Medical negligence

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Health Assured team

23 November 2021

Medical negligence is an act or omission by a medical professional failing to deliver the level of care expected and therefore providing sub-standard care to a patient. The negligence then results in injury to the patient or the deterioration of a pre-existing condition.

Examples of medical negligence include:

  • A failure to diagnose the condition or a misdiagnosis
  • A mistake made during an operation/procedure
  • Administering incorrect medication
  • A lack of informed consent to the treatment
  • No warnings about the risks of treatment

Negligence within the NHS

If the medical negligence had occurred in a practice under the control of the NHS, it is recommended that you consider initially raising a complaint directly through the practice or through NHS England. Individuals or family members have 12 months to raise a complaint within the NHS from the time that the negligence occurred. This process aims to investigate the complaint, identify the facts of claim, understand any negligence by the medical practitioner and the effect this negligence has had on the individual. Once the complaint has been investigated you will receive full details of what they have found throughout their investigation alongside an outcome which can include the following.

  • A detailed explanation and/or an apology.
  • Details of any action the practice will take i.e., following internal formal procedures.
  • Potential compensation.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of this complaint investigation or if you feel that the complaints procedure has not been followed, you can escalate your complaint to The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman for further review. Once this has been investigated you will receive a written outcome from the ombudsman which will include an details of any negligence they have found, an explanation of any action they are taking, and a potential offer of compensation for any injury or loss suffered as a result of the negligence.

Legal Action

Taking any legal action should be a final resort once all other options have been exhausted or it has been established that a formal complaint would not be appropriate due to the nature of the negligence. To claim compensation for any injury or loss suffered due to medical negligence, it will need to be proven on the balance of probabilities that this negligence had directly caused your injury or loss. Medical negligence claims can be complex, and, in some cases, there will be claims for multiple injuries or losses caused by the initial negligence. Some of these potential claims may include the following.

  • Payment for treatment.
  • Psychological distress.
  • Loss of earnings.
  • Physical injury

Due to the complex nature of these claims, it is recommended that individuals instruct a medical negligence solicitor before beginning a claim. Generally, medical negligence solicitors will offer a Conditional Fee Agreement which means they will work on a no win no fee basis. Conditional Fee Agreements allow individuals to instruct solicitors to act on their behalf and to only pay the solicitor if they are successful in their claim. Solicitors will request a percentage of the damages that are awarded to the individual as payment. The time limit to claim for medical negligence is 3 years from when the incident occurred or when you first realised that you had suffered an injury due to medical negligence. Where the negligence occurred against a child, the 3-year time limit starts when the child turns 18 years old.

Reporting misconduct

If an individual has concerns over a medical practitioner’s conduct, you can report them to the relevant authority to be investigated. Misconduct by a doctors can be reported to the General Medical Council (GMC) who are responsible for overlooking the conduct of doctors in the UK and ensuring they meet the standard of medical practise that is set for them. The GMC can take action against a doctor that deviates from these standards and prevent them from practicing in the future.

Dentists are overseen by the General Dental Council, in which individuals are able to raise complaints about a dentist’s misconduct. Furthermore, the Care Quality Commission are responsible for inspecting practices of Dentists and any hygiene concerns can be reported to them directly.

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