Choosing a Private Doctor

By | July 31, 2013

Image by Egahen.

     Image by Egahen.

Choosing a private doctor is not an easy decision. There are many factors to consider and everyone has different priorities. There are different reasons why someone might wish to use a private doctor. It may be that they require an operation or have a particular medical condition that they need to sort out and wish to do it privately. Or they may want a private GP who they can see on a regular basis whatever their medical needs.

Qualifications

Before choosing a private doctor you need to make sure they have the appropriate qualifications. Obviously, any practitioner needs certain qualifications, but you may wish to compare the specific qualifications of different doctors so you can decide who you think is more qualified. If you are using a doctor for a specific condition or an operation then you need to make sure they have qualifications specifically to deal with this particular issue. You want to be sure they have an expertise in the area you will be paying them to help you with.

The Way they Operate

In the private sector everyone has different ways of doing things and this can have an influence on patients and patient care. Unlike NHS doctors, they do not have such strict rules and procedures that they must follow. You may have certain preferences as to how you would like your doctor to operate. You want to choose a doctor who has a way of doing things that fits in with what you would find comfortable.

Location

Location is of obvious importance, as for most people it is important that they are nearby. You may at times need to be able to get there quickly. If you visit the doctor regularly, this becomes even more important.

Track Record

It is always wise to find out about a doctor’s track record. This will allow you to compare different doctors and consider their relative advantages and disadvantages. When looking at this you need to think about which aspects of their records are most important to you. If you are choosing a private doctor for a particular operation, research their success rate. How many times have they carried out such as operation, and how many of these have resulted in a successful outcome? It would be useful if you are able to find out the opinions of previous patients. Were they happy with the service they received and were there any problems that they experienced?

What about a Healthcare Plan?

Some opt to pay into a medical insurance policy so they are covered for private healthcare. It is important to choose a healthcare plan that suits, as they can vary greatly. An obvious consideration is how much it is going to cost you. You need to check out what is included and if there is anything extra you might need to pay for. If there are any specific medical conditions you suffer from, make sure these are covered.

Whatever type of private medical care you are looking for, make sure you can learn as much as possible. Ask as many questions as you can to build up an overall picture of the care you will receive. We all have different priorities – so make sure yours are met.

For a private doctor in London visit the Medical Chambers Kensington.

Back Pain & Cauda Equina Syndrome

By | July 31, 2013

Image by Forwardcom

     Image by Forwardcom

Back pain is a health complaint that almost everyone has had at some point, whether they have felt it for a day or suffered it for several weeks. There are a myriad of statistics surrounding back pain, some claim that 9 out of 10 adults will suffer it at some point in their life while others claim that the proportion is 4 in 5 adults. Other statistics state that, in the United States, back pain is the fifth most common reason to visit a doctor. No matter which statistics are the most accurate, they all show that back pain is a concern for many people.

Back pain can be categorised in a number of ways. Often it is classified by the area that the pain is felt in – these categories are: neck pain, middle back pain, lower back pain and tailbone pain. The most common type that people are affected by is lower back pain. Alternately, the problem can be categorised by how long it lasts. Pain that lasts less than six weeks is known as ‘acute’, pain that lasts between six and twelve weeks is ‘sub-acute’, and ‘chronic’ pain is where it has lasted for longer than twelve weeks.

As there are so many different types of back pain there are also many different causes. The most common types of back pain are as a result of strain or stress on the spine. Putting stress and strain on your back is more easily done than you might think. Poor posture, either when standing, driving or sitting, is a central cause of back problems. Other causes may be lifting something awkwardly or incorrectly, not doing a warm-up/cool down when exercising or sleeping on a bad or broken mattress. Back problems can often be work related, such as resulting from sitting badly in front of a computer monitor all day or neck strain from tension in the neck muscles from emotional or physical stress.

Back pain can differ between people; in many cases one person’s back pain can be completely different from another’s. Some people may suffer short piercing bursts of pain while others may have to endure a constant dull ache. Some may find that the pain stays in one place while others have pain that moves to different areas. A large proportion of back related problems are not caused by serious illness, and will usually get better within twelve weeks. Patients are often prescribed painkillers to deal with the pain but there are other methods that may help. Heat therapy has been shown to help with pain, such as a hot bath or a hot water bottle but a cold compress may work just as well. Massage and specific exercises and stretches are also often recommended.

There can be a more serious underlying problem, however, if you find that you are having other symptoms as well as the back pain. If you are suffering from a fever or have had unexplained weight loss as well as a long lasting back pain, it is important that you discuss this with your GP. Other important symptoms may include swelling in the back, numbness in your saddle area or loss of bladder control. Other forms of back pain that may indicate a more serious problem could involve progressive weakness in the legs, back pain sustained after a car accident or fall, or back pain in patients who have a history of cancer.

One of the most severe health problems that can be caused by a serious back problem is Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES). This is a very rare, but very problematic, condition that usually results from direct trauma in the spine. The Cauda Equina is the bundle of nerves that is located in the base of the spinal cord that controls lower limb sensation amongst other things. The Cauda Equina was named ‘horse’s tail’ in Latin, by the anatomist Andreas Lazarius in the 17th century, because it appeared to resemble a horse’s tail. Cauda Equina Syndrome is caused by the compression of these nerves and can cause long term health problems if it is not diagnosed or dealt with quickly enough.

Symptoms of CES can include loss of sensation in the legs, a numb sensation in the buttocks or bowel and bladder problems. The syndrome is often caused by compression or trauma to the Cauda Equina, for example through penetrative trauma, ballistic trauma, tumours or lesions, lumbar punctures, central disc prolapse or as a result of chronic spinal inflammatory conditions. CES can only be diagnosed through an MRI scan and once it has been diagnosed, immediate action should be taken. Medical negligence cases can arise from instances where there is a delay in diagnosis or treatment as the sufferer can end up with permanent damage to their health, such as problems with mobility or bladder/bowl dysfunction. CES is very rare, but should not be ignored if seemingly common back pain results in more serious symptoms.

If you have suffered from CES as a result of medical negligence, you may have a Cauda Equina Syndrome claim and should talk to a solicitor.

A Glossary of Basic Skin & Dermatology Terms

By | July 31, 2013

Image by Egahen

     Image by Egahen

Your skin is the largest organ in your body and if hypothetically you could take your skin off and lay it out, the surface area (depending on your height and size) would be around two metres. It is, therefore, important to look after your skin. Understanding your skin and the dermatological conditions and terms associated with it can be confusing, especially as there are a number of terms that sound very similar. This article aims to be a quick guide to some of the basic skin and dermatology terms that it can be helpful to know.

A-D

Acne / Acne Vulgaris – Acne is a skin condition that is primarily caused when hair follicles or sebaceous glands become blocked or inflamed. The resulting conditions are what most people would call ‘spots’ or ‘zit’ as all-encompassing terms. In fact, the condition varies between sufferers, with some having blackheads or whiteheads, while more extreme cases may involve papules, pustules or cysts.

Collagen – Collagen is a protein that is a central component of our bones, cartilage and skin. Collagen is what gives the skin its strength – younger people tend to have more collagen while there is a natural decline in collagen as you get older. A lack of collagen will result in thinner skin, producing wrinkles and sagging. Collagen gives our skin the strength to withstand stretching.

Contact Dermatitis / Dermatitis – Dermatitis refers simply to an inflammation of the skin, it is more of an observation than a final diagnosis of a condition. The term dermatitis usually refers to a red rash that is often itchy. Contact Dermatitis is where you suffer an allergic reaction or rash as a result of touching something – this could be an animal, a plant or a chemical substance.

Dermis – The dermis is the layer of the skin that is found beneath the epidermis. It is the sensitive connective tissue layer and contains nerve endings, sebaceous glands, blood vessels and sweat glands. Collagen fibres and elastin can also be found in this skin layer.

Dermabrasion – This term effectively refers to a more extreme form of exfoliation. It is a cosmetic surgery procedure mainly used to reduce acne scars through abrading the surface layer of the skin. It can also be referred to as ‘skin planing’. Dermabrasion is often done with fine sandpaper or wire brushes.

E-H

Elastin – Like collagen, elastin is a protein that is found in the skin. Elastin, as the name might suggest, helps the skin to maintain its elasticity i.e. how easily it can regain its shape after being stretched or folded. Again in a similar way to collagen, elastin naturally depletes over time reducing the skin’s ability to ‘bounce back’ – leading to wrinkles.

Epidermis – The epidermis is the outer layer of skin that lies over the dermis. ‘Epi-‘ is a Greek prefix that means ‘upon’ or ‘over’, hence ‘epidermis’. This is the protective or barrier layer of the skin. It is a tough layer of skin that protects us from the outside world but it is also renewable and constantly sheds dead cells and grows new layers.

Fibroblast – Fibroblasts are large flat cells that are responsible for making connective tissue. These cells are found all over the body, not just in skin, and are capable of producing collagen fibres.

Hyperpigmentation – Hyperpigmentation is when excess pigment can be found in the skin but this term does not refer to when people have a darker skin tone. Hyperpigmentation is where there is an abnormal excess of pigment in the skin, often in a small area – this may be caused by sun damage, acne scarring or inflammation of the skin. Freckles are a common form of hyperpigmentation that is not caused by any health issue. In more serious cases an underlying cause of skin hyperpigmentation can be cancer.

Hypopigmentation – Hypopigmentation is effectively the opposite of hyperpigmentation. Where hyperpigmentation is an excess of pigment, hypopigmentation is a lack or a loss of skin pigment. Hypopigmentation is caused by a decrease in or a low level of melanin production. Vitiligo is one of the main types of hypopigmentation – this condition results in patches of hypopigmented skin. Albinism is also a type of hypopigmentation; it is where the individual has no melanin at all.

I-M

Inflammation – Inflammation is a term used to describe when the skin has reacted to an injury, an allergy or a disease. An inflammation is usually where the skin has become red or tender and may be quite painful.

Keratin / Keratinocytes – Keratin is a strong protein that is found in our hair, skin and nails and keratinocytes are the cells that produce it. The outer skin layer, along with hair and nails, is actually made up of dead cells. These cells push up from underneath and can act as a protective or insulating layer for the newer cells below.

Lesion – A lesion is a wound in the skin caused by injury or tissue damage. A lesion could be a blister, a sore, a scab, or a canker.

Melanin / Melanocytes – Melanin is the substance that gives skin its colour – it can also be referred to as pigment – and melanocytes and the cells in the skin that produce it. Individuals with higher amounts of melanin will have a darker skin tone while those with less melanin will have a lighter skin tone. Although it cannot protect us completely from the sun, melanin does provide a certain amount of protection against the UV rays of the sun.

N-Z

Sebum – Sebum is the substance that is secreted by the sebaceous glands. Sebum is generally comprised of keratin, fat and cellular material. Its main purpose is to act as a lubricant for the skin and hair and to stop it from drying out. Sebum also provides some protection against bacteria. An excess of sebum can result in acne.

Sebaceous Glands – The sebaceous glands are glands that are attached to the bottom part of hair follicles. These glands secrete sebum when cells within the sebaceous gland burst.

Stratum Corneum – This term is the name for the outmost layers of the skin, this layer is also known as the ‘dead’ layer or the keratin layer. This layer is typically made up of dead cells that contain keratin and its main purpose is to provide protection for the more delicate cells found deeper in the skin.

Subcutaneous Layer – Also known as the hypodermis, the subcutaneous layer is the lowest layer of the skin. It is a fatty layer but it can also contain elastic fibres and nerves. Its main functions are regulating body temperature and acting almost like a cushion to help prevent injury.

Topical Therapy – A topical therapy is a treatment that is applied directly to the skin rather than you having to take it like a pill or an injection. A topical treatment may be a cream, an ointment, a gel or even an antibiotic.

T-Zone – The T-Zone is an area of the face made up of the forehead, nose and chin. There are more sebaceous glands in this part of the face and many people find they have an oily t-zone which can result in breakouts.

If you are in the UK and you would like to find out more about skin and dermatological conditions then you should visit a Dermatologist in London.

What Does Medical Negligence Cover?

By | July 31, 2013

Image by Barky.

      Image by Barky.

Many people will have heard of the term ‘medical negligence’ but may be less sure about what it actually involves. Medical negligence, as the name suggests, is negligence that occurs in a medical setting, usually by a medical professional such as a doctor or a nurse. It most often caused by inattention or mistakes being made that negatively affect the patient, but in a rare few cases it can be done maliciously or on purpose. Many different types of incidents can fall under the medical negligence ‘umbrella’ and it may not be immediately obvious that you have a case. If you believe that you may have a case then a medical negligence law firm may be able to help you.

One of the most frequent causes of medical negligence is related to the diagnosis, this can be the result of a problem or a delay or it could simply be a misdiagnosis. As there are so many different forms of illness and medical problems, many of the symptoms can overlap or seem similar and mistakes can be made. An incorrect diagnosis can lead to further unnecessary suffering or pain on the part of the patient that can be both emotional and physical. For cancer patients in particular it can be crucial for there to be no delay or mistakes in diagnosis as this can negatively affect the success of treatment. Fractures can also be easily overlooked or mistaken for another ailment. If the diagnosis of a fracture is missed the patient can suffer a great deal of pain and if they continue to use the bone it can result in lasting damage.

The different types of medical negligence have also changed over the years. ‘Superbugs’ are a form of medical negligence that have become more of a problem in recent years. As antibiotics have become a treatment that is ‘de rigueur’ for many ailments, some strains of bacteria have become antibiotic-resistant. These types of bacteria are known as ‘superbugs’ and can cause difficult-to-treat infections in humans. All hospitals should follow strict rules relating to hygiene and cleanliness but some do not and can become breeding grounds for superbugs like MRSA and C-Difficile. Some forms of superbug can be particularly problematic as they can survive outside the body, on surfaces and equipment, for months at a time. If a patient falls prey to a superbug they may have a medical negligence case – while receiving medical care you should not be in a situation where you contract a separate infection as a result of the medical environment.

Medical negligence may also be referred to as ‘hospital negligence’ if a problem or an incident occurs while a patient is in the hospital. Surgical negligence is a common form of hospital negligence. Surgery is a highly delicate and meticulous process that is carried out by highly trained medical professionals. However, sometimes things will go wrong – often resulting in a surgical negligence case. In very rare cases surgical equipment has been left inside the patient after an operation or the wrong organ has been removed. Slightly more common are anaesthesia errors or problems with the equipment. If the anaesthesia is not administered correctly it can lead to the patient being awake or able to feel pain during the surgery – both of which can result in trauma for the patient.

Medical negligence can also happen outside the hospital setting. You may have a dental negligence case if you suffered as a result of a dentist’s actions or advice. Misdiagnosis of a dental problem can lead to unnecessary pain but dental negligence can also cover the incorrect removal of teeth or if dental work results in an infection. Negligence can also happen in a pharmaceutical setting. If a pharmacist prescribes the wrong dosage or even the wrong type of medication altogether it can fall under medical negligence. Finally, the emergency room can be another setting for medical negligence. In the emergency room a great deal of decisions and actions are made quickly and under a great deal of pressure – mistakes can be made. If an ambulance takes too long to arrive at the scene of an emergency and a substantial injury is suffered this can result in legal action.

Other forms of medical negligence can include circumstances where cosmetic surgery was carried out improperly or lead to injuries, or where nursing staff did not correctly monitor the care or the status of a patient. If you have suffered ‘battery’, when you have been operated on without your consent, you can file a case. You can also file a case if you have remained, or become, pregnant after an abortion or a sterilisation procedure. If a medical professional did not explain the risks of a surgical procedure and something went wrong, you will be able to make a claim. If you or your child suffered an injury during childbirth or pregnancy due to medical care or advice you should have a case. There are so many different types of medical negligence that if you feel that you were wronged or injured by a medical professional or in a medical setting you should definitely do some investigating into whether or not you have a case.

What is Medical Negligence?

By | July 31, 2013

Image by Kurhan.

     Image by Kurhan.

Mistakes are a part of life; everyone makes them from time to time. Sometimes the mistakes we make affect other people. For doctors and medical professionals, making mistakes usually has an impact on other people; the patients. Apart from an extremely small minority all doctors want to give their patients the best help they can, but sometimes things can go unexpectedly wrong. Doctors and medical professionals are only human and can suffer lapses in concentration or can occasionally be wrong in their judgements in a way that can be detrimental to their patients. Equally stress levels and personal problems can impact their work and the care they provide. There have even been some exceedingly rare cases of medical professionals deliberately providing substandard levels of care. The act of providing substandard medical care that is neglectful or causes physical and emotional harm is known as medical (or clinical) negligence. If you believe that a doctor or medical professional has acted in this way there are several avenues of action you can take.

The first step in determining whether you have a medical negligence case is to think rationally about your problem. Unthinking and rash actions can cause more problems than they solve. You will need to think about what happened and what you want to achieve from pursuing a case. For most people a simple apology or an explanation of what happened is sufficient appeasement. However, in more serious cases legal action may be the right course of action. The initial step for this process is to put your complaint down in writing. All general practices will have a process to make complaints that you can follow. After you have put in your grievance with the practice, you should be given a response. This may be the point where you receive an explanation or an apology for the actions taken. If this response is not acceptable you can move forward in your medical negligence case. In order to do this you should send your complaint to your local health authority who will then review it.

If you need assistance to make your complaint there are several groups and organisations that can do this. These groups can also advise you on how to proceed. If your issue concerns the National Health Service then the local Patient Advice and Liaison Service can provide guidance and help you to complain about quality of care. The Independent Complaint Advocacy Services can also advise on NHS care or treatment. This service particularly specialises in care home conduct and private hospitals. If your concerns are about mistreatment or misdiagnosis by your General Practitioner you can get advice from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. You can also get help from the Health Ombudsman if the response you got from your doctor was unacceptable. Using the Health Ombudsman is only an option for those who have already put in a complaint with their doctor. The Health Ombudsman will not help you to make an initial complaint.

For serious cases and for those who have severe grievances and are seeking compensation, legal action is the answer. However, though many people undertake legal action most cases are settled out of court and only two per cent of cases actually go to trial. Medical negligence is where members of the health-care profession have done something that qualifies as a ‘breach of duty’. In order to demonstrate that this has happened you will need to prove liability and causation. Causation is proof that the doctor or other medical professional’s actions have resulted in physical or emotional harm. Liability is where the doctor has taken a course of action or judgement that no other similar medical professional would have done. If liability and causation can be proved, the claimant’s loss will be evaluated in terms of reduced quality of life, mental distress or loss of future earnings.

If you decide to take legal action, it is likely that you will need the services of medical negligence solicitors. Medical negligence cases have to follow Civil Procedure Rules; solicitors will understand these guidelines and be able to help you follow them. For a law suit you will need to have a letter of claim and send it to the medical professional who has acted in a medically negligent way. They will then have to respond to your letter. If you are not satisfied with the response, medical negligence solicitors will be able to help you issue particulars of claim and particulars of negligence. If this happens the defendant will have to produce a formal defence. If your case continues past this point it will have to go to trial. There are a number of different ways of dealing with medical negligence, ranging from the basic to the complex. You will need to think rationally about your case and decide on the most sensible way of dealing with it.