On appeal from: [2017] EWCA Civ 151

This appeal considered whether non-clinically trained reception staff at an A & E department owed a tortious duty of care to the appellant to provide him with accurate information regarding waiting times.

The Supreme Court allowed allow the appeal and remitted the case to the Queen’s Bench Division for the assessment of damages. It considered that in this case it is inappropriate to separate medical from reception staff because, whilst it is not the function of reception staff to give wider advice or information in general to patients, it is the duty of the NHS Trust to take care not to provide misinformation to patients and that duty is not avoided by the misinformation having been provided by reception staff as opposed to medical staff. The Court held that the standard to be applied is that of an averagely competent and well-informed person performing the function of an A & E department receptionist and therefore, it is not unreasonable to require receptionists to take reasonable care not to provide misleading information as to the likely availability of medical assistance as responding to requests for information as to the usual system of operation of the A & E department was well within the area of responsibility of the receptionists. The Court concluded that causation was established as the appellant’s decision to leave was reasonably foreseeable and was made, at least in part, on the basis of the misleading information that he would have to wait for up to four or five hours before being seen by a doctor.

For judgment, please download: [2018] UKSC 50
For Court’s Press Summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court Website (7 Jun 2018 morning session)