Doctors, nurses, surgeons, midwives, dentists, psychologists and specialists are, at the end of the day, human and so make mistakes. The general public have to accept that mistakes are made and that there are risks associated with undergoing medical procedures, such as surgery, and that is why we are asked to sign those special permission forms just before an operation.
In the majority of cases of medical mistakes, the patient does not suffer any real harm and may not even know that there has been an error, but sometimes serious medical errors are made that cause serious personal injury and pain, and that have a major impact on someone's life. Sometimes medical mistakes put lives on the line and are even responsible for fatalities.
Doctors and surgeons have a duty of care to all of their patients and are required by the UK's General Medical Council to let patients know when an error has occurred or when a procedure or treatment has gone wrong. Patients or their families can be entitled to compensation for medical negligence if the health professional concerned has breached this duty of care and a fatality or injury has resulted from this medical negligence.
Examples of breaches in the duty of care which can lead to medical negligence compensation claims include:-
- The use of instruments that have not been properly sterilised.
- A failure to diagnose a condition or injury.
- A surgical error caused by the health professional's carelessness.
- Errors in medication and treatment - e.g. prescribing the wrong medication or wrong dosage.
- A delay in diagnosing a condition or injury.
- A delay in referring a patient to the appropriate specialist.
- Failing to warn a patient of the risks involved in their treatment or surgery.
- Failing to obtain the patient's consent for treatments.
- Misinterpreting medical results - e.g. misinterpreting the results of a cervical smear test.
- Retaining organs after a post mortem for no good reasons.
- A patient contracting an infection like MRSA in hospital.
- Hip replacements or other prosthetics failing or not lasting as long as they should.
If the mistake or medical negligence has only led to a small injury or upset, rather than a serious injury and distress, you may just want an apology and admission of fault, but even this can be hard to get. If you do not want to pursue a compensation claim, you can go through the NHS complaint channels and make a formal written complaint to the health professional at fault. If they do not respond in an adequate manner, you can complain to your local Patient Advisory Liaison Service or the Information Complaints Advocacy Service. If you still do not an adequate response, you can contact the Health Ombudsman or apply for an independent review.
If the medical negligence has caused you real personal injury, pain or suffering, or had a major impact on your life, you may want to consider getting legal advice and pursuing a claim for medical or clinical negligence. These claims are notoriously tricky to prove and can take years to even get to court but you should not let this put you off if you have suffered at the hands of a negligent doctor or other health professional. Compensation can help you rebuild your life, pay for expenses and lost earnings, and the court case can prevent this health professional from making such mistakes in the future.
To win your compensation case, you will need to prove that medical negligence occurred and evidence from medical experts will be needed to back your case. They will need to confirm that:-
- A serious error or mistake was made that no competent doctor should have made.
- The mistake caused or contributed to your condition or injury.
A specialist experienced medical negligence solicitor will be able to put this type of case together for you and prove that you do indeed have a case. They will be able to advise you on your case, the likelihood of success and the amount of compensation that you could be awarded. If the chances of success are below 60%, your lawyer will probably advise you to go through the NHS complaint channels (or complain to the private hospital) to seek a formal apology, rather than pursuing an injury compensation claim.
Most personal injury lawyers and medical negligence solicitors will be able to work on a no win no fee claim basis (also known as a conditional agreement), meaning that if they do not win your case, you will not be liable for paying their fees.