Supreme Court rules that hospital receptionists owe a duty of care to patients

This latest decision serves as a reminder to all hospital staff of the importance of providing accurate waiting time information to patients attending A&E departments up and down the country. A receptionist working in an A&E department can be expected to “take reasonable care not to provide misleading advice as to the availability of medical assistance”.

You may remember the case of Mr Darnley, who had been assaulted on the head by an unknown assailant on 17 May 2010. Later that day, he attended Mayday University Hospital A&E department but left without being seen after about 19 minutes, having been told wrongly, he would have to wait between four and five hours before he would be seen by a member of the medical team. He left without informing anyone and collapsed shortly after arriving at home. He suffered permanent brain damage. Both the High Court and Court of Appeal dismissed his claims in negligence against the NHS Hospital.

Mr Darnley appealed to the Supreme Court in June 2018 and its decision was given on 10 October, finding for Mr Darnley by a majority of 5:0 and remitting the case back to the High Court for an assessment of damages hearing.

To find out the reasons for the judgment delivered by Lord Lloyd-Jones with which the other Justices agreed, read our article here.

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