The healthcare system in the UK is one of the best and most accessible in the world, thanks to both the underlying model and the quality of healthcare professionals nationwide.
However, the National Health Service (NHS) has continued to creak against the backdrop of underfunding and the coronavirus pandemic, with the organisation currently burdened by potential payouts of £4.3 billion in response to outstanding medical negligence claims.
But what are the steps to making a medical negligence claim from the perspective of the patient? Here are some points to keep in mind.
#1. Understand What Medical Negligence is
The term ‘medical negligence’ refers to instances where a medical or healthcare professional has failed in their duty of care, which usually results in mistakes or oversights that harm the patient in some way.
This can refer to either mental or physical harm, while this must be demonstrable and have had a detrimental effect on the quality of your life (or ability to earn).
Medical negligence can also take a number of different forms, from a missed or misdiagnosis to surgical or prescription errors.
With these points in mind, it’s also important to determine what isn’t categorised as medical negligence, before you consider pursuing a negligence claim. For example, a doctor who is rude or discourteous can’t be classed as an instance of medical negligence, although you may be able to raise a complaint through other channels in this case.
#2. Liaising With a Specialist Solicitor
It’s fair to surmise that medical negligence cases are often quite complex, both in terms of the burden of proof required and the time constraints in terms of processing a claim and achieving a final decision.
For example, while time limits vary depending on the nature of the claim and the age of the patient (we’ll touch more on this below), normal circumstances determine that a legal case must be brought within three years of the claimant becoming aware of their injuries.
This is referred to as the ‘date of knowledge’ and claims that are made outside of these claims are likely to be dismissed long before they reach court.
A specialist medical negligence solicitor can help you to make a claim within this time frame, while also determining the strength of your claim and your ability to demonstrate the negative effects of treatment or surgery.
#3. Are There Any Exceptions to These Rules?
There are very few exceptions to the three-year rule, although those who suffer as a result of medical negligence when under the age of 18 (or in instances where the patient in question is a vulnerable adult) will have longer to process their claims.
This is an important consideration, as depending on the identity of the patient and claimant, there may be instances in which more time is allowed to bring a case to court.
It’s important to make the most of this time when it presents itself, although you should still liaise with a solicitor to determine time-frames and help demonstrate the harm caused by medical negligence.