In recent days, there have been several stories in the news connected to alleged substandard care in NHS maternity units around the country. The Department for Health and Social Care published a report this week stating that women in labour are being denied epidurals following an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph which we highlighted in January. Since then, some very upsetting first-person accounts from women who were denied epidurals during labour have come to light too.
While there are valid reasons to deny a woman an epidural while they are in labour, we are confident that this cannot be the case for every single account that has come to light since The Sunday Telegraph first published its investigation, and so, it may be the case that some of these women and their families may have cause to seek compensation from the NHS for the arguably negligent treatment they received.
If you have suffered any form of injury as the direct result of medical treatment, you are potentially entitled to make a legal claim for some form of compensation. Therefore, we thought it would be a good idea to highlight how these women, or anyone that has suffered undue distress or harm while in NHS care, can go about claiming compensation.
Firstly, it is worth remembering that compensation can also be claimed if you are related to someone who has died due to medical negligence, or if you are related to someone who is unable to make their own claim due to incapacity.
Before you begin
The NHS does have complaints procedures in place that you should look at before you begin the process of legal action. If you go through the complaints procedure and are still not satisfied with the outcome though, now is the time to start considering making a claim for compensation.
As part of this, it is essential that you consider what the potential outcome of making a compensation claim will be. There are elements that you may be hoping for that the courts are unable to enforce. These can include the disciplining of a healthcare professional, forcing change in the working practises and procedures of a hospital or clinic, or making a doctor, midwife or nurse apologise to you. Legal action can be expensive, so always know exactly what you hope to achieve from your compensation claim before you proceed.
Schemes for Compensation
Some NHS compensation schemes do exist, although these are the exception rather than the norm. A good example would be the scheme set up to compensate patients who contracted HIV or forms of hepatitis following a blood transfusion due to the contaminated blood scandal that is still ongoing. In this scenario, compensation schemes are usually in place to tackle issues where you are unlikely to be the only claimant so that it speeds up the compensation process.
Assessing medical negligence
You will need to ascertain your reasons for making a claim, as these claims are usually judged on the negligence factor. Determining if you have suffered due to negligence will play a major factor in your fight for compensation, and can be summarised by the following issues:
- Incorrect diagnosis
- Mistakes made during operations and procedures
- Incorrect medicines given
- Non-consent before treatment
- Non-advising of potential risks
You will only be able to claim for compensation if you can show legally that you received care that fell below medically acceptable standards, and that the care you received has caused your reduced quality of life.
What will compensation cover?
If you have suffered from losses or injuries as a direct result of medical negligence, then the amount of compensation you receive will also depend upon a variety of other factors. These include:
- Any payments for the ongoing treatments that are due to the negligence
- Ongoing pain treatment costs
- Financial compensation if your quality of life now excludes activities and hobbies
- The loss of earnings caused by negligent procedures
- Covering the costs of any additional care and equipment that you may incur
- Home transformations to accommodate your changing circumstances
- Damages to cover psychological damage
It is essential that you make your claim for compensation as early as possible after the incident. Legally, you have three years from that date to make your claim, although children who have suffered from medical negligence will be able to make their own claim when they are 18. Clinical negligence can be very complicated, and the sooner that you seek legal advice, the better.
This is the body that will represent the NHS if you do make a claim against them. In our experience and the experience of the specialist medical negligence solicitors we work with, NHS Resolution tend to very rarely accept liability when a compensation claim is made. We would argue that this is done in order to drag the claim out in the hope that the claimant (you or over family member) will either drop the matter or will accept a lower monetary amount than you are entitled to. It should also be stated that less than 2% of the claims NHS Resolution handle go to court, with the other 98% usually settled out of court, or being dropped by the person making a claim.
How we can help
You should never feel so pressured or without hope due to a compensation claim against the NHS dragging on due to the actions of NHS Resolution that you either drop the case or settle for less than what you deserve.
It is vital then that you seek the support of legal professionals to help you secure the level of compensation you or your family member deserves.
At The Medical Negligence Experts, we work with specialist law firms that unfortunately have a lot of experience in handling medical negligence claims where the standard of care has been negligent, some of which to the extent that the patient has died or suffered life-changing harm that affects their quality of life going forward. While it doesn’t change how negative the experience was, this mean the solicitors we work with are in the best possible position to help you get the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to.
If you feel that you or a family member have received less than adequate treatment while in the care of the NHS and would like some advice to see if you may have a claim, do not hesitate to contact The Medical Negligence Experts via the contact form on our website or by calling 0161 413 8761.