigh Holt became partners and Armstrong Foulkes became Armstrong Foulkes LLP, a limited liability partnership.

Throughout the past 25 years, the firm has gone from strength to strength and is nationally recognised as being a leading clinical negligence firm.  We are described in Chambers and Partners, which ranks lawyers worldwide, as a “specialist boutique with a superb reputation for handling complex clinical negligence claims. Advises and represents clients on a wide range of matters, including child brain injury and surgical negligence cases, and also handles claims concerning delayed diagnoses.”  The top firms are ranked from Band 1 to 6 (with 1 being the highest ranking achievable) and we are pleased that we continue to hold a Band 1 ranking and have done for many years now.

The firm now comprises 5 fee earners – Hilton, Joanne and Ashleigh (the partners) and Kathryn and Dan (solicitors).  We also have 4 support staff – Liz (who has been with the firm since the outset), Caroline, Jan and Honor.

Hilton says specialising in clinical negligence suits his personality as it requires great attention to detail.  This is a trait of his that is recognised in Chambers and Partners as he is noted to be “technically very competent, very thorough and will go the extra distance to investigate a case to see if there is something in it.”  As well as ranking firms of solicitors, Chambers and Partners also ranks the top solicitors in the country and Hilton continues to hold a Band 1 ranking.  Ashleigh and Joanne are also recommended.

The partners have yet to decide how we are going to celebrate the 25 year milestone but we have been assured it will be something to look forward to!  In the meantime, in true Armstrong Foulkes style, we have celebrated with cake!

cake

If you would like to speak to one of our solicitors for advice about a potential clinical negligence claim, please telephone us on 01642 231110.

Kathryn Watson, October 2017

Fixing the amount of Costs in Clinical Negligence Claims

Our solicitors and indeed the profession have awaited with some dread Lord Justice Jackson’s review of costs in civil matters which includes clinical negligence claims. It was suggested that there should be a fixed amount of costs allowed for claims up to a certain value, whether it is a contract dispute, a neighbour dispute or a complex clinical negligence claim. This was worrying because this took no account of the very individual nature of clinical negligence claims, where each claim, like each person is very different. Two people could, for example, have suffered the same mistake or be misdiagnosed with the same condition but the reasons for this, the investigation and the effect on them can be completely different needing an individual approach to each claim. It was always our view that a “one size fits all” system would only lead to people being denied the thorough investigation they deserve.

The costs paid by the defendant that the media and the NHS repeatedly complain are too high and who portray solicitors as “bleeding the NHS dry” are not a “windfall” for solicitors as has been claimed. They include the costs of multiple medical experts whose involvement can in large value cases cost tens of thousands of pounds and the fees for specialist barristers to advise on the case and represent the Claimant at Court. Cases proceeding to Trial involve solicitors’ costs for work over generally 3-6 years, some even longer. Limiting costs available to pursue a claim can, in our opinion, only result eventually in being unable to properly investigate a claim. Being denied the opportunity to fully investigate and subsequently being denied justice could result in the loss of the much needed compensation that allows those injured to live with the effects of the negligence and improve their life.

Lord Justice Jackson’s review, published in July, has recommended many changes and has thankfully rejected a “one size fits all” system. However the most significant proposal for the work we do is to suggest limiting the level of costs for Clinical Negligence work in cases with a value of up to £25,000. At each stage in the case there will be a fixed amount of costs available. This is not ideal and will include cases which are very complex and emotional to investigate but lower in value such as errors causing the deaths of children. It remains to be seen how or when this process will be finalised and there is a lot more work to be done before then but it is clear there will be implementation in the future of a fixed amount of costs to some clinical negligence cases.

Here at Armstrong Foulkes our solicitors are always available to discuss a potential case and advise you of your options irrespective of the value or level of injury. Please do not hesitate to contact us for a free no-obligation chat on 01642 231110.

Joanne Davies – September 2017

Dan Richardson in the Red Bull Soapbox Race 2017

For the second time in two years a team of my friends and I were lucky enough to take part in the Red Bull Soapbox race held at Alexandra Palace in London.

Out of the over 4,000 teams that applied 70 were chosen to take part in the day. On the race weekend we lined up next to some fantastic soapboxes, including a Harry Potter inspired motorcycle and sidecar, a giant Donald Trump in a bathtub and my personal favourite, a pair of raptors from Jurassic Park! The quality of design and construction of some of these soapboxes was outstanding.

Our soapbox was built from scratch and inspired by the Mad Max films. While we were all very happy with how the soapbox tuned out, in hindsight our heavy and thick costumes may have been a little warm for a hot summer day spent out in the sun!

Although we took part in the race back in 2015 we are sure that the track must have somehow gotten steeper, and the jumps bigger, in the last 2 years. Particularly daunting this year was a water jump, the first jump on the course and for many teams the only one they got to.

Despite the obstacles both my co-driver and I got to the end of the track in one piece, although unfortunately the same can’t be said for our soapbox, which chose to disintegrate spectacularly on the way down, I am sure adding to the thrill for the spectators!

Now it’s back to the drawing board for 2019’s idea……..

Dan Richardson, August 2017

[“All Dan’s colleagues here at Armstrong Foulkes were very proud, thrilled and a little scared as we watched video of him fly down the course, dodging obstacles in a disintegrating soapbox! However, like the trooper he is, despite being a little bruised and banged up he was straight back in the office and is already planning for next race! Well done Dan” – Editor]

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Will the General Election result affect your claim?

The answer to this question is “No”.  You may think this is an irrelevant question and therefore pointless answer, but there is more to it than first seems.  I shall explain.

Before the General Election the Government had made it clear that it was their intention to reduce the bill to the NHS arising out of clinical negligence claims.  Not only did they want to reduce the legal fees but they hoped this would also cause a reduction in the number of valid claims.  They were seeking to reduce an injured person’s access to justice by making it harder to pursue a claim.

This isn’t fair.  So we like many other firms and charities campaigned against it.  I wrote to three of our local MP’s setting out in some detail the effect of these changes on their constituents, inviting them to share their own views and asking which way they intended to vote.  Only one replied.  I wrote to the two major parties candidates in my own constituency, neither replied.  It’s pretty clear to me that this issue is not all that important to them.  It’s not a vote winner, which means the party in charge will usually get its own way.

The significance of the hung Parliament we now have is that changing the current system of compensating victims of medical negligence and making it harder to bring a claim may not be so high up on their list of priorities – they have bigger fish to fry.

This is good news for all those unfortunate enough to have been injured.

Hilton Armstrong – July 2017

Armstrong Foulkes raises money for local centre for the blind

We are pleased to announce that over the last year Armstrong Foulkes has raised over £950 for a local charity, Teesside and District Society for the Blind.  In addition to our “Trick or Treat Tombola” at Halloween and regular “dress down days” we’ve received significant contributions from staff, clients and friends of Armstrong Foulkes.  Centre Manager, Rona Ashton thanked us for our tremendous effort and explained “the money raised will be put towards our costs for providing social activities for the blind and partially sighted people living in the Teesside area.”

The charity was brought to our attention by one of our client’s who suffered sudden blindness as a result of negligent medical treatment.  In 2010 she developed a recurrence of a condition she had suffered 20 years previously, benign intracranial hypertension. This can cause damage to the optic nerves and consequently visual problems.  A simple lumbar puncture would have revealed this and surgery would have halted the progression of her condition but the diagnosis was missed for over 1 year by which time, surgery was too late and our client lost her sight in her mid 60s.

The Blind Centre made a huge difference to our client in that she was able to meet and socialise with people who were similarly affected.  She enjoys regular days out and even holidays with the centre.  She said in the early days it gave her a reason to get up in the morning.  If you are interested in learning more about the charity please look at their website at www.teessideblind.co.uk

Injuries which arise from negligent medical treatment can be devastating and life changing.  If you have suffered physically or psychologically as a result of poor medical treatment, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Ashleigh Holt – June 2017

How to complain about the medical treatment you have received

Many people contact us because they would like to complain about the medical treatment they have received but are unsure how to go about it.  Alternatively, they may not wish to complain but would like more information or answers to questions they have not had the opportunity of asking or have done so and have not received adequate answers.

You are entitled to complain/ask questions about the treatment you have received.  We advise you send a letter to the Chief Executive of the Trust if the treatment was provided by a hospital or district nurse and to the Practice Manager of your GP practice if it was provided by a GP or practice nurse.  Complaints should normally be made within 12 months of an incident or of the matter coming to your attention.  However, sometimes people understandably don’t feel up to making a complaint so soon after, particularly following a bereavement or serious injury.  If more than 12 months have passed since the subject of your complaint, it may be useful to explain in your letter why you are only able to write the letter now and this may encourage the provider of the treatment to investigate your complaint in any event.

The letter of complaint should set out briefly the background to your complaint and then we recommend you make a list of numbered questions that you would like answering.  This will then enable the investigator of your complaint to respond to each question in turn.  Upon receipt of the complaint, the provider should acknowledge and initiate an investigation.  Once their investigation is complete, which may take some time if it is a complex matter, they will either provide you with a written response or invite you to attend a meeting to discuss the matter further.  Whether you choose to attend the meeting or not is entirely up to you and what you feel comfortable with.  If you do go to a meeting, we advise you to ask for minutes or a recording of the meeting.

Once you have the provider’s response to your complaint, you are entitled to ask further questions if you think the response fails to address all the issues.  If you are not happy with the way the complaint has been dealt with, you can take your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, which is independent of the NHS.  They will then look into the matter further for you.

Solicitors are unable to get involved with the complaints process as it is separate from a legal claim.  However, if you suspect you or a family member has been injured as a result of medical negligence and you have made a complaint and would like to know what to do next, or if you would like advice before making a complaint, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01642 231110 and one of our solicitors will be happy to talk to you and provide advice on how best to proceed.

Kathryn Watson – May 2017

Increase in the value of claims with future losses – An explanation for our clients

There are several elements to calculating the right level of compensation. It is usually made up of awards for:

  • Pain, suffering and loss of amenity

Your injuries and their effect on you

  • Financial expenses incurred.

Anything you have bought or paid for as a direct result of the negligence, for example prescription or medication charges, travel expenses and loss of earnings.

  • Future anticipated losses.

These are any losses you will likely suffer in future as a result of the negligence such as ongoing medication charges, regular private treatment, annual fees for something you require or ongoing loss of earnings. They can also be one off future losses or losses recurring every 10 years in the future.

To calculate the future losses there are set formulas that all lawyers use. For future losses you take the likely future expense and multiply it by a figure known as the “multiplier”.  All lawyers use actuarial tables known as the “Ogden Tables” to work out the “multiplier” as you cannot simply use the amount of years the loss is expected. There are many different types of tables and of future loss but if we look below in general terms at a recurring loss for a set period you will see how the situation has changed in March in favour of the person claiming compensation.

When compensation is paid at trial you would receive “in your hand” the future financial cost of the expense, therefore if you were to suffer, for example, an annual medication cost of £100 for the next 34 years the calculation should not be £100 x 34 years = £3,400. The reason for this is that if you were to get £3,400 now you could in theory invest this and end up with more than the loss would have been at the end of the 34 years. The purpose of compensation is to put you back to where you would have been had it not been for the accident/incident/negligence therefore having more than your loss at the end of 34 years would be considered a windfall and against this principle. For this reason the figure of 34 is discounted to allow for the fact you could invest it and it could grow.

As mentioned above these discounted figures are set out in the Ogden Tables used by solicitors to calculate the position correctly. From 2001 until 19th March 2017 all “years of loss”,for example, were discounted by 2.5% to provide the correct “multiplier” or figure to times the ongoing or future loss by.

From 20th March 2017 the figure to use to discount the future loss has changed. Now instead of discounting by 2.5% in the above 34 year example it will be discounted by -0.75%. This is an incredible change and significantly increases the total figure. 34 years annual loss in this situation which at 2.5% discount was 23.01 years totalled £2,301. This becomes 38.75 years at -0.75% discount totalling £3,875. This is more than the anticipated loss at £100 per year for 34 years. Any claim with future losses has now increased in value. In some claims the increase is dramatic by hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Understandably this has not been popular with Defendants and we all accept that this is likely to alter again. The likelihood is that it will change to something which will still potentially mean a discount to the years claimed but one more likely to be balanced by investing the money and returning you to the position you would have been in, had the negligence never occurred.

This is a complicated issue but our solicitors always aim to explain in detail why and how they are claiming losses for you. If you think you may have a claim for compensation and in particular for future loss do not hesitate to call us and speak to one of our specialist clinical negligence solicitors on a free, no obligation, basis.

Joanne Dennison – March 2017

Your rights to access medical records

As part of a clinical negligence claim we often obtain copies of medical records during our initial investigations. Many people, however, come to us for advice on obtaining their medical records independently and this article will provide some guidance as to how this can be done.

There are two acts under which medical records can be obtained, for living patients applications should be made under the Data Protection Act 1998 and if the patient has passed away then certain people can apply for their records under the Access to Health Records Act 1990.

Data Protection Act 1998

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 patients have the right to see or obtain copies of their own medical records. You are not required to provide a reason why you want copies of your medical records. Requests for records should be addressed to the records manager at the relevant GP surgery or hospital and make it clear that the request is under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Once the request is received the healthcare provider will contact you outlining their fees for providing copies of the records. They may not charge you any fee at all, but if they do the amount they are entitled to charge differs depending on how the records are held (electronically, on paper or a combination of the two) and when they were last added to but cannot exceed £50 and is often much less than this. Once they receive payment the healthcare provider has 40 days to provide you with copies of your records. If you don’t receive them within this time you should chase them and remind them this is a breach of their duty under the Data Protection Regulations 2000.

Access to Health Records Act 1990

The Access to Health Records Act 1990 allows certain people, typically family or Personal Representatives of the deceased’s estate or any other person who may have a claim arising from the death, to access the records of patients who have passed away. If it is hospital records that are required then the application process is similar to an application under the Data Protection Act, a request should be made in writing to the records manager at the hospital where the treatment was received, making it clear that the application is under the Access to Health Records Act 1990. You may be asked to provide proof of your identity and relationship with the deceased to ensure you are entitled to access the requested records.

When a patient dies their GP records are typically transferred to be stored centrally by an NHS body called Primary Care Support England, the GP surgery will be able to advise you whether this has happened.  The Primary Care Support England website (http://pcse.england.nhs.uk) provides a detailed application form needed to obtain a deceased patient’s GP records.

To simply view the records under the Access to Health Records Act a fee of £10 can be charged. If copies of the records are required then they are entitled to charge a further fee for photocopying and postage. Unlike a request under the Data Protection Act these charges are not subject to any upper limit.

If after you have obtained your records you have any questions or you would like advice on any possible claim please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our solicitors would be happy to provide you with advice and guide you through your options.

Dan Richardson – March 2017

Why choose a specialist?

If you are looking for a Solicitor to handle your medical claim, then you will probably do the following:

  1. Search the internet.
  2. See an advert in your local paper or on TV.
  3. Listen to a friend, relation or colleague.
  4. Contact your family Solicitor.

Nowadays, lots of Solicitors are doing Clinical Negligence work but that does not mean they are specialists.  They are turning their hand to it because they are short of work.  Their adverts are very good and they will promise you the world: e.g. “we expect to settle your claim within 6 to 12 months” or “we have successfully recovered compensation for thousands of injured people” and so on.  This is all rubbish.

So, why should you go to a specialist like us?  There is only one reason:

Would you be happy if a Neurosurgeon was going to remove your appendix, or if an Orthopaedic Surgeon operated on your brain?  Both are very competent in their own field but you would be a fool to trust them if they strayed out of their area of expertise – so why do it with your medical claim?

We only deal with medical claims for injured people on Teesside and in the North East.  We have years of experience which enable us to get you the best result for you, both in terms of compensation and answers.

We have national recognition and are listed in Chambers and The Legal 500:

Ring us today at 01642 231110 and we will tell you if you have a claim worth pursuing.  You will speak to an experienced Solicitor who will give you straightforward answers.

Hilton Armstrong – February 2017

Chambers & Partners 2016 – Highest Band 1 ranking retained

We are proud to announce that Armstrong Foulkes LLP has retained its status as the only Band 1 recommended firm dealing with clinical negligence for injured patients in Middlesbrough and surrounds in the 2016 edition of Chambers and Partners which was published at the end of last year.  The ranking, which is the highest accolade awarded by Chambers and Partners assessed things which matter to our clients such as our technical legal ability, our professional conduct, our client service, our diligence and our commitment among other qualities most valued by clients.  Comments included:

“They specialise in clinical negligence work. They know what they are about and get good results for their clients.”

“They are very compassionate, the communication is excellent and they are extremely efficient and in-depth in their research.”

In addition, all three of our Partners – Hilton Armstrong, Joanne Dennison and Ashleigh Holt – were also ranked in the prestigious guide which identifies and ranks the most outstanding law firms and lawyers around the world.

Ashleigh Holt of Armstrong Foulkes LLP said “By achieving this ranking we feel very proud to be able to represent injured patients in the Tees Valley and surrounding areas and to continue to do our very best for them.”

Ashleigh Holt – January 2017