Over the last few years, there has been an increase in the number of patients who are choosing to make a claim against UK hospitals in respect of clinical negligence because of an injury that they believe that they have incurred as a result of treatment that they have received.
A clinical negligence claim can be brought by a patient who believes that they received a level of care which was below that which could be expected and which led to them experiencing an injury or illness as a direct result of failure of care.
A patient can make a claim against a hospital because of a lack of appropriate treatment from any healthcare professional, whether that be a doctor or a member of nursing staff. The onus is on the patient to prove that they were failed by the hospital, but if they can demonstrate their case effectively with the use of expert testimony, they may be awarded with damages in the form of financial compensation, or an out of court settlement may be made.
The Types Of Clinical Negligence That Patients Can Claim For
In the UK, there are several types of clinical negligence which patients can make a claim for against hospitals. The most common include:
Birth injuries are claimed by those who believe that they received a substandard level of care in respect of the birth of their child. The injuries covered by this type of claim include illness, injury or death for either the mother or the child, and could be due to incorrect drug administration, a failure to diagnose a problem in a timely manner or an error made during the birth itself.
If a hospital makes a mistake which leads to injury, the patient involved or their family can make a claim. Examples of this include removal of the incorrect organ, equipment being left inside the patient’s body after an operation or the incorrect type of operation being carried out.
Negligent Medical Advice
If a hospital doctor fails to warn the patient about the potential risk of an operation that they are about to receive, and then something goes wrong, the patient may be entitled to receive compensation because they did not give informed consent to the operation.
Doctors are not the only health professionals who can be subject to a clinical negligence claim. Nurses too can be held to account if they fail to adhere to the appropriate standards of treatment. For example, if a nurse fails to record health checks appropriately or administers the incorrect medicine by mistake, resulting in the patient’s condition worsening, or the patient developing a further medical problem, this would be deemed as negligent nursing and the patient could make a claim against the hospital.
Paramedics too are held to account as part of the NHS and part of the UK’s hospital system. Should an ambulance be called to attend a medical emergency, but then take too long to arrive, meaning that the patient’s condition worsens, the patient, or their family members in the event of the patient’s death, could make a claim against the hospital in respect of the poor quality of emergency care.
If a patient has their medical problem misdiagnosed – either by being told that they have a condition when in fact they do not, or being told that they do not have a problem when in fact they do, the patient could make a claim if they then suffer a further medical problem as a result of the incorrect diagnosis. For example, a patient who suffers from depression and anxiety because they were told that they had a condition that turned out not to exist, or a patient who was told that they were free of cancer, when in fact the doctor had failed to spot a tumour, would be equally able to make a negligence claim against the hospital involved.
Failed Abortion Or Sterilisation Failure
If a woman gives birth to a child after she attend hospital to have a sterilisation procedure or abortion carried out, she can claim for negligence against the hospital involved.
Another type of claim that can be made against hospitals is battery. This refers to being operated on with having given the appropriate consent, and if this happens to a patient, they are then entitled at a later date to make a claim against that hospital for invading their person.
Anyone who suspects that they have been a victim of clinical negligence is free to seek legal help, and the number of claims against UK hospitals are on the rise. It is therefore no wonder that hospitals are now encouraging staff at all levels to attend courses about clinical negligence in an attempt to avert future claims.