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For many of us, a visit to the hospital will have a positive outcome, whether this is for a routine procedure or more urgent surgery. But in some cases, things go wrong, and this can be when people make hospital negligence claims.
NHS England faces large clinical negligence claim bills, receiving 10,000 new claims each year. Hospital trusts in England contribute to the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts, which handles claims and the costs that come with them.
What is hospital negligence and how do you make a claim for it?
Hospital negligence occurs when a patient receives care that fails to meet reasonable professional standards and suffers injury as a result.
You have a right to a good standard of medical care, and it the duty of care of medical professionals to provide this standard.
If medical professionals in a hospital breach this duty of care, causing you to suffer harm, then you may have grounds for a medical negligence claim against the hospital.
However, there are certain tests or conditions your claim must pass to have a chance of being successful:
- You must prove that the medical professional has broken their duty of care towards you
- You must prove that you have suffered physical or mental injuries you would not have experienced otherwise if the negligence had not occurred.
Sometimes, visits to the hospital do not go according to plan. But while mistakes occur in many different workplaces, in hospitals they can have catastrophic quantities.
Errors can occur at various points in a hospital visit, but may then lead to serious injury for the patient:
- During general surgery, there can be accidents when people are giving birth, which can result in death or injury to the baby
- There are situations where medical staff leave medical instruments or swabs inside a patient during surgery, which leads to infection or other complications
- Due to misdiagnosis, medical professionals may carry out unnecessary surgery, or operate on the wrong part of a patient
- Doctors may fail to obtain clear patient consent before carrying out a specific surgical procedure.
All these errors, and many others, can leave patients with injuries, and in some situations, these will be severe and life-changing or may result in the death of the patient.
What Types of Hospital Negligence Claims are There?
There are various types of common hospital negligence claims.
- Surgical claims – there are various surgical specialities, such as trauma and orthopaedic surgery, but things can wrong in all of them, leading to injury or death of patients.
- Accident and emergency (A&E) claims – A&E can be many people’s first point of contact with a hospital, where accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment are critical and failure to provide these can have serious consequences.
- Anaesthesia claims – errors in applying anaesthetic to patients can lead to brain injury, nerve injury or death.
- Amputation claims – complications following surgery, or failure to treat certain conditions properly, such as diabetes, can lead to limb amputation to deal with life-threatening conditions. But for the patient, the result is life-changing.
- Cancer claims – delays in cancer diagnosis can result in more aggressive treatment being needed or may shorten a patient’s life expectancy.
- Paediatric claims – appropriate diagnosis and treatment of young children and babies is critical as they may be unable to communicate their pain and illness accurately. Where there is misdiagnosis or the wrong treatment, these patients can suffer injury.
- Meningitis claims – misdiagnosis of meningitis, or delays in diagnosis, can lead to patients developing septicaemia, suffering brain injury or loss of limbs.
- Birth injury claims – errors in treatment during pregnancy, or in the time immediately before or after someone gives birth, can have serious health consequences for the child, the mother or both.
How Do You Make a Hospital Negligence Claim?
It’s essential to have evidence to support a hospital negligence claim. By first going through the NHS complaints procedure, this should help you to provide certain information to support your claim.
You can put a complaint in writing to the NHS Patient and Liaison Service (PALS).
This isn’t a formal part of a hospital negligence claim, but along with any written responses you receive from the NHS, it will form part of the evidence of your claim.
Hospital negligence claims tend to be complex and detailed, because they require you to prove that, on the balance of probabilities, the injuries you’ve received are caused by negligence.
Where there are multiple factors involved, this can make things more complicated. Typically, these cases will involve expert opinion and evidence.
But with professional legal support, you should be able to make a claim, providing your claim meets the necessary conditions to make it valid.
Outcomes of claims vary as much as individual claims do themselves. According to NHS Resolution, the NHS paid £2.4 billion in clinical negligence claims in 2018-19.
NHS Resolution handles claims against the NHS hospital trusts, and it tries to settle these cases out of court.