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Claiming Compensation for NHS Negligence

Making a negligence claim against the NHS

NHS negligence is a term that’s used to cover many incidents that can occur whilst you’re receiving treatment from the NHS. This includes surgical errors, mistakes with prescriptions or GP errors.

Because mistakes like these do happen and can have lasting effects, the NHS sets aside funds to cover claims-related expenses – to support who may have suffered from negligence.

If you’ve been injured because the NHS failed to look after you properly, or uphold the medical community’s standards of practice, then you might be able to make a compensation claim.

An injury solicitor who specialises in medical negligence claims can offer the guidance you need to move forward. Call a trained legal adviser free on 0800 234 6438 or fill out the online claim form to get started.

DID YOU KNOW: In 2018/19, there were 208,924 written complaints in England about NHS treatment.

Proving NHS negligence occurred

For your claim to be successful, your solicitor will need to prove that:

  • You have suffered an injury
  • The injury in question was caused by the negligence of someone working in the NHS

NHS claims can be a little more difficult to prove than some other personal injury claims, such as road traffic accidents for example. There are, however, set guidelines which will enable your personal injury lawyer to gauge whether you have a strong case to sue the NHS.

Equally, your treatment does not have to be given by a doctor or surgeon. Acts or omissions by nurses, physiotherapists, radiologists, dieticians, pharmacists, lab technicians and even porters can also give rise to NHS negligence claims if they did not conform to the required standard of care.

The Bolam Test and NICE

To prove that medical negligence happened, your lawyer will need secondary opinions from others in the medical field to show that your doctor, nurse or other healthcare provider behaved negligently. This is known as the ‘Bolam Test’.

In recent years the courts have also adopted a more flexible view, allowing them to interpret negligence claims against other criteria such as NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) guidelines.

Gathering evidence to support a claim

If you’ve suffered an injury at the hands of a medical professional, you may be able to claim compensation. However, to be able to do so, there must be evidence to support your claim.

Medical practitioners have a duty of care to you as a patient. For a claim to be successful you must prove that the doctor or another medical professional breached their duty of care and that breach directly caused or contributed to your injuries.

To help prove this, your solicitor will need to approach medical professionals and other specialists for their expert testimony to use as evidence.

It’s likely that your solicitor already has connections within the medical community and can work with them to gather evidence – so you won’t need to worry about that.

What does duty of care mean?

When you go into hospital for treatment, or to a doctors surgery to be prescribed antibiotics for an illness as an example, the person responsible for your treatment owes you what is known as a duty of care. If your treatment breaches this duty, then you might be able to make a compensation claim. Simply put, duty of care is a moral and legal obligation to protect the general public from personal harm – and the last thing you expect when you visit a healthcare professional is to leave feeling worse than when you went in, because you expect a certain level of care.

If you do suffer negligent treatment at the hands of NHS or private clinics, this can feel very unfair. You might be eligible to make a compensation claim for this negligence – you can speak to a trained legal adviser for free on 0800 234 6438 or fill out the online claim form.

How long does it take to make an NHS claim?

Everyone’s claim is different and that makes it difficult to say how long your claim might take. The timeline for a case ranges from a couple of months to a couple of years. However, what we can promise is that during your claim your solicitor will keep you informed of it’s progress. One of the biggest factors that determines the length of claims is whether the NHS accepts blame. If they do, the case can be settled quite quickly. However, if negligence is denied, the claims may be drawn out while your solicitor works to prove they are at fault.

We trust healthcare services with our lives – when you go to the hospital or GP surgery for treatment, the last thing you expect is to leave feeling worse than when you went to them for help.

By making a complaint against the NHS or claiming compensation for negligent treatment you’re not only helping yourself but encouraging the NHS to prevent these mistakes from occurring again and injuring someone else.

If you suspect NHS negligence caused your injuries, call a trained legal adviser for free on 0800 234 6438 for a friendly chat about your options.

DID YOU KNOW: You have three years to start a claim for medical negligence, either from the date of the injury, or the date when you first became aware your injury was the result of negligence.

Making a court appearance

Most personal injury claims are settled out of court, so the likelihood that you’ll need to attend is small. However, in exceptionally rare cases, you might need to attend court. In the event that the medical professional denies liability, it may be required that the case goes to court, and that you might need to go too.

As medical negligence claims can be a little more difficult to prove than other types of personal injury claims, they are more susceptible to court proceedings. But there’s no need to worry. Your solicitor will ensure that you are well prepared with a solid case and strong evidence to support your claim.

Will your claim affect on-going treatment?

In short, no. You cannot be refused treatment by a doctor simply because you have made a complaint or started a compensation claim that may have involved treatment you’ve received from them in the past. However, it is likely you’ll be far more comfortable changing your GP or requesting a referral to a different hospital anyway.

Sue the NHS on someone else’s behalf

In some cases of NHS negligence, the injured person can’t make a compensation claim either because they are a child; or they have been so seriously injured that they are left mentally incapacitated and cannot make an injury claim themselves.

If they’ve been injured as a result of NHS negligence, you can make a claim on their behalf – and you’ll still be able to do this with the benefit of a no win no fee* agreement. However, in some cases your solicitor may need the injured person’s consent to start the process – they can talk through this process with you.

NHS negligence claims involving non-medical staff

Unfortunately, injuries can happen in the NHS following accidents involving non-medical employees including porters, receptionists, cleaners, café staff and even call operators.

For example, in 2014 a call operator logged a 111 call incorrectly and a young baby died as a result (although there were other factors at play). The Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust admitted failures in logging the baby’s symptoms correctly and a settlement of £60,000 was accepted by the parents.

If you want to make an NHS negligence claim against a non-medical worker, your solicitor will need to establish that the individual owed you a duty of care. Your solicitor will gather the information about the incident and work with you to establish whether you have a claim or not.

Claims and NHS Resolution

Any claim against the NHS will be defended by NHS Resolution (formerly called the NHS Litigation Authority) which was founded in 1995 and pledges to ‘ensure that claims made against the NHS are handled fairly and consistently, with due regard to the interests of both patients and the NHS.’

Only 2 per cent of cases dealt with by NHS Resolution reach court, with most cases being settled early, through mediation from the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR).

If your claim is successful, your compensation will come out of a special fund set aside for compensation claims. This means you won’t need to worry that your compensation will come out of NHS funds which are already extremely stretched.

If your claim is against an NHS general practitioner, your claim will be against the GP personally. Their defence will be handled by a medical defence organisation and any compensation paid to you will come out of a “dedicated indemnity fund”.

The right to complain and make a claim

If you’ve suffered an injury as a result of medical negligence, you might feel reluctant to process a claim against the NHS for a number of reasons. The NHS is a very large institution, and it can feel like the odds are stacked against you before you even begin your claim, and it can leave you feeling daunted.

The second reason why you might hesitate to make a claim is a sense of guilt over ‘attacking’ a beloved British institution. But the constitution of the NHS itself, as well as enshrining your right to make a complaint and have it dealt with, includes the right to receive compensation if you’ve been harmed via an act of negligence.

An expert medical negligence lawyer will be able to work with you every step of the way, building your case and, if need be, fighting it in court.


Other Important Information

*No Win No Fee

  • Although all our cases are handled on a no win no fee basis, other costs could be payable upon solicitors request. These will be fully explained to you before you proceed. Most customers will pay 25% (including VAT) of the compensation they are awarded to their law firm, although this may vary based on individual circumstances. Your solicitor may arrange for insurance to be in place for you to make sure your claim is risk free. Termination fees based on time spent may apply, or in situations such as: lack of cooperation or deliberately misleading our solicitors, or failing to go to any medical or expert examination, or court hearing.
  • *Criminal Injury Claims

  • If you want to make a claim for a criminal injury, you are not required to use the services of a claims management company to pursue the claim. You can submit your claim for free on your own behalf, directly to the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (England, Wales, and Scotland) or the Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme (Northern Ireland).
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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