What Could Be Classed As Medical Negligence In The UK?

By Daniel Sisko. Last Updated 15th June 2022. Welcome to our guide on what is classed as medical negligence. Sometimes, complications can arise when you’re receiving medical treatment. These issues can happen even when a medical professional is adhering to the duty of care they owe to you; although unfortunate, these instances aren’t classed as negligence.

Sometimes, however, you may receive care that falls below the standard you expect. Furthermore, you may be made ill, injured, or have your condition worsen as a result of this substandard care. If this is the case, you may be able to claim compensation for medical negligence.

What could be classed as medical negligence in the UK guide

What could be classed as medical negligence in the UK guide

In the UK, all medical practitioners must be registered to ensure that they adhere to professional standards. Whether your operation was a necessary medical procedure or elective surgery based on cosmetic requirements, the duty of care that is applied is the same.

You have a right to expect the right level of treatment, care and professionalism. We will explain to you what your options are if you were failed in that expectation and what damages you could be awarded.

If you’re looking right now to commence a claim for an injury caused by medical negligence, get in touch by:

  • Calling our team on 020 3870 4868
  • Emailing us at UKlaw.co.uk
  • Using the ‘live support’ option to the bottom right which offers on the spot guidance.

Services And Information

  1. Everything You Need To Know About What Is Classed As Medical Negligence
  2. What Is Medical Negligence?
  3. How Do You Prove Medical Negligence?
  4. Compensation For Medical Negligence In The UK – 2022 Payouts
  5. What Constitutes Medical Negligence?
  6. Missed Diagnosis And Misdiagnosis
  7. Negligence During Surgery And Surgical Aftercare
  8. Negligence During Childbirth
  9. Negligent Dental Care
  10. Other Types Of Medical Negligence
  11. Time Limits For Claims Classed As Medical Negligence
  12. I Was Harmed By Negligent Medical Care, What Should I Do?
  13. No Win No Fee Medical Negligence Claims
  14. Other Information
  15. Clinical Negligence FAQs

Everything You Need To Know About What Is Classed As Medical Negligence

When you have medical treatment because you are ill or injured it can quite often mean you can get worse before you get better. These are just the side effects of the treatment you are having. Injuries and illnesses can be caused by surgery, treatment, medications and care that is provided but this does not mean that negligence has taken place. When we speak of medical negligence it is when a certified doctor or nurse deviates from the required procedures, acts in a negligent way or omission and causes the patient they are treating harm that should not have occurred.

Firstly we discuss what medical negligence is defined as and move on to establish what evidence is needed to prove that the care you received was substandard. After discussing the appropriate evidence needed, we then move on to how the two heads of your claim can be calculated to reflect your losses.

We conclude our article by explaining how legal representation can be funded using a No Win No Fee agreement. Finally, we will look at some commonly asked questions about medical negligence claims that we’re often asked.

What Is Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence describes a situation in which you received care that fell below the level expected of the profession. In order to claim, you need to show that medical negligence caused you to be injured, or caused your condition to worsen more than it would have if you’d received the right care.

Medical professionals can act within their standards of the profession and provide a duty of care but complications can still arise that could not have been avoided. If you are injured in these circumstances this will not necessarily be classed as medical negligence.

However, if it can be shown that the treatment you received was not something that another medical professional would have done when presented with the same information, this could be considered negligent. If this negligence caused you to become ill or injured or caused a condition you already suffered from to become worse than it otherwise would have been, then you could be owed compensation.

Suing the NHS

You can complain in writing to the NHS if you feel you are a victim of medical negligence. You may wish to go through the NHS complaints procedure before seeking legal action, as this can help clarify what went wrong with your care.

You can claim against the NHS either on your own or with a medical negligence lawyer. Claims against the NHS are handled by NHS Resolution (formerly known as the NHS Litigation Authority). They handle both clinical and non-clinical claims.

How Do You Prove Medical Negligence?

Because of the nature of medical problems, not all health or wellbeing developments are within the control of doctors. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that there are limits to what doctors can realistically predict or diagnose.

In order to prove medical negligence, the courts will usually administer something called the Bolam Test. The Bolam test involves asking a panel of the doctor’s peers how they would have acted in the same circumstances.

If they confirm that they would have acted in the same way, then the doctor will not be considered negligent. If this is the case, you won’t be entitled to compensation even if you’ve been injured or made ill by your medical treatment.

However, if they say that they would have acted in a different way, then the care that you received could be classed as negligent. This may mean that you’re entitled to compensation for the additional pain and suffering that you’ve experienced.

As well as showing that a doctor acted negligently, you also need to show that your injuries were directly caused by the negligent care you received and not by the condition or injury you were suffering from. When you seek medical attention, it is likely because you are already suffering from something that is causing you pain and inconvenience, which may be exacerbated by medical negligence. If it would have gotten to this point anyway regardless of the negligent treatment then these situations can become slightly complex.

Compensation For Medical Negligence In The UK – 2022 Payouts

Compensation for medical negligence in the UK can often fall under two heads of claim. They’re known as general damages and special damages. In this section, we’ll describe both of these payments in more detail.

General Damages

This amount is calculated and awarded based on how severe your injuries are, amongst other factors – they can be physical or even psychological. When legal professionals are working out how much general damages for medical negligence claims should be worth, they will address sources such as the medical evidence you present to support your claim. Additionally, they will also turn to the Judicial College Guidelines (JCG). This is a publication that was last updated in 2022. We’ve included some example entries in the table below. As you can see, each injury is assigned a range of figures that can be used to give a rough idea as to the value of a general damages claim for this ailment.

DamagesAwarded ForAmount
GeneralLoss of spleen - continuing risk of internal infection and disorders due to the damage to the immune system.£19,510 to £24,680
GeneralInfertility resulting from failure to diagnose ectopic pregnancy£31,950 to £95,850
GeneralFailed sterilisation resulting in an unwanted pregnancyIn the region of £9,570
General Where there has been a delay in diagnosing ectopic pregnancy but there's been no effect on fertility. £3,180 to £19,170
GeneralLess serious leg injuries - Left with metal implant and/or limp£16,860 to £26,050
GeneralLoss of one kidney with no damage to the other£28,880 to £42,110
GeneralMinor back injuries - Where a full recovery is made within three monthsUp to £2,300
GeneralBelow-elbow amputation£90,250 to £102,890

Special damages

This is a figure that you may also be eligible to receive. It can be made up of various costs and losses that you experience as a result of your injuries. For example:

  • Loss of earnings – Your ability to work and earn a living may be impacted due to the impact on your health.
  • Medical costs – Prescription medication, some private healthcare procedures etc.
  • Other costs – For instance, you may be unable to go on a trip that has already been paid for, due to your injury

Get in touch with our advisors today if you want to know more about what could be included in a special damages payment, and what medical negligence claims in general could be worth. You can also head to the compensation calculator on our website.

What Constitutes Medical Negligence?

There are a number of things that can occur in the healthcare profession that could be classed as a breach of the duty of care owed to you. These include:

  • Missed diagnoses or misdiagnoses because the doctor was negligent when treating you.
  • Incorrect medication prescribed
  • Failing to adhere to hygiene standards (for example, reusing equipment on more than one patient that is designed for single use)
  • Mistakes during surgery
  • Dental negligence
  • Negligence during childbirth

In order for a doctor to be considered negligent, they must have breached their duty of care, deviated from professional standards or failed to act when necessary. These actions will have led to the patient’s condition deteriorating when it should not have.

Missed Diagnosis And Misdiagnosis

A medical missed diagnosis can cause a patient’s condition to worsen. A missed diagnosis is where an ailment is not recognised and diagnosed. On the other hand, a misdiagnosis happens when an illness or injury is mistakenly diagnosed as something else.

Either of these could cause further complications with the patient’s health. A missed diagnosis could result in you not getting the treatment you need. A misdiagnosis could also mean that you get treatment you don’t need. In addition, if you are being treated for a condition you do not have then the medication could make you more ill.

Misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis can happen for a number of reasons. These include:

  • The right diagnostic tests not being ordered because symptoms were not identified.
  • The results of a test being interpreted incorrectly.
  • An administrative error resulting in the results of a test being lost or misplaced.

Negligence During Surgery And Surgical Aftercare

There are a number of things that can go wrong in surgery that could cause you more pain and suffering than the condition you needed the operation for. Surgical errors that might occur include:

  • Wrong-site surgery where an operation is performed on the wrong area of the body
  • A foreign object being left in the body after an operation
  • Anaesthesia issues
  • Infection caused by poor hygiene standards during surgery
  • Surgery being performed when it wasn’t necessary for the patient’s health.

Some of these instances, including wrong-site surgery and a foreign object being retained in the body, are classed as Never Events. These are serious incidents that are preventable and should not have happened if all healthcare providers followed the strict frameworks in place to prevent them from occurring.

Never Events are always examples of medical negligence. If you are unsure whether or not the treatment you received was substandard our medical negligence advisors will be able to assess your case for you in a free no-obligation chat. Call today for more information.

Negligence During Childbirth

Childbirth can be difficult to navigate under ideal circumstances. If a midwife or other healthcare provider providing you with care that fell below an acceptable standard, resulting in a birth injury, then you may be able to claim.

Examples of issues during childbirth might include:

  • Failing to identify and treat an infection that could injure the unborn child, like a urinary tract infection
  • Incorrect use of equipment such as forceps
  • Failure to monitor the child or mother for problems in childbirth
  • Injuries to the infant while being delivered or after birth. This could include nerve damage or paralysis caused by delivery. Injuries to an infant during childbirth can be fatal.
  • Retained placenta which isn’t diagnosed or treated in time, leading to further complications

It is expected that mothers who have just given birth will experience some pain and discomfort in the process of labour and as they recover. But if the negligence of a healthcare provider has caused you or your child to suffer more than you otherwise would have, you may be able to claim. Speak with our team today if you or your newborn baby experienced a health problem due to the negligence of a midwife or obstetrician.

Negligent Dental Care

When we speak about medical professionals we mean anyone who is trained in the medical environment and this can also mean dentists, dental nurses and hygienists. As with doctors and nurses dentists also need to abide by professional standards, they too must not deviate from standard procedures or offer a service that is below the expected standards.

Dental negligence can include:

  • Misdiagnosis. If your dentist fails to spot the signs of a condition such as oral cancer because they failed to examine your mouth correctly, resulting in a delay in treatment which causes the condition to be worse than it otherwise would have been, this could be classed as negligence.
  • Extracting the wrong tooth because they read the wrong patient’s notes.
  • Fracturing your jaw when carrying out dental surgery.

For more information about claiming compensation for dental negligence, why not get in touch with our team today? One of our advisors could connect you with a solicitor from our panel if they feel your claim has a good chance of success.

Other Types Of Medical Negligence

Medical negligence can happen when standards of professionalism are deviated from. Different areas of medicine can include;

  • Emergency medicine
  • Radiology
  • Urology
  • Mental health and psychiatric care
  • Gastroenterology
  • Walk-in centre

When a health care professional agrees to treat you and when you become their patient you are instantly owed a duty of care. This means that they agree not to cause you any unnecessary harm. When the duty of care is breached this can mean that mistakes can happen that would not have otherwise taken place. If you are harmed because of such a breach it may mean you are eligible to claim compensation. Call our team for more information.

Time Limits For Claims Classed As Medical Negligence

Generally, there is a three-year time limit on medical negligence claims. This either runs from the date the negligence occurred or the date you became aware that your injuries were caused by negligence. This is referred to as the “date of knowledge”.

There are some exceptions to the three-year limit, however. For instance, if you are under 18, you cannot start a claim on your own behalf. A litigation friend can do this for you. While you’re underage, the time limit is suspended. It begins again if a claim hasn’t been made by the time you turn 18, meaning you have until you turn 21 to claim.

In addition, if the injured person lacks the mental capacity to claim then the time limit is suspended, meaning a litigation friend can claim for them at any point. The time limit starts again in the event that they regain their mental capacity; otherwise, it’s suspended indefinitely.

If you’d like to know more about how long you have to start a compensation claim, why not speak to our team? They’ll be happy to offer you free legal advice about claiming.

I Was Harmed By Negligent Medical Care, What Should I Do?

When you are injured because of substandard medical care, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention. Although you might be hesitant to do so, the substandard care you received may have caused you further health problems that need to be addressed.

You should keep a record of all the medical appointments you attended and what action was taken. If you want to, you can complain through the NHS complaints procedure to get an idea of what went wrong.

You may also wish to seek the advice of a medical negligence solicitor. This isn’t a necessity; however, medical negligence can be a nuanced legal field and you may find that the support and guidance of a solicitor help the process run more smoothly.

You should also collect any evidence of costs you’ve incurred as a result of your injuries. Without evidence, they will not be able to be included in your claim.

For more information on how you could fund legal representation for your claim, read on to our next section on No Win No Fee claims.

No Win No Fee Medical Negligence Claims

No Win No Fee arrangements are contracts between claimants and solicitors that set out the terms the solicitor needs to meet in order to be paid.

With a No Win No Fee agreement, you won’t be asked to pay anything upfront or as your claim is ongoing. You also won’t be asked to pay anything to your solicitor if your claim is unsuccessful. The only time you will be asked to pay your solicitor anything is if your case succeeds. Then, a capped success fee will be deducted from your compensation to cover their costs.

If you’d like to know more about the benefits offered by a No Win No Fee agreement, why not get in touch with our team today? If they feel you have a good chance of success, one of our advisors may be able to connect you with a No Win No Fee solicitor from our panel.

You can get in touch in the following ways:

  • Call our team on 020 3870 4868
  • Email us at UKlaw.co.uk
  • Use the ‘live support’ option bottom, right which offers on the spot guidance.

Other Information

Below, we have included some additional guides that you may find useful.

Can I claim compensation with a pre-existing condition?

Operation gone wrong 

General Medical Council- Duties of a doctor 

How to complain to the NHS

Care Quality Commission 

Clinical Negligence FAQs

In addition to the highlighted text throughout this article, below are some frequently asked questions about what is classed as medical negligence and the circumstances surrounding it.

What is clinical negligence law?

This is a type of tort law. It sets to provide protection for health care providers and their patients.

Do medical negligence claims go to court?

Some medical negligence claims can go to court. However, NHS Resolution revealed that in 2019/20, 71.5% of claims were settled without court proceedings.

What is the difference between clinical and medical negligence?

Medical negligence and clinical negligence are two terms that are used to describe similar occurrences.

Thank you for reading our guide looking at what can be classed as medical negligence.

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