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On what grounds can you sue for medical negligence?
The National Health Service (NHS) is one of the cornerstones of British society and is treasured all over Britain and beyond. Often revered as the foundation of modern public healthcare, it has a special place in the hearts of the nation.
However, this does not mean that those working as health practitioners for the NHS (as well as those who work in the private healthcare industry) are impervious to mistakes, and that those who have not received adequate care should not be compensated fairly.
When an incident or a whole series of incidents occur within a healthcare setting that led to avoidable harm to a patient’s health, it is referred to as medical negligence. This can often be grounds to sue (more formally referred to as ‘making a medical negligence claim’).
If you have received care that falls below an acceptable standard in the NHS and this care has directly led to avoidable injury, or caused an existing condition to get worse, then you have likely been a victim of medical negligence.
What is medical negligence?
Medical negligence can occur in any healthcare environment, be it private or public. Medical negligence can occur when you have received treatment that has resulted in an existing condition worsening, or an injury (physical or psychological) that could have been avoided.
Another term that you might come across is ‘clinical negligence’ – this is another way of referring to medical negligence that is used within the legal industry and the courts.
Common cases of medical negligence include:
- Cancer misdiagnosis
- Surgical errors
- Delayed diagnosis
- Infections acquired at hospital
- Lack of warnings of risk pre-procedure
Why sue the NHS?
It is important to note that making a claim against the NHS is not about getting money out of the organisation for the sake of it. Instead, it is about you receiving the correct compensation to enable you to recover or adapt to your new life. As a patient, you have the right to reasonable and adequate standards of care.
This money can cover everything from lost wages to any specialist equipment that you might require.
How do I sue the NHS for medical negligence?
If you believe that you have grounds to make a medical negligence claim against the NHS, your first step should be to find a solicitor who deals with medical negligence claims. After explaining your case to them, they will give you a clear indication of whether you have a case, and if said case would be successful.
Whilst varying from case to case, the process of suing the NHS can sometimes be relatively quick and simple. Conversely, it can also be long and complex. The process can be stressful and emotionally draining, so it is important that you have adequate emotional support from your loved ones during this time. Finally, it is imperative that you have a competent and professional solicitor to represent and support you.
It is also possible to sue the NHS for medical negligence on behalf of someone who has passed away or is unable to represent themselves.
On what grounds can you sue the NHS?
When receiving treatment from any healthcare provider, you should expect a reasonable standard of care, and you have the right to expect that the care you are receiving always has your best interests at its core.
You likely have a case for medical negligence if:
- You have received care that is below the standard you believe to be reasonable from a competent healthcare professional
- You suffered physical or psychological harm as a result that could have been avoided
What evidence do you need for a medical negligence claim?
There are several steps that need to be taken after speaking to a medical negligence solicitor. Once you have chosen and appointed a solicitor, they will begin to gather evidence to back up your case as, to prove negligence, you need to have proof that a healthcare professional failed in their duty to take care of you.
This evidence can be made up of multiple documents including but not limited to:
- Medical reports
- Healthcare records
- Witness statements
Once all the evidence possible has been compiled, the solicitor will then proceed in the pursuit of a settlement.
What is the NHS Complaints Procedure?
Before you can sue the NHS, the first step would be to make a formal complaint through the NHS’s own complaints procedure, which has been specifically set up to deal with patient enquiries and dissatisfaction. The concept is that complaints will be dealt with efficiently, as well as providing feedback on what could be improved within the NHS.
However, it’s important to note that compensation can only be granted through the NHS Complaints Procedure if:
- You have received negligent treatment
- The treatment you received directly caused your illness injury(s)
Is there a time limit in which I must sue the NHS?
There is a three-year time limit from the date of the incident that you believe to be negligent, or the date when you noticed the injury. However, for people under the age of eighteen or those with limited mental capacity, this time frame can be extended depending on the circumstances.
What is the average payout for medical negligence in the UK?
The amount of money awarded for a successful medical negligence claim will vary massively depending on the severity of the injury (both physical and psychological) or illness received as a result of said negligence. There are also other factors that will affect the payout such as expenses that the victim has had/will have to pay as a result.
For reference, in an annual report for 2021/22, the NHS published the following statistics: In the previous year, there were 15,078 new claims received. The most common damages value band was between £1,001 to £25,000.
Get expert legal support for your medical negligence claim
Suing the NHS after you’ve already received inadequate care can be daunting and an emotionally stressful time. That’s why we at Devonalds Solicitors are committed to making the process as stress-free and straightforward as possible for you.