About Laurence Vick
I qualified as a solicitor in 1981 in Birmingham and retired from practice in January 2020 in Exeter having spent the last 35 years of my career specialising in clinical negligence, handling claims involving a wide range of medical and surgical procedures. Over these years I have been fortunate to have acted in many high profile cases for some very special clients. In the early years I handled birth and neurological injury claims and took a number of successful high value cerebral palsy cases to trial. In the mid-90s I achieved what was then the first six figure settlement in an Erb’s Palsy claim – a figure comprehensively eclipsed by subsequent awards for this often severely debilitating birth injury.
After relocating with my family from the Midlands to East Devon in 1996 and bringing my cases and clients with me I was privileged to represent the families who suffered so greatly as a result of the Bristol children’s heart surgery scandal of the 1990s and was appointed their joint solicitor at the Bristol Royal Infirmary Public Inquiry which was set up in 1998 after lengthy GMC disciplinary hearings and resulted in the Kennedy Report of 2001. Following my involvement in the Bristol Public Inquiry I became a central figure in paediatric cardiac surgery and cardiology litigation – the national ‘go-to lawyer for complex cardiac cases’ – and continued to work on behalf of those affected by more recent failings at cardiac units across the country, including those at Bristol again, Oxford and Leeds.
Representing bereaved parents as well as children who survived these complex operations but sustained brain damage and other severe injuries has given me an insight into the world of heart surgery and paediatric heart surgery in particular, with its own unique features and implications for the availability of mortality and morbidity (non-fatal) data and developments in the law of pre-operative consent and the duty of candour. The Bristol scandal also highlighted crucial issues over whistleblowing. The victimisation and suppression of whistleblowers which continues to this day, a generation after the events at Bristol, remains a concern on which I have had a number of articles published. I am also asked to comment on the extent to which I feel the lessons from the Bristol tragedy have or – in the light of the many scandals and Inquiries over the intervening years – have not been learned.
I remain a passionate patient safety advocate and have been a regular contributor to the debate over the wider problems facing an increasingly fragmented public-private health service. Privatisation and outsourcing by the NHS to the private sector and the safety and indemnity implications remain key interests. I gave evidence to the Parliamentary Health Select Committee in 2006 after obtaining redress for patients injured after undergoing treatment carried out by Netcare and other private providers in the now-defunct Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTCs) and again in 2016 on behalf of patients whose cataract operations outsourced by Musgrove Park NHS hospital to Vanguard Healthcare resulted in serious harm.
After obtaining compensation for a woman harmed by the disgraced Solihull breast surgeon Ian Paterson, I have published articles on the reforms needed to ensure adequate and transparent safety standards in the private sector and what I see as the limitations of the report into the Paterson case published in February 2020 following the Rev Graham James investigation.
A further highlight of my career included representing haemophiliac clients who had contracted Hepatitis C and HIV from contaminated blood products supplied to the NHS by US pharmaceutical companies and pursuing a successful Judicial Review of what the Court found to have been the Government’s material error of fact in their decision to limit compensation to victims. I hope that the victims of the scandal – described as the “worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS” – will achieve justice and accountability when the Infected Blood Inquiry currently in progress reaches its conclusion.
After recovering compensation in the English High Court for a British ex-pat who underwent spinal surgery in Saudi Arabia I also became something of an authority on the significant legal and jurisdictional complications surrounding medical tourism and overseas medical travel and commented in the media and advised two government-funded university studies on these issues.
More recently, the development of Clinical Guidelines and how they impact on clinical negligence litigation has become a key interest and I have lectured and contributed a chapter for a forthcoming textbook on the subject. Further topics I follow closely and on which I have commented in the media include sports cardiology and the duties and potential conflicts of interest faced by doctors working for football and other sports clubs. Another developing concern has been the gender disparity and apparent bias that has become evident in recent years in the diagnosis and treatment of heart conditions in women.
I have had articles covering these various areas of interest published in the national press and by the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) independent think-tank, Sector Focus, Specialist Info in their medico legal j0urnal, Lexis Nexis, AvMA in their Medical and Legal Journal, and Clinical Risk (now the Journal of Patient Safety and Risk Management) and have been interviewed on TV and radio on many occasions.
Following my retirement from practice I was proud to be appointed an Honorary Member of the AvMA (Action against Medical Accidents) panel. I have been a member of the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Panel since it’s inception; also an Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute by examination and a Chartered Insurance Practitioner (1999) following a short career in insurance in the 1970s before embarking on my legal studies. I have been listed in Debrett’s annual People of Today publication since my involvement in the Bristol heart surgery scandal.
I can be found on Twitter at @LaurenceVick