Medical negligence law exists to protect patients, and to ensure that they receive a certain standard of care. Where medical practitioners and institutions fail to meet this standard, then the patient who suffers as a result can bring a claim via a clinical negligence solicitor. These specialised solicitors typically proceed on a no-win, no-fee basis, meaning that they assume all the risk that a claim will not go as planned. This relieves stress for the claimant, and ensures that financial concerns do not form a barrier to justice.
So, exactly who can we file a medical negligence claim against?
Any professional who provides medical services is legally obliged to provide a minimum standard of care. If they fail to provide this, then they can be held accountable through the courts. Cosmetic surgeons, opticians, dentists and general practitioners: no-one is above the law, and no-one should be considered immune from having to pay damages. The professional can be employed by a private or public body.
It may be the case that no one person has fallen below the threshold for what’s considered their duty of care, but that the institution as a whole has done through a series of steps performed by several individuals. If you’ve gone into hospital and experienced a poor standard of care, then it may be that it’s the entire organisation that’s to blame more than any given member of staff.
Should I sue the NHS?
Many patients hesitate before taking legal action against the NHS, for ethical reasons. The organisation is an object of veneration and sentiment in the UK; everyone who lives there has received life-changing care through NHS bodies and staff, and thus they are unwilling to pursue a claim even where action is warranted.
This year, the NHS faced a compensation bill of £83 billion for clinical negligence, including legal costs of $4.3 billion. Could not the money extracted by a legal claim be spend paying nurses, buying equipment, and ultimately saving lives?
This is an objection worth considering. The first argument against it is that a medical negligence claim helps the NHS to identify areas where it needs to improve. Without this information, the organisation as a whole would become blind to its own failings. Medical negligence rarely happens just once. Stay silent about your experience, and it’s likely that someone else will suffer in the same way.
The right of patients to seek redress is explicitly enshrined in the NHS constitution. In return, the organisation pledges to learn lessons from complaints, and ‘uses these to improve NHS services.’ These promises would not be made if medical negligence claims were not a just form of redress.