Deborah Blythe, partner and head of the clinical negligence and personal injury team, is in the Supreme Court on Thursday 7 June 2018, acting for Darnley in the case of Darnley (Appellant) v Croydon Health Services NHS Trust (Respondent) on the duty of A&E receptionists.

Issues to be determined are:

  1. whether there is a duty of care between a hospital Trust and a patient, and
  2. whether that duty has been breached through the failure of the A&E receptionists to provide reasonably correct information about waiting times in an A&E department when it is reasonably foreseeable that failure to do so will cause harm.

The Trust is arguing that there is no duty of care on the part of the Trust to those attending A&E in respect of information about the time to be seen and that to impose such a duty is not fair, just or reasonable.

Darnley case summary

Mr Darnley (the appellant) went to A&E after having received a blow to the head. He was told by the receptionist that it would be 4 to 5 hours before he would be seen. This information was incorrect. The system was that a triage nurse would examine the appellant within 30 minutes of arrival and decide how soon he needed to see a doctor. Mr Darnley waited 19 minutes then decided to go home. A short time after, the triage nurse came to look for him but he was no longer there. Mr Darnley's condition deteriorated at home and he returned to hospital by ambulance. He underwent neurosurgery but by this point it was too late to prevent permanent brain damage resulting in long term disabilities. Mr Darnley brought a claim for damages against the respondent NHS Trust for injuries caused by negligence of staff at the hospital.

The case has wide implications both for patients attending A&E and A&E departments, and has been reported in The Law Society Gazette.

Further details of the case can be found: