Seamus Edney attended one of Headway’s training days in Bristol on the 24 May 2012 and was shocked to learn of the number of people who have to live with permanent disabilities as a result of head injuries. Worryingly, the number is rising. More people are now surviving car crashes, industrial injuries, sporting accidents, falls and violent attacks. Each year about 1 million people attend A & E with head injuries (more than 2,500 a day). At one time, 90% of people with severe brain injuries died; now 90% survive and need aftercare.

Although, there have been improvements in paramedic and acute care during recent years, the care provided to victims after they leave hospital is poor and support available to their carers range from barely adequate to non existent.

Research published by Headway paints a bleak picture. This revealed that:-

  • about 60% of brain injury carers feel that they do not receive adequate support in their caring duties;
  • just 7% of brain injury carers receive help from social workers in their caring duties;
  • only 27% of brain injury carers have received a carers’ assessment;
  • half of those carers surveyed were not aware that they were entitled to a carers’ assessment despite the legal requirement for local authorities to ensure that carers are made aware of their right to an assessment;
  • 18% of brain injury carers rate their quality of life as “poor” or “very poor”;
  • 59% are showing signs of clinical depression with 21% in the severe or extremely severe range.


We support Headway’s campaign that local authorities take their responsibility to assess a carer’s needs seriously and where appropriate provide support services such as respite care, professional carers, equipment and information. Further, the NHS including GPs should be more proactive and diagnose and treat people who are experiencing depression and physical health problems as a result of caring for someone with a brain injury.



  • more than 500,000 people of working age live with permanent disabilities after a head injury;
  • each year about one million people attend A & E with a head injury;
  • about half of deaths in the under-40s are due to head injury;
  • men are three times more likely to have a brain injury than women; five times more likely in 15-29 age group;
  • statutory provision for rehabilitation is limited and tends to be aimed at physical problems.



More than 45 million prescriptions written by family doctors every year contain errors, according to a recent study published.

One in about 500 – or about 1.8 million – contains severe errors that could put lives in danger, the research commissioned for the General Medical Council found.

Children and the elderly are most a risk of suffering harm as a result of doctors’ mistakes. Four in ten patients aged 75 years or older had had a prescription item with an error.

One in 20 items prescribed to patients gave cause for concern, but most mistakes were classed as mild or moderate. The most common errors were missing information on dosage, prescribing an incorrect dosage and failing to ensure that patients received necessary monitoring through blood tests. The risk of a mistake increased according to the number of items being prescribed.

The research recommends a greater role for pharmacists in supporting GPs, better use of computer systems and extra emphasis on prescribing during training. It also calls for improved communication between GPs and nurses within practices.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society said that the study highlighted the need for GPs to give pharmacists bigger roles within their practices.

Tony Avery of the University of Nottingham’s medical school, who led the research, said:

“Few prescriptions were associated with significant risks to patients, but it is important that we do everything we can to avoid all errors. GPs must ensure they have ongoing training in prescribing, and practices should ensure they have safe and effective systems in place for repeat prescribing and monitoring”.

The study took place in 15 general practices from three areas of England that were regarded as reasonably representative. The medical records of 1,777 patients were investigated to identify potential prescribing or monitoring errors associated with 6,048 prescription items issued in the previous 12 months.



The logistics company known for its Eddie Stobart lorries has launched a service to help the public cut the cost of legal disputes by linking clients directly with barristers. Stobart Barristers, part of Stobart Group, says it has a panel of more than 1,000 barristers, juniors and QCs, offering help in all areas of law.

A sister company, Stobart Support Services, provides paralegal services to support barristers and help prepare cases. Stobart Group will market the venture. Trevor Howarth, Group Legal Director said: “From the bar’s point of view, they don’t have the infrastructure or ability to provide the preparatory and litigation work, or the marketing, so we provide that”.


Accident Reporting Changes

As of 6 April 2012, the requirements under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) have changed, which should reduce substantially the number of reportable incidents.

A reportable incident is now one which causes incapacity of seven days or more, instead of three days as under the previous rules. In the context of RIDDOR, incapacity means absence or the inability to do work that person would be reasonably expected to do as part of their normal work. For injuries that involve shorter absences, a record in the accident book is sufficient.

In addition, the previous requirement that a reportable incident must be notified within seven days has been eased: the reporting deadline is now 15 days after the incident.

Guidance on the new requirements can be found on the website of the Health and Safety Executive at


Legal Slowdown

The amount of new legislation in Britain last year fell to its lowest level since 2002. Sweet & Maxwell, part of the information group Thomson Reuters, said that there had been 1,727 new laws in 2011, 8 per cent fewer than in the previous year. Meanwhile, the number of changes to existing legislation caused by those new laws fell 16 per cent to 25,708.



The Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 received the Royal Assent on the 01 May 2012.

The Act covers a wide range of issues. It comprises 4 parts. Part 1 makes provisions on Legal Aid, Part 2 deals with litigation funding and costs. Part 3 covers sentencing and the punishment of offenders.

The key changes in the law are:-

  • it reverses the position under the Access to Justice Act 1999, whereby civil legal aid was available for any matter not specifically excluded. The Act now takes some types of case out of the scope for legal aid funding;
  • abolishes the Legal Services Commission;
  • makes various provisions in respect of civil litigation funding and costs, implementing the recommendations of the Jackson Review.

This Act has made many changes which we are deeply unhappy with. Some 350m of the 2bn Legal Aid budget has been removed and to a large extent the government has scrapped legal aid for those who need advice in social welfare law. Legal aid for the majority of clinical negligence cases has also been removed. These changes will have a particular impact on the most disadvantaged groups in our society especially those people with disabilities, working in precarious employment and ethnic members of our community.

With Lord Jackson’s proposals being implemented, no win no fee agreements for lawyers will become much less attractive. This will leave the most vulnerable people in our society with very limited, if any, avenues to access legal advice and help.



This newsletter was produced by S J Edney solicitors Telephone: 01793 600721