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If you have suffered an injury because of poor care, you may want to sue the NHS for negligence.
This complete guide can help you make the best decision.
In this guide:
Firstly, it is important to understand what medical negligence, sometimes called clinical negligence, is. Under English law, clinical negligence occurs when a health professional acts in a way which breaches their duty of care towards you, the patient. This can result in serious physical or mental pain and suffering.
Medical negligence can lead to a physical injury, such as an injury sustained during a negligent operation. Or it can be caused by late or misdiagnosis of a serious condition such as cancer or conditions affecting the birth of a child.
If it can be shown that the medical professional acted negligently and was found to be in breach of their duty of care, it may be sufficient to lead to a successful compensation claim against the NHS.
Negligent medical care can be life-changing, leaving you without the ability to carry on with your life as normal. Making a medical negligence claim against the NHS can be your best course of action to get your life back on track.
Poor medical care can happen almost anywhere within the system. If you believe you have suffered because of such care, there could be scope to make a claim against the NHS. Below are just some situations where negligent care can result in a lawsuit against the NHS.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have suffered because of something that is not listed here, our specialist solicitors can advise you on your situation with free initial advice.
Suing the NHS will involve what is known as litigation or Court proceedings. Your first steps are to gather all of the relevant evidence for your case, which should include all relevant medical records of your treatment and appointments and any other documents related to the incident you would like to claim for.
It often helps to make a complaint in writing to the institution or clinician responsible for your care, as the response will provide further information about the incident. Your next step should then be to contact solicitors for advice. Solicitors can also help you in the complaint process, as it can be complex.
Your solicitors will then consider all of the evidence and investigate a potential claim for clinical negligence. If there is sufficient evidence found after investigation, then a claim can be brought against the NHS institution or clinicians who were responsible for your treatment.
If your claim is about treatment at a hospital, then your claim will be against the NHS trust who operates the hospital. If your claim is about treatment by a GP, then your claim will be against the individual GP or GP practice. If the claim is not resolved then Court proceedings against the institution or clinician may be advised.
Solicitors like Blackwater Law are independently recognised as experts in medical negligence by the Law Society and The Legal 500, a directory of the UK’s top law firms and can advise on this process and such claims.
You can represent yourself when suing the NHS trust or institution you believe has acted negligently, however, for your benefit, we would always advise that you at least first seek the expertise of a specialist medical negligence solicitor.
Many medical negligence solicitors, including Blackwater Law, operate on a No-win, No-fee basis with free initial legal advice. This means there is no financial cost for you to seek advice before starting your claim.
Furthermore, an experienced solicitor will likely be able to help you reach a larger settlement or compensation award than you can by yourself. Their knowledge of the law means that they understand the types of value associated with a claim and therefore can do everything to make sure you are achieving the best possible settlement for your individual case.
An experienced solicitor will also have better access to medical experts, who in your case can act as a professional witness in supporting your claim.
Lastly, a clinical negligence claim is a long and gruelling process. Handing this over to a legal expert means you can focus on your recovery, and spending time with loved ones
If you do wish to not use a solicitor you must submit a letter of claim to the NHS trust that the alleged incident happened. In this document you must include the following:
If you decide to bring a medical negligence case against the NHS, it is important first to be aware of any limitation periods. The time limit to make a claim is generally 3 years from the alleged incident, or from the time you became aware of a problem. If the person concerned is a child, such as during a birth injury, you will have until their 18th birthday to make a claim. After this point, their 3-year limitation period would begin.
It is important also to understand and be aware that a claim for clinical negligence will take time. It is not uncommon for a claim to span the course of several years and go through multiple rounds of settlement offers and even court dates before the matter is resolved.
In some more straightforward cases, the NHS trust in question may make an offer of settlement quickly, avoiding the need to go court. Your solicitor will be able to advise you early in the process, as to what the likely time frame could be.
Associate Zoe Diss successfully secured a £40,000 settlement on behalf of her client, Mrs M who was led to believe she had terminal cancer for four years before her diagnosis was discovered to be incorrect.
Although the time limit for making a medical negligence claim is 3 years, there are a couple of exceptions to the rule.
If the person who has suffered as a result of the medical negligence is under the age of 18, then there is no time limit to make a claim up until their 18th birthday. At this time, the 3-year time limit will then begin as it does for all other adults.
There is a second exception for people who may have the limited mental capacity under the law. It is best to discuss this with your solicitor first, to establish if this may apply to your case. If granted, the time limit only begins after the disability ends, which in a large majority of instances means the time limit will never come into effect.
Blackwater Law has successfully aided clients in claiming compensation against the NHS for negligence in their poor care.
£1 Million was secured for our client in the high court after he suffered a life-changing and serious stroke. Our client suffered a stroke after failing to be treated or properly diagnosed on more than one occasion by the defendant’s trust.
£11,000 was successfully secured for our client after a surgical error at the local A&E, overseen by Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Hospitals Trust. Our client was left with a piece of a medical instrument in his body, which caused severe pain.
Substantial compensation was awarded after our client was misdiagnosed with tendonitis in their thumb. Failure to spot the real cause led to necrotising fasciitis and sepsis, which left our client requiring the amputation of their arm
Every year, the NHS will spend around £ 2 billion, compensating those who have suffered harm. This roughly equates to around 2% of the NHS budget each year.
If your claim is successful, your compensation from the NHS will be broken down into ‘General’ and ‘Special’ damages. However, as every case is different, the amount of compensation will vary.
These are received as compensation for the pain and suffering you have experienced either through an injury or potentially from an incorrect diagnosis and treatment. These tend to be a smaller portion of your total compensation.
Special damages are awarded with a view to helping you move on from your incident. For example, it will cover the costs of future medical care, specialist equipment, and any future loss of earnings, should you no longer be able to work effectively in your field of expertise.
Again, your solicitor will be able to give you the best and most accurate outlook of what damages you are able to claim.
In pursuing a claim against the NHS, you may feel conflicted and feel you are taking vital funds away from the NHS trust in question.
In 1995 the Government set up the NHS Litigation Authority, which is now known as NHS Resolution, to assist the health service deal with negligence claims.
The system works in a similar way to an insurance company. All NHS trusts are required to pay a ‘premium’ to build a pot that compensation awards are drawn. The money comes from this pot, regardless of which NHS Trust you are claiming against.
The goal of a medical negligence claim is to help restore a person back to the position they were in, had the injury or negligent care not happened.
It goes without saying that the work undertaken by the NHS is a mammoth task, and in most cases does a fantastic job. A free and accessible health service is something that as a nation we are incredibly proud of. It is from this, that we all have a right to a good standard of healthcare. Despite this, mistakes happen because of natural human error or carelessness.
The results of these mistakes can be life-changing, and devastating. Leaving patients and their families to pick up the pieces after an event they could never have planned for. Financial compensation is often the most effective way to help them get back on track. The money awarded is not given with a view of financial gain, but rather as a necessity to help them pay for extra care or specialist medical equipment.
The other effect of bringing forward a medical negligence claim is that it helps the NHS to establish when areas of healthcare are not being administered properly or safely and can make improvements which hopefully means someone else will not have to suffer.