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.
It is hard to avoid hearing about NHS negligence, particular with so much press coverage being devoted to how the NHS is struggling financially and the rising cost of paying compensation. The simple definition is that NHS negligence is when a patient receives a substandard level of care and it hurts them. It could be anything from 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 she was discharged from hospital on her first visit, and whether a children’s hospital would have been more appropriate place for treatment given that the risk of meningitis is higher among children and teenagers than adults. The family notified the paramedics and hospital about a letter they had received from Isabel’s school warning of cases of meningitis, yet this information was disregarded as being unrelated 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, if you can prove that the care you received was below what would reasonably be expected from 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 every time you visit your GP for a flu jab or see your dentist for a filling, but that simply is 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, which handles all claims made against the NHS, reported that they received 10,965 new claims in the year from 2015-16, a fall of nearly five percent on the previous year. A further 993 concerns about the standard of services delivered by doctors, dentists and pharmacists were referred to the National Clinical Assessment Service.
The most common types of NHS negligence 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 as, although obstetrics negligence makes up only ten percent of claims made against the NHS, they account for nearly half the value of compensation paid to victims of negligence across all areas of the NHS. The reason for this is that birth injuries like cerebral palsy often have lasting effects that 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 from a private practitioner or are having treatment paid for by the NHS. There are, however, a few key differences in the way compensation claims are handled.
The NHS has a strongly established complaints process with targets and measures to which they are expected to adhere. The Patient Advisory Liaison Service (PALS) was created by the NHS to help patients and their families make a complaint 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 and this evidence can then be used to 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 is required to prove their care provider was in the wrong and that their actions resulted in damage to the patient.
Can I 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 you do not need to worry. You can sue the NHS for negligence, and our expert medical negligence solicitors can help. We have a team of solicitors specialising in different areas of medical negligence, so you know you will be working with someone who has experience of successfully handling claims just like yours.
If you are put off by the idea that you will have to go to court, we can assure you that this is not something every claimant has to do. Only a tiny proportion of claims made against the NHS go as far as a court hearing. Over sixty percent are resolved through negotiation. If this does not work – for example, if 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 the majority of these cases being resolved before a case is heard in 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 help get you started, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about NHS negligence compensation claims.
What if I am still being treated?
You can sue for compensation if you are still having treatment, either for your initial condition or the injury caused by negligence. It is typical for victims to change care providers during this time by requesting they be transferred to a different hospital or practice, or assigned to another GP or dentist in the same practice. Your treatment will not be interrupted or denied if you sue the NHS – you are still entitled to the same standard of care that anyone else could reasonably expect.
Can I sue the NHS on behalf of someone else?
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. This person is known as a Protected Party, and you would be called a Litigation Friend.
Compensation claims for children need to be finalised in court as a judge has to authorise the agreed 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 and Protected Parties 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 – things like private medical treatment, lost income if you have had to take time off work, or transport to and from hospital appointments – fall under a payment called Special Damages.
How long will it take?
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 and be understood, 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 is deducted from the agreed final compensation amount. Claims for less serious injuries which heal completely with no adverse effect are usually finalised in 9-12 months.
Why do I need a solicitor? Isn’t my injury evidence of negligence?
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. Where it can be proven that the care provider did not adequately assess these risks and take appropriate steps to manage them, and you were injured 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 are worried about the cost of making a claim, call us today to find out more about the different ways you can fund your claim including with our No Win No Fee* agreements.
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.
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.