Clinical Negligence – Frequently Asked Questions
Many people undergo medical procedures and receive treatment on a daily basis which results in an excellent outcome. We are fortunate that our medical care in the UK is of a generally high standard.
However, sometimes things do go wrong which can result in a patient suffering symptoms or injuries which have lifelong consequences. There is a difference between treatment being less than ideal and being 'negligent'. Sometimes, a poor outcome from treatment cannot be prevented, even in the hands of the most skilled and experienced doctors. Where the care has fallen below an acceptable standard however, the law intervenes to provide a remedy. This area of law is known as medical or clinical negligence.
Types of Claim
Some common types of claim for clinical negligence include:
• GP care (misdiagnosing a condition; prescribing the wrong medication; failing to refer to hospital, or failing to detect serious symptoms such as a heart attack or stroke)
• General Surgery (including gynaecology, urology, keyhole procedures and bowel operations)
• Orthopaedic Surgery (missed fractures; inadequate fixation of fractures)
• Obstetric - mother and baby care (doctor or midwifery care during pregnancy and childbirth; baby complications including cerebral palsy)
• Cancer care (delayed diagnosis and treatment; incorrect treatment)
• Accident & Emergency care (including failure to diagnose heart attacks or strokes; missed fractures; deep vein thrombosis / pulmonary embolism)
• Nursing care (patient falls whilst in hospital; pressure sores, or district nursing mistakes)
• Anaesthetic errors, including awareness whilst under anaesthetic or use of the wrong type of drugs
What is clinical negligence?
Negligence occurs when a medical professional provides treatment which falls below a standard considered to be reasonable, either by doing something they should not have done, or failing to do something they should have done. When a patient suffers injury as a result, they may have the right to pursue a claim for compensation.
It is important to remember however that not all poor treatment outcomes are attributable to negligence. Sometimes, a patient can be left with ongoing problems despite the best efforts of their treating doctors, and a claim in negligence may not be successful.