From Patient to Claimant: Negligence in Court

Mrs Sally-Ann Dickinson is a Nursing and Rehabilitation Consultant and Case Manager. She works as a singleton expert within her firm and provides reports on personal injury needs and quantum on high value cases and clinical negligence/breach of duty. Having lectured as a Professor in Nursing Law and Ethics to International Standards. Currently, she also works as a Specialist Adviser to the CQC advising on acute clinical matters and community standards of care.



When we last spoke, you explained how nursing standards have not changed in the 20 years you have worked; what changes are you advocating for, which would hopefully see less cases in court?

In my experience of clinical negligence case work I have found over 20 years that the same complaints and breaches of duty occur in all areas whether an acute ward environment, a nursing care home or in the community. These are broadly: lack of or poor communication, below standard pressure area care, below standard proactive falls care, below standard record keeping and below standard basic care provision. I would like to see all trained nurses, whether newly qualified or established, undergo an annual training program on basic nursing care skills and recording skills. This, I consider, would help to address such problems and hopefully lead to less complaints and Court cases in the future. Degree trained nurses do not appear to be exposed to basic nursing care skills to the expected level to enable holistic care to be given for individuals’ needs. With nurses increasingly working in specialised areas also the knowledge of basic nursing and care needs appears to have been forgotten, when concentrating on one subject/technical area, and such training would assist in ensuring all nurses retained these vital skills for the safety and comfort of future patients.


How do you battle through a legal proceeding where your client is now a ‘legal individual’ and not your patient?

I always keep the claimant’s care needs central to the case whether I am instructed by claimant, defendant or jointly. This ensures the correct level of care is seen in a breach of duty case and that the correct provision of care support and equipment is in place for individuals going through personal injury litigation.


How do you overcome challenges you face when regarding difference in opinion with other experts?

Again, keeping the claimant’s care needs central to the proceedings at all times ensures that most difficulties in difference of opinion can be fully discussed and either agreed on, compromised or to keep original recommendations in place. All discussions held are helpful to the claimant in my opinion, as they have two experts looking at their needs, albeit it sometimes from slightly different approaches, but this gives them the opportunity to look at a wider range of recommendations and potential care packages for the long term which can only assist them.


Can you share with Lawyer Monthly, to what fascinates you with the legal industry?

I enjoy working as an expert within the legal environment meeting claimants in different environments and being able to be part of a team in recommending care packages and equipment in personal injury cases, where such provision is likely to be available at the end of the case for a person having experienced trauma in enhancing their independence and longer-term life goals and abilities. Sadly, this is not always the case in a general healthcare environment. With clinical negligence casework I feel I am able to recommend for the future solutions and reasons that situations occurred to help prevent such incidents in the future for others and to help shape future procedures and policies. This aspect of my work is directly linked to my CQC role too.


Mrs Sally-Ann Dickinson RGN

Briar House

5 St Giles Close




Tel 01487 830014


Sally- Ann Dickinson is an Independent Nursing & Rehabilitation Consultant, specialising in: Orthopaedics, fractures and surgery.

Spine and neck injury and surgery.

Head, brain and spinal cord disease and injury.

Neurological problems.

General surgery.

Accident and trauma surgery.

Nursing management and competence.

Nursing home registration and inspection.

Nursing home standards of care.

Disability rights and discrimination.

Physically disabled people.

Personal injury rehabilitation.

Requirements and costs of care, housing, equipment.

Analysis and quantification of personal care needs.

Medical, nursing care and housekeeping requirements.

Rehabilitation assessment and costing.

Case management (disability).

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