The NHS deals with 1 million patients every 36 hours and with more than 100,000 unfilled staff vacancies across the Service, it is perhaps not surprising that mistakes happen. Unfortunately for patients, medical mistakes can have very serious consequences, leading to lifelong injury, pain, disability and even death in the most extreme cases.
There are various different types of medical negligence (also sometimes referred to as ‘clinical negligence’), some of which are more common than others. The following are some of the most common types of medical negligence for which you may be able to claim compensation.
Misdiagnosis and late diagnosis
With most types of medical conditions, getting the right diagnosis and treatment quickly is usually critical to ensure the best outcome for your health.
If you are misdiagnosed, this can result in delays in receiving the right treatment, leading to a worse long-term outcome even if the condition is eventually correctly identified. Treatment for the wrong condition can also bring with it side-effects which can also negatively impact your health.
Where there are negligent mistakes made in your care leading to a misdiagnosis, this can be considered a form of medical negligence.
Examples of negligent medical misdiagnosis might include where your GP or another clinical professional fails to recognise or record your symptoms, fails to order appropriate tests or fails to properly interpret the results of those tests.
Commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions include:
- Cauda Equina Syndrome
These are conditions that have symptoms which can be easily missed or that are frequently mistaken for other conditions if proper care is not taken during the diagnosis.
While birth injuries are relatively rare in the UK, when they do happen they can have lifelong consequences for children with the potential to cause serious physical disabilities, learning difficulties and other life-limiting conditions.
In many cases, birth injuries are avoidable if the right medical care is given before and during birth. Where an injury does occur, swift treatment immediately following birth can often significantly reduce the chances of long-term consequences for your child.
Medical errors that can increase the risk of birth injury including failing to note and/or monitor risk factors, such as high maternal blood pressure or maternal infection, failure to opt for caesarean section early enough during a difficult birth and incorrect use of forceps, ventouse or other types of birth assistance tools.
Medical conditions commonly resulting from injury at birth include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Erb’s palsy
- Learning difficulties
These are conditions which are often caused by the baby’s oxygen supply being cut off during the birth (birth asphyxia), direct trauma to the head causing brain damage, or incorrect use of force during delivery.
A brain injury can be relatively mild or much more serious, with serious brain injuries having the potential to cause life-long physical, emotional and cognitive issues. A brain injury could be directly caused by medical negligence or the consequences of a brain injury sustained in an accident could be made worse by negligent medical treatment.
When a brain injury occurs, having swift treatment is usually absolutely essential to minimise any brain damage and improve your chances of making a good recovery. Surgical intervention is often required and significant follow-up care is usually necessary.
Because brain cells cannot regenerate themselves, any damage caused by a brain injury will be permanent. While good rehabilitation care can allow patients to make a full or partial recovery, depending on the circumstances, the treatment you receive in the first few minutes or hours after a brain injury usually makes a massive difference to the overall outcome.
If a brain injury is missed by clinical staff or the right treatment is not given swiftly enough for any other reason, it can therefore result in much worse long-term consequences for a patient’s health. This will often lead to the need for lifelong care support.
Surgical errors and negligent post-surgical care can have serious health consequences for patients and both can be considered medical negligence.
Types of medical negligence associated with surgical errors include:
- Post-surgical infections
- Unnecessary amputations
- Incorrect procedures being carried out
- Surgical instruments left inside patients following surgery
Unnecessary amputations can result in serious disability, as well as the obvious psychological impact. Where negligent post-surgical care leads to infection, this can be very serious or even fatal, especially when dealing with drug-resistant infections such as MRSA.
This is one of the most common types of medical negligence. It can be as simple as the wrong dosage of a medication being prescribed (which can still have serious consequences) or the wrong medication entirely being given out, which can be fatal.
Prescription errors can occur when a clinical professional prescribes the wrong medication for your condition or it can happen where there is a correct prescription, but a pharmacist issues the wrong medication. It can also happen when a clinical professional fails to note an allergy or other reason for not prescribing a particular medication.
Common causes of prescription errors include:
- Clinical staff or pharmacists confusing medications with similar names
- Illegible handwriting on prescriptions leading to confusion by pharmacists
- Failure to record or take notice of a patient’s allergies to particular medicines
Can I claim compensation for medical negligence?
It’s important to understand that just because clinical staff made errors with your treatment, does not mean you will be automatically entitled to claim compensation.
To be eligible for medical negligence compensation, will we need to be able to show:
- That the standard of care you received fell below acceptable medical standards i.e. any competent clinical professional would not have acted the same way under the same circumstances.
- That the substandard care you received resulted in a worse outcome for your health than would likely have been achieved with competent medical care.
In most cases, you will need to make a medical negligence claim within three years of the negligence occurring (or the date when you became aware of it). However, longer time limits can apply under certain circumstances, such as when making a claim for someone under 18 or who does not have the mental capacity to make a claim of their own.
How much compensation you will be entitled to will then depend on various factors, including:
- The financial impact of your injuries e.g. having to pay for private treatment, care support and home adaptions, as well as lost income if you have to take time off work
- The non-financial impact, including your pain and suffering, and changes to your lifestyle
- Any expected future financial impact, such as paying for ongoing care, reduced earning potential etc.
Start a medical negligence claim today
If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of clinical errors, we can help you to claim compensation. We offer no win, no fee deals and decades of specialist expertise in handling these types of complex and sensitive claims, so can provide the very best service to you, no matter your personal circumstances.