When You Have a Medical Negligence Case in the UK and Where to Go from Here

Updated on January 12, 2023
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If you’ve had any medical treatment, diagnosis or surgery that you feel was negligent, it’s hard to know if you’re right or wrong. 

Your options for finding out are either speaking to your doctor, making a complaint to the hospital, or putting in a medical negligence claim. If you choose the third option, the time limit for most medical negligence claims is 3 years so make sure you get the ball rolling. 

In this post, we’ll give you everything you need to determine whether you were the victim of medical negligence. This includes what is classed as medical negligence, what you can do, and some example cases from people who’ve been through it. 

What is Classed as Medical Negligence?

The first step in determining whether your medical treatment was negligent is to look at the most common types of medical negligence.

Medical negligence is substandard care provided to you by a medical professional. This care has to have caused injury or made an existing condition worse to be considered negligent. 

Because of the time pressure on GPs is increasing every year in the UK, more and more medical negligence claims are being brought forward. Some sources say these claims cost the NHS £4 million a week in compensation. 

Types of Medical Negligence

The main ways medical negligence cases happen is through misdiagnosis, incorrect treatment or surgical mistakes. Here are the common ways misdiagnosis happens:

  • A medical professional misses an illness or condition entirely, either on a single or multiple occasion.
  • A medical professional provides an incorrect diagnosis, regardless of whether incorrect treatment was given as a result.
  • A GP fails to refer you to an appropriate specialist in time.
  • A medical professional fails to conduct appropriate investigations and scans, etc.
  • A medical professional fails to report on scans and test results, or they misreport them to you.

Types of Surgical Negligence

Common types of surgical negligence can include:

  • Substandard surgical performance
  • Performing the wrong operation
  • An organ being perforated during a surgical procedure
  • Foreign objects left in the body after surgery
  • Operating on the wrong part of the body
  • Giving you an infection due to poor hygiene or failure to sterilize surgical equipment
  • Birth injuries

Types of Birth Negligence

On that last point, birth injuries happen quite often, and are covered by a wide range of mistakes, including:

  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Uterine Rupture
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Wrongful Birth Cases (failed sterilization or vasectomy)
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Second- or Third-Degree Tears
  • Forceps Delivery
  • Episiotomy
  • Failure or delay in performing a cesarean section
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What Can You Do About Medical Negligence if You’re a Victim of It?

Now that we have an extensive list of things people normally make successful medical negligence claims over, you should know whether you have one. In light of that, it’s time to tell you what you can do about it.

Your first port of call is to speak to your medical clinicians about your concerns. The NHS subscribe to a duty of candour which means they’re obligated to be open and honest about the care they’ve provided you.

For some of you, an admission of guilt will be enough. But, for others who have suffered gravely and want some restitution for your negligent care, you can make a formal complaint. 

Make a Complaint

The NHS’s formal complaints procedure is free and can often give you the answers you want. All you need to do is write a letter to your service provider, the NHS hospital or your GP.

Do this right away so you don’t forget any of the events that took place and avoid the 12-month deadline the NHS requires for complaints to be investigated. To make sure the NHS actually do investigate your complaint, include the following in your letter: 

  1. Details of the medical negligence you’re concerned about
  2. Where and when the events took place
  3. What you want to achieve from the complaint e.g. do you want a second medical opinion?
  4. Specific questions about your concerns, which the NHS will address in their response

Once you’ve sent it, you’ll receive an acknowledgment, they’ll tell you whether it’s being investigated, and you have to wait until the investigation is complete.  

Speak to a Solicitor

If you want to bypass the complaint and go straight to the lawsuit, or if you’ve had no luck with your complaint, you can file a medical negligence claim with a local or specialist solicitor. To make sure you pick the right solicitor for the job, consider the following: 

  • Make sure the solicitor is an expert in medical negligence by checking their registration with the Law Society, Lexcel and the Chamber of Partners.
  • Use personal recommendations from friends or family who have used them for medical negligence before, or do a thorough check of their online reviews. 
  • For every law firm that doesn’t offer no-win-no-fee there’s one that does, so if you’re not looking to pay loads of money up front, and only pay for a case your solicitors are sure they can win, look out for this offer. 
  • Most solicitors offer a free initial consultation to ascertain whether your medical negligence claim is worthwhile. So, there’s no harm in booking meetings with a few until you find one that believes in your case. 

Don’t forget, you only have three years after discovering your medical treatment was negligent to make a claim. So, don’t wait around forever for complaints to come back if you plan on taking it to court. 

Are There Any Real-World Examples of Medical Negligence Claims?

Now we know what types of care are considered medically negligent, as well as the process for making a claim against the offending practitioner. But, before we finish this post, we’re going to illustrate these points with a few case studies. 

We’re going to give you one case study per type of negligence to show you how these cases are dealt with. All names have been left out to ensure anonymity. 

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Delayed Diagnosis

C was 19 years old when her family put in a medical negligence claim for brain damage to a specialist solicitor. They claimed the brain damage was caused by a delay in diagnosis and treatment of pneumococcal meningitis when the girl was less than a year old.

The claim was made against C’s former GP who failed to recognise she was seriously ill, telling her mother that it was probably teething and that she was being too overprotective. C’s condition deteriorated, and by the time she made it to hospital it was too late; she had already suffered a permanent brain injury. 

In this case, the GP failed to take an adequate history of the child, perform the appropriate examination, and provide advice to her parents. If the parents had known, they would have booked a follow up appointment and C would have made a full recovery.

In this case, the medical negligence claim was resolved before trial, and C’s family received substantial compensation to help them look after C for the foreseeable future.

Surgical Error

P underwent a TVT procedure to help her with her symptoms of urgency and stress incontinence. During the procedure, the surgeon damaged P’s urethra by applying excessive force. This damage resulted in significant incontinence for P and she had to have multiple follow up surgeries.

Unfortunately, these surgeries didn’t work, and P continued to have no control over her bladder, severely affecting the way she lived her life. With the help of a medical negligence solicitor, P was able to claim £115,000, an admission of liability and an apology from the surgeon responsible.

Birth Injury

£4.5 million was secured by a teenager who suffered a negligent birth injury at Furness General Hospital. The teenager suffered from oxygen starvation at birth causing her to develop dyskinetic athetoid Cerebral Palsy. 

At first, the parents weren’t aware that their child’s Cerebral Palsy was caused by medical negligence and, until they sought the help of solicitor, they were none the wiser. 

Thankfully, they spoke to the right solicitors who dug into what happened, made a case against the hospital and won compensation for the family. This is why, even if you’re not sure you have a claim, it’s a good idea to speak to a professional just in case.

So, What Do I Do Now?

Throughout this post, we’ve done our best to inform you on what constitutes medical negligence. We’ve also talked about how you make a complaint or claim, and what common cases of medical negligence look like. 

Hopefully, you now have an idea of whether you have a case or not. But, if you’re uncertain, there’s no harm in speaking to a solicitor who can help you determine the possibility of a successful claim. 

Remember, you only have 3 years from the date you found out about the negligence to make a claim, so don’t think about it for too long before you seek advice.

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The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.