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Understanding NHS Hospital Negligence Claims

Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.

Medical negligence is a widely discussed issue nowadays, and the plights faced by people who have been injured or otherwise affected by medical negligence are often lengthy and costly ones. Although much of the blame for such ubiquitous medical negligence is attributed to the decline of the NHS - including its ever-falling budget, staff shortage and excessive working hours - incidents of hospital negligence can have terrible consequences and life-long impact for not just the victim, but those close to them too. For many, the damage is often irreversible and can lead to future medical complications, emotional distress, relationship breakdowns and even loss of income.  Here, we explore the complex area of medical negligence and how to determine whether there are grounds for making a hospital negligence claim.


Types of Negligence


Officially, the terms medical negligence or clinical negligence are used to describe a healthcare employee - this can be dentists, nurses and doctors among others - carrying out a treatment or service that does not meet the standard expected by the patient, and subsequently causes some form of injury. Legally speaking, injuries sustained from medical negligence are categorised in the following ways:

  • Amputation error - namely where there has been an unnecessary or wrongful amputation of a limb

  • Brain injuries - there are often caused by adverse reactions to anaesthetic, but can be caused by other factors too.
  • Cardiology misdiagnosis - this involves any errors made in diagnosing cardiological problems
  • Thrombosis delay - this involves errors in diagnosing deep vein thrombosis, the symptoms of which can often be misdiagnosed or attributed to other health-related issues.
  • Hernia injuries - this can involve damage to any other organs which takes place during any kind of hernia-related surgery
  • Neurological injuries - these areerrors in diagnosing neurological issues, which can obviously have devastating consequences if not spotted early.
  • Pressure sores - whilst these are very common, they are often caused by improper care, movement and washing and are therefore the result of negligence by the health care professional providing the care.
  • Retained instruments - although rare, this concerns the very dangerous and potentially life threatening instances where surgical instruments remain in the body by mistake after surgery
  • Spinal injuries - these are spinal-related injuries which either take place during spinal surgery or as a result of delayed diagnosis
  • Surgical error - this involves the use of improper surgery, or wrong site surgery, causing added trauma to the body and potential further complications.
  • Transportation error - this can centre on any injuries caused by a delay in the arrival medical assistance, such as an ambulance.


This list is by no means exhaustive and there are many cases of medical negligence which either don’t fit into specific categories above, or more likely, cross over a number of categories. This is why legal professionals who specialise in medical negligence cases are so critical to successfully lodging a claim, because they have a much clearer understanding of the legal landscape, what information is required to support the claim and what the likely compensation amount could be.


Making a Claim


A patient’s first response in the aftermath of suffering from medical negligence should be to make an official complaint to the medical centre or hospital that treated them. The need to make sure they do this in writing, and date all written documents and keep copies of them for their own records. Then research some local legal experts who have experience in handling medical negligence cases; the firm they choose to represent them will present their case and work to get as much compensation as possible. This is why it is critical to appoint a reputable lawyer who has experience, success in similar cases and is easy to get along with. The road will more than likely be a very emotional one and so it is important to have a good relationship with any legal professionals working on the case.


The lawyer working on the case will require any documents that are pertinent to the case, including medical documents, records, forms and letters, in order to paint as full and detailed a picture of the incident as possible. It may also be worth consulting with an independent medical professional, who can gauge the extent of the damage caused by the original negligence, and give an expert opinion about the long-term impact and the measures that will need to be taken to accommodate this impact. Such input can help to strengthen a legal case seeking compensation.


Funding a Claim


Court proceedings can be very expensive, as can hiring the services of a lawyer or solicitor, and this factor of legal proceedings can have an off-putting effect on those considering legal action. Because of the No Win No Fee policies operated by most legal firms offering compensation claim services, nobody with cause for compensation should be deterred from claiming because of the expenses attached. Claims that are unsuccessful are waived from any legal fees, while fairly recent changes to the law have ensured that successful claimants are only responsible for a percentage of the resulting legal bill, and that an adequate amount of compensation is still retained after bills are paid.  Any reputable legal firm can talk through the related costs and what their fees are likely to be if the claim is successful.


When to Claim


The majority of medical negligence instances carry a limitation period of just three years, so those affected by medical negligence should act sooner rather than later if they want their case to be recognised by a court. Only a few special exceptions to this rule exist. If a child is the victim of medical negligence, they have three years after their eighteenth birthday to lodge a claim, while those suffering a mental illness have three years following their recovery to make a claim. People whose mental disorder is expected by medical professionals to be a permanent, lifelong state, are the only parties not affected by a limitation period.


Claims for medical negligence can apply to a wide range of circumstances, and each case is very individual - for this reason, it is difficult to project how successful a claim may be or how much compensation may be awarded. A legal expert who is trained in this arena and up to date with any changes to policies or laws will be in the strongest position to advise on potential court cases.