A Step by Step Guide to Hospital NHS Negligence Claims

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A Step by Step Guide to Hospital NHS Negligence Claims

Receiving substandard care in an NHS hospital can be a painful and distressing experience for anyone. A person who has been harmed by medical error may find that they have to deal with the medical and financial setbacks associated with the clinical mistake, some of which can impact their health and wellbeing well into the future.

If you have been mistreated by those entrusted with your health, you may be able to seek compensation. The NHS pays out a significant number of hospital NHS negligence claims each year, and the money you receive can help with the costs of rehabilitation and make sure you get the personal and financial support you deserve.

What are hospital NHS negligence claims?

Hospital NHS negligence is a specific type of medical negligence. It arises whenever a patient receives an unacceptable level of care in an NHS hospital.

The treatment does not have to be supplied by a doctor or surgeon. Acts or omissions by nurses, physiotherapists, radiologists, dieticians, pharmacists, lab technicians and even porters can also give rise to hospital NHS negligence claims if they did not conform to the required standard.

What is the required level of care?

Hospital staff have a duty to give you the level of care that is expected of a reasonably competent healthcare professional in the same field. For common procedures, such as hip replacement surgery and intravenous drug dispensing, clinicians should follow an established protocol laid down by the NHS to ensure “best practice” across all hospitals and departments.

In addition, the NHS operates a code of conduct that requires all patients to be treated with dignity and respect. As a hospital patient, you can expect:

  • To receive the treatment, care and support that meets your needs
  • To be told what is happening at every stage of your care
  • To receive the food and drink you need to meet your dietary needs
  • To be cared for in a safe and clean environment and protected from infection
  • To get the medicines you need when you need them
  • To be cared for by the right number of staff with the right skills to do their jobs properly
  • To have your care properly coordinated if you move from one service to another
  • To have your privacy, dignity and independence respected.

Hospitals that fall short of the required standard may be liable to pay compensation if their mistakes cause physical or emotional harm.

What can you do if you think your NHS hospital is not meeting the required standard?

If you experience substandard NHS hospital care, then you have various options open to you. The first step is to tell the management of the hospital. Often, it is enough that the victimised patient receives an apology and an assurance that other patients will not be subjected to the same poor treatment.

If your concerns are not resolved straight away, you can go through the formal NHS complaints process. Under the NHS constitution, all patients have the right to make a complaint and to

have it thoroughly investigated. Your solicitor can guide you through the formal complaints procedures; details are available at NHS choices.

If you are not satisfied with the way your complaint is being handled, you can take it to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

You don’t have to use the official complaints procedure before starting a legal claim but it is usually wise to do so. Lodging an official complaint forces the hospital or the relevant NHS Trust to clarify the circumstances surrounding your treatment and establish whether there is any liability. This information can help your solicitor decide whether it would be in your best interests to pursue a legal claim.

What about the NHS Litigation Authority?

Dissatisfied patients not wishing to pursue a compensation claim can also approach the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA). This independent mediation service, launched in 2014, can help patients and clinicians resolve disputes fairly and help the NHS learn from their mistakes.

Using the NHSLA does not prevent you from making a legal claim if you are unhappy with the outcome.

How do I know if I have a hospital NHS negligence claim?

The NHS complaints procedure is designed to give you an explanation, not financial compensation. If you have suffered actual harm in an NHS hospital, then you are entitled to claim compensation for your injuries.

A claim may be brought against the NHS institution if:

  1. The hospital staff did something, or failed to do something, that fell short of the required quality standard (negligence); and
  1. The mistake caused you physical or psychological harm (causation.)

“Harm” is broadly defined. It arises whenever a clinician causes you a direct physical injury, for example, by leaving surgical instruments inside your body. It also arises whenever your illness or condition is worsened by the clinician’s mistakes.

Common duty breaches that cause harm to NHS hospital patients include:

  • Surgical error
  • Failure to diagnose critical conditions such as strokes, heart attacks and brain haemorrhage
  • Anaesthetic errors
  • Prescribing or administering the wrong medicine or the wrong dosage
  • Hospital infections such as MRSA
  • Hospital malnourishment or dehydration
  • Failure to warn of the risks of treatment
  • Lab mistakes, such as delayed, false or missing test results that can delay a course of treatment
  • Misdiagnosis or failure to treat
  • Negligent delay in treatment
  • Failure to monitor oxygen or fluid levels
  • Negligent personal care which can lead to wound infections or pressure sores.

What is the process for making hospital NHS negligence claims?

Hospital NHS negligence claims are difficult claims to prove, and you will need expert advice to work out whether you have a case. So, if you are thinking about claiming compensation, the first step is to appoint a solicitor who specialises in clinical negligence cases.

An an initial step, the solicitor will look at your case to decide if it is strong enough for them to take it on. You will need to give your solicitor as much information as possible. It will help if you keep a written record of the treatment you received, the complaints you made and any paperwork associated with your hospital stay.

The solicitor should be able to tell you if your case has a reasonable chance of success and give you an idea how much compensation you might receive.

What are the time limits for making hospital NHS negligence claims?

It is important to act fast. Official NHS complaints must be lodged within 12 months from when the incident happened, and you must start your legal claim within three years of the negligent treatment or when you first became aware that you had suffered an injury.

In the case of children, a parent or other competent adult can make a claim on the child’s behalf. The three-year time limit starts to run on the child’s 18th birthday so a claim can be made at any time until the child turns 21.

Even if you think you have plenty of time to file a claim, don’t leave it until the last minute. Hospital NHS negligence claims are complex to investigate and pursue. The more time your solicitor has, the better the likely outcome of your case.

How do Claimants pay for hospital NHS negligence claims?

Your solicitor will discuss the best way to finance your medical negligence compensation claim. Some Claimants have legal expenses cover as part of an employer’s benefit package or their home insurance policy which could be used to pay for a hospital NHS negligence claim.

Another option is a Conditional Fee Agreement which you may know by its popular name “No Win, No Fee.” Most hospital NHS negligence claims are funded in this manner. Funding your claim through No Win, No Fee means that you will not have to pay your solicitor’s fees if you lose the case. If you win, your solicitor will retain a percentage of your compensation as their success fee.

Conditional Fee Agreements ensure that every patient has access to high quality legal advice without any upfront costs. There are absolutely no hidden fees if you choose to work with a Medical Negligence Experts’ clinical negligence solicitor. Our fair No Win, No Fee policy is designed to help you focus on your rehabilitation without worrying about costs.

How do you prove liability in hospital NHS negligence claims?

The duty will be on you, the injured patient, to prove that the hospital was negligent and that its actions caused you harm. Since your claim is about hospital treatment, the most significant evidence will be reports from medical experts who have specialist knowledge in the relevant field of medicine or nursing care. Sometimes it is possible for one expert to deal with the various aspects of your injury. Often, two or more reports are required from different experts.

The reports will be used to establish both negligence and causation. Once these investigations have been carried out, your solicitor will be able to advise you with much more certainty whether your claim is likely to be successful.

What if I have been injured by an NHS “Never Event?”

Around six patients a week are affected by so-called “Never Events” – wholly preventable incidents that should not have happened if NHS staff had followed specific guidance or safety recommendations. The Never Event list is regularly updated by the NHS and currently includes areas such as:

  • Wrong site surgery where surgery is carried out on the wrong body part or even the wrong patient
  • Retaining foreign bodies in the patient post-operation
  • Failing to monitor oxygen levels
  • Administering chemotherapy drugs via the wrong route
  • Death from postpartum haemorrhage after an elective caesarean section.

Since a hospital would find it very difficult to defend a Never Event, it is highly likely that the NHS trust would concede liability if you suffered such an incident.

However, even if breach of duty is admitted, you must still prove causation in order to claim compensation. This is where the specialist knowledge of an expert medical negligence solicitor can assist.

Who do I sue?

Since the treatment you received was provided in an NHS hospital, you will sue the NHS Trust responsible for that hospital.

How much do hospital NHS negligence claims pay out?

The amount of compensation you receive for the pain and suffering associated with your injury depends on a variety of factors. These include:

  • The type and location of the injury
  • The seriousness of the injury, for example, whether it will heal on its own or whether surgery is required
  • The impact the injury has on your ability to work and your lifestyle
  • Your age
  • How long it will take you to recover
  • Likely complications arising from your injury in the future.

The medical expert appointed in your case will describe the nature and extent of your injuries and the prognosis for your recovery in a document called a “condition and prognosis report.” This report will be used as a starting point for settlement negotiations.

On occasion, the medical expert may not be able to give a final prognosis and may recommend further treatment first. It is better to wait until the treatment is concluded before settling your compensation claim. That’s because hospital NHS negligence claims are settled on a “full and final” basis. It is not possible to ask for more money if your injury turns out to be worse than expected, so you should always enter negotiations armed with all the medical facts.

In addition to “general damages” for pain and suffering, you may claim for the out-of-pocket expenses associated with the injury. This includes medical costs, travel costs and lost wages and overtime.

You will need to prove your financial losses so it is important that you keep receipts for any items purchased, taxi fares, wage slips and tax returns.

Next steps

Hospital NHS negligence claims can be stressful and time consuming, so it is important to get support from the right legal firm. Here at The Medical Negligence Experts, our panel of solicitors only deal with claims against the medical profession and can be trusted to give you the advice and support you need.

The best way to start is simply to contact the Medical Negligence Experts today. We are pleased to offer you a free, no obligation consultation so you can ask any questions and learn how we can help.

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How much could I claim?

As every medical case is different, the amount of compensation paid out can differ. Varying factors lead to the final figure include: Level of negligence, earnings missed out on, future losses and more.

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How does the process work?

We understand that when making a claim it’s important to know what to expect and when to expect it. That’s why we make the process as transparent as possible.

Your solicitor will gather all the evidence and will notify the negligent party of your claim against them. With your dedicated solicitor negotiating on your behalf, you will be kept up to date every step of the way.

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We offer a No Win No Fee* service on all our claims - We assess each claim on its merits with the information provided, which aids us to determine its likely success rate. This takes the risk away from you.

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On contact, you will be allocated your own expert Medical Negligence solicitor who will be there every step of the way. You will be provided with a direct phone number and direct email address of your solicitor.

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Whether you are ready to make a medical negligence claim, or you would just like a free conversation with a legal professional, we have experts on hand to give you all the information you need. Take the first step to getting what you deserve by filling in our quick contact form and we will call you back whenever suits you.

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