Care under the NHS is usually very good, and the majority of patients who use the service have a very positive experience. Unfortunately, things can sometimes go wrong. It is always worth knowing the extent of your rights, and of the obligations that the NHS is under, when you are under the care of the health service.
In this article we take a look at how to pursue compensation and take legal action if you feel that the standard of care you have received in an NHS hospital is not up to the appropriate standard.
Pursuing Legal Action for Clinical Negligence
If you have suffered an injury because of negligence while in an NHS hospital, then you might be able to pursue legal action in order to receive compensation. It is also possible for relatives of a patient to pursue legal action if the patient has died as a result of negligence, or if they don’t have the capacity to pursue action themselves.
While you aren’t required to use the NHS’ own internal complaints procedure before pursuing a compensation claim, it is usually advisable to do so. By going through the NHS’ own internal procedure, you will often be able to gather evidence about what happened, and about how the hospital in question views the incident that has occurred. Going through this process will not prohibit you from taking further legal action through other channels.
However you decide to proceed, you should always consult with professionals with relevant experience. For example, you can start your claim through websites such as The Medical Negligence Experts who have a free patient claim line allowing you to chat to one of their medical negligence experts for all necessary information.
Even if you begin to pursue a claim for clinical negligence, this should not cause any delays to an internal NHS investigation, should you request one be carried out. The only exception to this would be if a judge rules that such an investigation would be prejudicial to your legal case.
Pursuing legal action can be expensive and stressful. It is therefore a good idea to make absolutely sure that you have a case worth pursuing, and that you are able to stand up to the stress of the situation. You should also remember that a clinical negligence claim can only result in the award of financial compensation; the court does not have the power to discipline individual healthcare professionals, to force any hospital or individual to change their working practices, or demand an apology from any individual or organisation.
The NHS Litigation Authority
The NHS Litigation Authority is a part of the NHS which handles any claims made against it. The vast majority (around 98%) of cases which go through the Authority are settled out of court, or dropped by the claimant.
What is Clinical Negligence?
There are a number of different scenarios which can be considered clinical negligence, and you should familiarise yourself with these before you pursue any claim. Clinical negligence may have occurred if you have suffered injury as a result of your healthcare provider failing to diagnose a condition or making the wrong diagnosis, making a critical error during a procedure or operation, administering the wrong drug or treatment to you, failing to obtain your consent to carry out a procedure or administer treatment, or failing to adequately warn you of the risks of a particular treatment, therefore leaving you unable to give informed consent.
Sometimes patients will suffer an injury during the course of their medical treatment. This in itself is not enough to make a claim of negligence. In order for treatment to be considered negligent it must be shown that ‘on the balance of probability’, the treatment and care that you received fell below the medically accepted standard, and that this failing in care directly caused your injury.
Compensation can be claimed for any injuries or losses that you suffered, and which were a direct result of receiving negligent treatment. The types of compensation available includes, compensation for pain and suffering, payment towards any ongoing treatment that is required, compensation for any activities or hobbies which you can no longer carry out, earnings lost as a result of your injury, money towards the costs of any special equipment or care that you now require, money towards adapting your home, and compensation for psychological damage.
Any legal claims made against a hospital must be made within 3 years of the incident occurring, or within 3 years of you becoming aware that you suffered an injury if the onset of symptoms is delayed. In the case of children, the 3-year limit applies from the date of their 18th birthday. If the claim is being pursued on behalf of an individual who is unable to make their own claim because of a mental incapacity, then the 3-year period also does not apply.
If you think that you might have suffered clinical negligence while being treated on the NHS, then you should consider whether it is in your best interests to pursue a claim on clinical negligence.