Following a recent investigation, North Bristol NHS Trust have concluded that around 40% of patients who underwent innovative mesh operations to resolve bowel problems should have been offered alternative forms of treatment first.

A decision by the Supreme Court in 2015 held that patients must be advised of the material* risks of treatment they are undergoing. It is therefore important that patients are advised of treatment options which are appropriate for them, including alternatives and the option not to undergo any treatment at all. Patients should also be advised of the potential benefits and risks to them for each of the options. For some patients it may be the case that, for them, the short-term benefits of undergoing invasive treatment outweigh the negatives of not receiving treatment. However, unless their doctor has had a full and frank discussion with them it is impossible for them to make such a decision and to provide informed consent.

The importance of ensuring that you are aware of the treatment options available to you, and of the relevant benefits and risks of these, is a duty all healthcare practitioners owe to their patients. Cases, even historic ones such as at North Bristol NHS Trust, only serve to emphasise that some healthcare practitioners continue to adopt a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to treatment, instead of considering the individual needs of their patients. Many patients will still have chosen the same type of treatment even if they had been fully informed, but some would not. For the vast majority of individuals this does not result in any long-term poor outcomes, but for some patients, like those at North Bristol, they are left debilitated or in pain.

Further information

At Anthony Collins Solicitors, we have acted for clients who have suffered poor outcomes as a result of failures by healthcare practitioners to advise appropriately and enable our clients to reach informed decisions about their healthcare. If you, or someone you know, would like to know more about the services we provide, please contact Christopher Frankling. We are happy to talk to you on an initial free, no-obligation basis.


*The test of materiality is whether, in the circumstances, a reasonable person in the patient's position would be likely to attach significance to the risk, or the doctor is, or should, reasonably be aware that the particular patient would be likely to attach significance to it. The law therefore recognises that a risk which is ‘material’ or significant to one person may not necessarily be the same to another, and therefore healthcare practitioners should take into account their patient’s background, any concerns expressed and how substantial the wrong decision may be for the individual.