The National Health Service is one of the oldest public healthcare systems in the world and deals with millions of people every year. It is a source of national pride as it has become a symbol of a fair society, providing free primary care services to everyone, regardless of their financial status and contributions. For the most part, the quality of care at the NHS is excellent and people do not experience any issues. But things can and do go wrong. This guide tells you all you need to know about taking legal action and making claims for NHS clinical negligence.
From baby deliveries to operations, it is interesting to know that most patients at the NHS receive a high standard of care. In fact, people trust medical professionals at the NHS to take care of their health from their birth to death. However, the country’s increasing population now means there is increased pressure on the public healthcare system. Still, you have the right to receive quality healthcare and do not deserve to suffer as a result of the mistakes of another person.
What is NHS Clinical Negligence?
NHS negligence is a type of medical negligence that happens when a patient receives substandard level of care at the NHS.
Common examples of NHS clinical negligence include:
- Medical misdiagnosis claims
- Dental negligence claims
- Surgical errors
- Delayed treatment
- Prescription errors claims
- Misreading or misinterpreting test results
- Anaesthetic errors
- Failing to warn of risks of a procedure
- Care home neglect leading to pressure sores or infections.
While most medical procedures come with a degree of risk, it is the duty of a medical professional to take reasonable steps to prevent these risks. If your healthcare provider has failed in this regard, you may be able to pursue claims against the NHS for clinical negligence.
Medical professionals in this context are not limited to doctors and surgeons. You can still make clinical negligence compensation claims against nurses, pharmacists, radiologists, lab technicians, physiotherapists, and any health professional at the NHS that fails to conform to acceptable standards of care.
At Medical Negligence Direct, we work with a panel of specialist NHS negligence solicitors who represent victims of substandard care and we have a strong track record of achieving successful claims against the NHS on their behalf.
Am I Entitled to an NHS Clinical Negligence Claim?
You can make medical negligence claims against the NHS if your case meets the following criteria:
First, you must prove that your medical professional acted in a manner that falls below the acceptable standard of care. A reasonable body of medical opinion will analyse your experience using the Bolam principle to determine whether your healthcare provider acted “in accordance with a practice that is proper by a responsible body of medical men who know that particular art.”
Secondly, you must show that there is a direct link between the injury you suffered and the failure of your medical professional to conform to the acceptable standard of care. This effectively determines whether you would have suffered an injury even if your health professional acted in the right way. In this case, you are unlikely to achieve success with a claim against the NHS.
What Should I Do If I Suspect NHS Clinical Negligence?
If you think you have been a victim of clinical negligence at the NHS, then there are a number of options available to you. First, you can register your concerns with the management of the NHS facility. Usually, patients are satisfied with an apology and assurance that there will be no repeat of such incidents in future.
If you are unsatisfied with the response of the management, you can lodge a complaint via the official NHS complaints procedure. The NHS constitution makes provision for all patients to be able to make complaints and seek compensation if they feel mistreated by the health professionals they trust.
If you are unhappy with the result of the investigation into your complaint, you can take your concerns to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
Although the NHS complaints procedure does not necessarily result in compensation and you do not have to use it before starting legal action, it is the best thing to do. Making a complaint compels the relevant NHS body to provide an explanation regarding circumstances surrounding your care and determine whether you have suffered negligence. The result of your complaint can help you solicitor decide whether pursuing an NHS claim will be in your best interests.
How Do I Prove Liability in an NHS Clinical Negligence Claim?
Medical negligence is a complex area of law and proving liability can be difficult. Since the duty is on you, as the patient, to prove that your health professional acted negligently, your medical records as well as reports from an independent medical expert with specialist knowledge will represent the most important evidence.
To enhance your chances of success, you will need the support of an expert medical negligence solicitor who possesses the knowledge and experience required to handle cases similar to yours. The solicitor will look at the facts of your case and decide whether there is a good chance of success. Medical records that can help your solicitor establish negligence may include the complaints you made, treatment you received and any documents related to your care.
Your medical records and reports from an independent expert will help establish negligence and causation.
How Much Compensation Can I Receive for My NHS Clinical Negligence Claim?
The compensation amount you will be awarded for suing the NHS will depend on a number of factors, including:
- The nature and site of your injury;
- The severity of your injury – for instance, whether normal recovery can take place or surgery will be required;
- The impact of the injury on your ability to continue with work, hobbies and routine lifestyle;
- The duration of your recovery;
- Possible complications that could arise from your injury.
The independent medical expert we arrange for will determine the nature and severity of your injury and provide a detailed prognosis report for your recovery. This will form the foundation for the negotiations for compensation on your behalf.
If the expert we appoint is unable to provide a final prognosis on your condition, we recommend that you wait until you have completed your treatment before agreeing to a compensation. This is because you will not be able to enter negotiations to request for more money if your injury becomes worse than initially expected.
Typically, you will be able to make claims for:
- General Damages
General damages are compensation awarded for the direct impact of medical negligence. Examples of general damages include physical pain and suffering, mental pain, loss of companionship, difficulty or inability to work, and lower quality of life.
Calculating general damages is a very complex part of medical negligence claims as they are intangible, non-monetary losses. However, the compensation you receive for general damages usually depends on the nature and severity of the injury you suffered as well as its impact on your life.
- Special Damages
Special damages refer to compensation for out of pocket expenses that you have incurred as a result of the negligent actions of the defendant. Examples of special damages include travel costs (for hospital or medical appointments), medical expenses (short and long term), care costs, and loss or earnings or loss of earning capacity.
Unlike general damages, it is much more straightforward to calculate special damages as they are tangible and actual expenses.
Is There a Time Limit for Making NHS Clinical Negligence Claims?
NHS clinical negligence claims must be started within three years of the negligent treatment. For victims under the age of 18, a litigation friend (usually a parent or family member) can represent them. They may also be able to start a claim on their own when they turn 18 and will have three years to do so (until their 21st birthday).
We recommend that you seek expert legal support as soon as possible, even if you are yet to fully recover from the injury. It is important that you start as early as possible so that your claim falls within the medical negligence claims time limit. The solicitors we work with will be able to provide the advice and support you need to help you make a successful claim. We may also be able to help you secure an interim payment to cover the cost of your ongoing care if you need urgent support.
How Long Will My Claim Take?
Unlike time limits, there is no processing time for the duration of a claim. Some of the factors that determine how long your claim takes include:
- Whether the other party accepts or denies responsibility;
- The length of time taken to determine the prognosis and impact of the injury on your life.
Will My Case Go to Court?
It is unlikely that your case will go to court. In fact, about 98% of compensation claims against the NHS are resolved out of court.
We understand how challenging and stressful the court process can be; as a result, we do everything possible to ensure an agreement is reached out of court. However, we will support you all the way to trial if the other party denies liability when negligence can still be proven or we are unable to agree on what we consider a fair compensation payment for your injury.
Can I Make a No Win No Fee Medical Negligence Claim Against the NHS?
Yes. At Medical Negligence Direct, we believe that anyone in need should be able to access expert legal support. After assessing the facts of your case, our solicitors will offer to represent you on a No Win No Fee basis. This means you will not have to pay any upfront legal fees. If your claim is successful, a success fee (0-25% of your final compensation award) will be deducted. If it is not successful, you do not have to pay any fees.
Why Choose Us?
To successfully make a claim for NHS clinical negligence, you must prove that you suffered an injury as a direct result of negligent treatment at the NHS. Proving medical negligence against the NHS is a complex and time-consuming process; as a result, having the support of experienced medical negligence solicitors will enhance your chances of success.
At Medical Negligence Direct, our solicitors have helped lots of claimants secure compensation against the NHS following substandard care by medical professionals. You can trust us to provide the support you need to navigate the complex process and receive the compensation you deserve.