Claiming Medical Negligence against the NHS


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By Oliviah Rix-Taylor

on Monday 18 December 2017


two worried doctors

Suing the NHS may seem impossible, but in fact, thousands of people do each year and as a result, the current provision for existing and potential clinical negligence claims is a staggering £60 billion.

The NHS

The NHS stands for National Health Service and provides its users with a quality standard of healthcare, irrespective of wealth. In England alone, the NHS deals with over a million patients every 36 hours. This highlights the popularity of the NHS over private healthcare facilities and emphasises the sheer number of cases the NHS deals with each day. The NHS is considered one of the most impressive healthcare systems in the world but such an enormous caseload can leave a large margin for potential error.

Duty of Care

A 'duty of care' is a legal obligation that enforces a reasonable standard of care to be provided whilst undertaking or performing acts that could cause harm to others.

In relation to medical care, this legal obligation requires your healthcare professional to pertain to a reasonable standard of care to prevent any foreseeable harm or damage to your wellbeing. A breach of this 'duty of care' is considered negligent behaviour.

The Bolam Test

Determining negligence in the medical profession is supported nowadays, by a pivotal court case that existed between Mr. Bolam and Friern Hospital (1957). Mr. Bolam sought to sue Friern Hospital for clinical negligence when he sustained injuries during electric shock therapy. Taking into account the generally accepted medical opinions of that time, the court ruled in favour of Friern Hospital because; they were able to successfully argue that they acted in a reasonable manner, in which other healthcare professionals would also have acted in the same scenario.

Since this case, The Bolam Test has been applied to clinical negligence cases in which other medical professionals are asked if they would act in the same way, given the circumstances of each individual case, to determine a reasonable standard of care.

If other medical professionals would not have acted in the same way, then the accused is found to be negligent.

Clinical Negligence

The NAO (National Audit Office), defines clinical negligence in their 2017 report as “… the breach of a legal duty of care to a patient by members of the healthcare professions or by others acting on their decision or judgements, which directly caused harm to the patient.”

The NHS is liable to pay clinical negligence claims on behalf of their employees with NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts. This does not apply to General Practitioners. If you wish to make a claim against your GP then you must do so independently of the NHS, as GPs are contracted and not direct employees of the NHS.

The NHS has a complaints procedure in place but you don’t have to file a complaint in order to make a clinical negligence claim. An experienced solicitor can help you through the claims process if you are unsure of the legal steps involved.

In the Report

In a recent report by the NAO (2017), it was found that the number of clinical negligence claims doubled from 5,300 to 10,600 between 2006 and 2017.

Because of an ever-increasing number of people using the NHS services, the amount of claims has risen and as a result, the current provision for existing and potential clinical negligence claims is a staggering £60 billion.

With such a large cash reserve set aside for claimants, it is not difficult to imagine the frequency of people filing clinical negligence claims against the NHS. Obstetrics, although not the highest in terms of claim cases filed, was found to be the greatest in terms of the value of claims.

It is understandable that many potential claimants would be mindful of the rising public costs evidently incurred from clinical negligence claims, making them hesitant to claim against the NHS. However, if you have legitimately suffered pain and loss as a result of misdiagnosis, malpractice, or any other negligent behaviour then you are fully entitled to make a claim, to recuperate any financial losses and receive compensation for physiological and psychological damages.

Accident Line Direct

Since the advance of No Win No Fee agreements there has been an increase in medical negligence claims. Our solicitors will seek to use this agreement where possible, in order to minimise the financial risk of making a claim, allowing you to concentrate on your recovery.

We instruct highly experienced and skilled solicitors who are knowledgeable in the realms of clinical negligence claims. If you would like to know how much compensation you could receive or would like more advice on the success of the claims process then call us for free to talk to our professional advisors.

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