What is clinical negligence?

PUBLISHED: 14:05 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:48 20 February 2013

On rare occasions, things go wrong when people are receiving medical treatment. When that happens the impact on you and your family can be enormous. Solicitor David Brown offers some advice

WHILST it does not automatically follow that the healthcare professionals are to blame, sometimes they do make mistakes which could and should have been avoided with a reasonable level of care, skill or organisation. When this happens there is a potential claim for compensation. It may be against an NHS Trust hospital, a private hospital, a GP, a dentist or some other type of healthcare professional, including a nursing home or private clinic.
Whatever the cause of a medical accident, the people affected deserve explanations and support. Financial compensation is rarely the main priority or objective and often it is an apology that is required with some assurance that changes have been put in place to prevent the same mistake happening again.
A high profile example is the actress Leslie Ash who has recently sued London hospital the Chelsea and Westminster for damages after she contracted a variant of the MRSA bug whilst hospitalised in 2004. The hospital Trust has reportedly admitted some failings and paid compensation to her.

The Law

In order to make a successful claim for compensation three things have to be proved:

  • That a duty of care was owed to you;

  • That the standard of care received fell below that expected of a reasonably competent healthcare professional in that specific area of medicine and thus was a breach of that duty of care;

  • That a significant physical or mental injury has been suffered as a result of that breach of duty of care. Proving breach of duty of care and causation against a healthcare professional is often complex. It is therefore important that specialist legal advice is available as early as possible.

How can HRJ help?
HRJ is one of a small number of firms which can offer the services of a member of the Law Society's Clinical Negligence Panel and also offer public-funded legal services in the Clinical Negligence category where applicable. It has a Specialist Quality Mark awarded by the Legal Services Commission for clinical negligence work. For clients who are not financially eligible for public funding (although remember if you are bringing a claim on behalf of someone else e.g. a child, it is their financial circumstances, not yours, which are taken into account), then there are other ways a claim can be funded and HRJ are happy to advise.

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