Clinical Negligence

Claims for Clinical Negligence relate to wrongful acts that constitute a breach of the common law or statutory duty of care owed to a patient. In other words, claims of this nature are concerned with negligent acts, omissions or advice in the specific context of health care provision and include all aspects of professional liability which may arise out of medical treatment.

Ultimately the question we must ask ourselves is whether the standard of care, by which the actions of all medical staff are compared, fell below the standard that could reasonably be expected. It should be borne in mind that practitioners are only human – and as humans they are allowed to make mistakes. The test is whether that mistake was so unreasonable that a reasonably competent practitioner would not have made the same mistake. This question can be particularly difficult to answer when the care given is unusual or the procedure undertaken carries a number of inherent risks.

Whilst on the whole a great deal of medical treatment is provided by highly skilled, competent and dedicated professionals – mistakes can still occur at any stage of one’s treatment which can have a long lasting effect on the individual concerned. Common Clinical Negligence claims include:

Accident and Emergency:

Accident and emergency claims mainly relate to:

• Failure to take appropriate action on test results or findings;
• Failure to properly investigate and diagnose
• Wrongful discharge;
• Failure to treat;
• Failure to interpret X-rays properly.

Defective medical products:

Manufacturers of medical products are under a duty to ensure that they are fit for purpose. Claims of this nature include:

• Products that are unfit for us or pose a risk to patients;
• Products which break complicating an individual’s surgery or recovery.

Delay in Diagnosis/Late Diagnosis:

To ensure successful treatment it is essential for practitioners to get a diagnosis right – or to keep investigating issues until they are satisfied that everything has been done to help them provide the right course of treatment. Negligence in this area concerns:

• Failure to interpret test results;
• Providing an incorrect diagnosis to the patient’s detriment;
• Most commonly relates to delays in diagnosing serious conditions such as cancer or brain injuries.

Drug Administration:

Whilst the NHS is often a very efficient organisation mistakes can happen when providing drugs to patients. Often this is down to prescriptions being misread or illegible handwriting. Whilst the doctor is responsible for deciding what drugs to prescribe – the dispensing pharmacist has two duties:

• Professionals have a duty to dispense the correct medication and provide patients with suitable information;
• Ensuring that any dispensed medication is not harmful to the patient.

Inquests following Clinical Negligence:

An Inquest is a legal investigation into the circumstances surrounding an individual’s death and will be launched if:

• The cause of death is unknown;
• The death was sudden and unexplained;
• The death occurred during an operation or whist the person was under anaesthetic.

It is important to understand that an Inquest does not seek to place blame on an individual or organisation but to find out who died, when, where, how and in what circumstances. This can often lead to a civil claim once the facts have been established.

Patient Care:

Being a patient under the care of someone else can be an extremely daunting time which could expose an individual to mistreatment, abuse or neglect. Common issues are:

• Failure to check on patients regularly;
• Failure to ensure patients are well fed and hydrated;
• Failure to address patient hygiene.

Surgery and Surgical Error:

Being a patient under the care of someone else can be an extremely daunting time which could expose an individual to mistreatment, abuse or neglect. Common issues are:

• Performance of the wrong operation;
• Damage to nerves, veins or arteries;
• Damage to surrounding organs (or failure to notice damage);
• Administrating the wrong anaesthetic;
• Leaving instruments, swabs or other items inside a person’s body.