QUESTION: Can I sue the NHS?
The NHS is an enormous machine that sees over one million people every 36 hours in England alone. While not exactly free, because taxes fund it, the public healthcare system is an amazing resource that is envied by other developed countries like the USA. Regardless of how much it is valued as a resource, the NHS is not infallible.
Any service risks a degree of error, especially one that supports such a high volume of customers. It is, therefore, not surprising that the NHS does not always get it right. If you have been hurt in a way you believe could have been avoided, then you may have legal grounds to sue the NHS for negligence.
Suing the NHS for negligence
It is hard to avoid hearing about NHS negligence in the first place. Particularly with so much press coverage on how the NHS is struggling financially with the rising cost of paying compensation.
The simple definition is that NHS negligence is when a patient receives a substandard level of care causing injury. It could be a girl with meningitis being sent home from A&E, only to die 48-hours later. As was the case with Isabel Gentry in Bristol in 2016, to a patient being misdiagnosed due to widespread computer failure.
If you received an injury because someone else made a mistake, systems were inadequate or defined procedures were not followed, then talk to The Medical Negligence Experts to find out if you can sue the NHS for compensation.
A case of NHS negligence may have more than one failing, as with Isabel Gentry. Although the NHS trust responsible for her care at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, identified no negligence, an inquest and Coroner’s report found that her death was contributed to by neglect.
There were queries around:
- the quality of her initial assessment;
- the lack of referral to a registrar before discharging from hospital on her first visit, and;
- whether a children’s hospital would have been more appropriate place for treatment. The risk of meningitis is higher among children and teenagers than adults.
The family notifies the paramedics and hospital about a letter they receive from Isabel’s school. It warns of cases of meningitis, yet they disregard the information as not relatable to Isabel’s condition.
Not one of these failings was deliberate. Understaffing, agency staffing, inadequate training and poor working conditions can all contribute to cases of negligence. However, say that you can prove that the care you receive:
- was below the reasonable expectation of a similar practitioner or organisation;
- then it is possible that you could sue the NHS for damages.
How Widespread is NHS Negligence?
Depending on which newspaper you read, you could believe that you are taking your life in your hands.
But our legal advice to you is this: that line of thinking is simply not true.
Despite the large volume of patients for whom it cares, the number of claims made against the NHS is falling. The NHS Litigation Authority handles all claims made against the NHS.
Recently, they report that they received 10,965 new claims in the year from 2015-16. This total marks a fall of nearly 5% on the previous year. A further 993 concerns went to the National Clinical Assessment Service.
The most common types of NHS negligence cases involving a negligent healthcare professional include:
- Medical misdiagnosis;
- Surgical errors, including shortfalls in post-surgical care;
- Prescription and medication errors;
- Pregnancy and birth injuries.
This last category is particularly significant. Obstetrics negligence makes up only 10% of claims made against the NHS. However, they account for nearly half the value of compensation to victims.
The reason for this is that birth injuries like cerebral palsy often have lasting effects. They require ongoing care and support for the duration of the patient’s life.
NHS Negligence vs Private Negligence
Mistakes and substandard care are the same whether you experience them in private or NHS practice. There are, however, a few key differences in the handling of compensation claims for injuries or illness.
The NHS has a strong complaints process with targets and measures to which they should adhere. The Patient Advisory Liaison Service (PALS) effectively helps patients and their families make complaints to the NHS about their care. This service is particularly helpful if you have had a bad experience but feel uncomfortable or intimidated making a complaint, or you need signposting to help you know to whom and how you should complain.
An NHS complaint will not result in a compensation payment. However, it can identify if negligence was the cause of an injury. Moreover, this evidence can then support a claim for payment of damages.
Private medical organisations are also required to have a defined complaints process although, unlike the NHS, how it works is not standard across the industry and the way to submit a complaint can vary from practice to practice. Practitioners should make this information available to patients who ask for it. PALS do not operate outside of the NHS, but organisations like the charity Action Against Medical Negligence provide a similar service.
The claims process is the same for claiming compensation for negligence in both the NHS and private practices. In each instance, the claimant must prove their care provider was in the wrong and that their actions result in damage to the patient.
QUESTION: Can I actually sue the NHS?
The prospect of litigating against the NHS – a national institution with an immense legal organisation ready to defend the actions of its staff – may appear daunting. But when it comes to legal costs and such, you don’t need to worry, which you can learn about through our No Win, No Fee claims service.
You can make an NHS negligence claim, and our expert medical negligence solicitors can help. We work alongside a team of solicitors specialising in different areas of medical negligence. Therefore, you know you’ll be working with someone capable of successfully handling claims just like yours.
If you are put off by the idea that you will have to go to court, take heart. In the majority of cases, we can assure you that this is not something every claimant has to do. Only a tiny proportion of clinical negligence claims made against the NHS go as far as a court hearing. In fact, over 98% of them find resolution through negotiation.
When coming to an agreement on compensation fails
But the attempt to reach an agreement outside of the courtroom doesn’t always work. For example, perhaps the other party:
- refuses to accept responsibility for your injury or;
- you cannot agree on a fair compensation payment
Then your solicitor may recommend you submit your claim to court.
This action could mean a further wait of 12 months, depending on how busy the courts are in your area. But negotiation continues during this time, resulting in a resolution before a case goes to court.
Contact The Medical Negligence Experts today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation to find out more about whether you have grounds to sue the NHS and what to do next. To start, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about NHS negligence compensation claims.
What if I still receive treatment?
You can sue for compensation if you are still having treatment, either for your initial condition or the injury from negligence. It is typical for victims to change care providers during this time. You might:
- request transferral to a different hospital or practice, or;
- assign another GP or dentist in the same practice.
There’s no interruption or denial of treatment if you sue the NHS, either. That’s because you still deserve the same standard of care that anyone else could reasonably expect.
Can I sue the NHS on behalf of someone else?
Yes: you can claim against the NHS for someone else only if they cannot do this for themselves. Typical examples are parents claiming on behalf of a child who is legally unable to because they are under the age of 18.
You can also claim for a person who lacks the mental ability to handle their legal affairs, such as an elderly parent with dementia. The legal profession refers to this as a Protected Party, and you are a Litigation Friend.
Compensation claims for children need finalisation in court. A judge must authorise the compensation payment and ensure it goes into a trust for the child, not to their parents or litigation friend.
The statute of limitations is different for children than it is for other people. A parent or guardian can submit a claim on behalf of their child at any point until their 18th birthday, at which time the child has until their 21st birthday to submit the claim themselves. A Protected Party has three years from the date they legally regain the ability to manage their money. If this never happens and they remain a Protected Party, there is no time limit for starting a compensation claim.
How much will I receive?
It is not possible to accurately answer this question without knowing about your circumstances. The Judicial Studies Board publishes annual guidelines for amounts of compensation relating to pain and suffering, known as General Damages.
This amount only looks at the physical impact your injury has had on you and how you live. The financial cost of your injury constitutes Special damages. That is:
- private medical treatment;
- loss of earnings if you have had to take time off work, or;
- transport to and from hospital appointments.
How long will it take to sue the NHS?
The average medical negligence claim takes 12-18 months to process. Birth injuries and brain damage, where the long-term care implications take time to develop, can take years. As long as the other party accepts responsibility, then your medical negligence lawyer can request an interim payment to ensure you can afford the care and treatment you need in the short term.
The interim payment comes out of the final compensation amount. Claims for less serious injuries which heal completely with no adverse effect get finalisation usually in 9-12 months.
Why do I need a solicitor? Isn’t my injury evidence of negligence?
As our medical experts will tell you, every type of medical treatment has an element of risk. Even something as simple as being prescribed antibiotics can be dangerous if it turns out you have an allergy to an ingredient in them. Not all injuries or unfortunate outcomes result from negligence causing some medical accident.
Where one can prove the care provider/medical professional:
- didn’t adequately assess these risks and take appropriate steps to manage them, and;
- you suffer injury because of it, then you may be able to claim compensation.
Not only is it hugely difficult to prove negligence, as the claimant you also need to show that the person saying your care was unacceptable is being reasonable in their assessment. On top of this, you need to have an excellent working knowledge of the laws governing medical negligence claims, and know what you are entitled to so you know what to request.
Finally, you need to have the time to dedicate to doing all this. You do not need a solicitor to claim compensation (though you may need a barrister if your claim goes to court) but it will greatly increase the likelihood that your application will be successful.
If you have concerns about the cost of making a claim, don’t hesitate: call us today. We can share more about the different ways you can fund your claim including with our No Win No Fee* agreements. If you win, you pay us success fees that we both agree upon at the outset. And if you happen to lose, you’ll pay nothing.
Start your successful claim for NHS negligence compensation by contacting The Medical Negligence Experts and arranging your free, no-obligation initial consultation to give you all the information you need to make the right choice for you and your recovery.
*Note that some conditions apply.
Need some help?
Am I eligible?
If you have suffered from NHS negligence in the past 3 years, the short answer is yes.
However, NHS claims can be complicated, so we recommend that you speak with one of our expert solicitors - It’s Free.
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: the level of negligence, earnings missed out on, future losses and more.
Our experienced team of experts will give you an indication of how much you could potentially claim.
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. With your dedicated solicitor negotiating on your behalf, you will be kept up to date every step of the way.
Why should you use us?
No Win No Fee
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.
Expert, Friendly Solicitors
Our experienced solicitors are experts in securing compensation no matter the level of negligence.
We are committed to securing the best possible outcome for you, while providing friendly support every step of the way.
Personal Dedicated Solicitors
On contact, you will be allocated your own expert NHS 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.
Expert Sue the NHS solicitors working for you
We specialise in helping victims Sue the NHS and claim the compensation they deserve.
We work on a No Win No Fee basis, meaning if we don’t win your case, you don’t pay! Once you make contact, your experienced solicitor will work to recover the maximum compensation you are entitled to.
Whether you are ready to Sue the NHS, 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.