Making a claim against the NHS
If you or a family member have been a victim of medical negligence whilst receiving care under the NHS, you could be entitled to claim compensation
How Much Could You Claim?

NHS Negligence Claims

The NHS is highly regarded and respected as a proud and impressive national service. For the great majority of patients that receive treatment, the NHS performs an excellent job. Unfortunately, as with all sectors, accidents, mistakes, and oversights do occur. Some of them may count as negligence and could lead to compensation.

Unfortunately, when negligence occurs in an NHS setting, the effects can be significant and even fatal. Patients who suffer complications, worsened symptoms, new illnesses, emotional distress or lengthened suffering because of a breach of duty are likely eligible to make an NHS negligence claim.

To find out if you can sue the NHS for negligence, contact a solicitor for a free case assessment by calling 0800 032 3660. You could also enter your details into our online claim form if you prefer to receive a call back. Within minutes, you can find out if you have a valid claim and receive some expert legal advice.

Am I eligible to make a claim against the NHS?

The NHS is a system funded by the public through our tax money. Patients can benefit from first-rate care and excellent levels of treatment in most instances, though occasional mistakes may occur. If you have suffered from an illness, injury, worsened symptoms or emotional distress due to substandard care, you may be eligible to sue the NHS for negligence.

If your solicitor can prove that the NHS did not observe their duty of care to you or that your treatment was not up to the expected acceptable standards, you likely have a valid case. A duty of care is a moral and legal obligation to use reasonable care and knowledge and protect patients from avoidable harm.

If the healthcare practitioner acted in a way which fell short of acceptable standards, they breached their duty of care towards you. However, that is not enough to have a valid NHS negligence claim. You must also show there is a direct causation between the substandard care and your injury. If your solicitor can prove a breach of duty and causation, you will likely be entitled to NHS compensation.

We recognise that patients may be reluctant to bring a claim against the NHS and that there may be feelings of guilt, trepidation and worry. Rest assured that the NHS is insured for such occurrences. It is widely acknowledged that patients should receive compensation for losses, injuries and illnesses caused by negligence. Solicitors will have worked on many similar cases and are adept at providing a patient, warm and empathetic service to clients just like you.

How do I make an NHS negligence claim?

If you believe you have been a victim of negligence and want to make a compensation claim, here are the general steps to follow:

  • Contact a solicitor who specialises in medical negligence claims. They will evaluate your case and advise whether you are eligible for compensation.
  • Collect all relevant medical records, test results, and any other evidence related to your treatment and the alleged negligence.
  • Your solicitor will likely seek the opinion of an independent medical expert. They will assess the standard of care provided and determine if a breach of duty occurred.
  • If your case has merit, your medical negligence lawyer will send a formal letter of claim to the NHS outlining the details of the alleged negligence. This letter will include your details, the treatments you received and the resulting injuries.
  • Once a decision has been made whether to admit guilt, the defendant will send you a letter of response. This letter will set out exactly which allegations are accepted or denied.
  • If liability exists, NHS Resolution, the insurance company that handles all cases against the NHS, will seek to settle at the earliest opportunity.
  • Your solicitor will start legal proceedings if the case cannot be resolved. If your NHS negligence claim proceeds to court, your injury lawyer will guide you through the legal process, and a judge will ultimately decide the outcome.

If you settle or a judge rules the claim in your favour, you should receive your NHS compensation award within a few weeks from that point.

What proof do I need to sue the NHS for negligence?

It is essential to gather evidence to make a successful NHS medical negligence claim. To help prove you suffered avoidable harm, your specialist medical negligence solicitor will seek the opinion of medical specialists and other experts. Their reports and testimony will serve as essential proof for your claim.

Other evidence your solicitor may use to secure NHS compensation includes:

  • Photographs or videos of any visible injuries or conditions resulting from the negligence
  • Invoices and receipts for any extra medical care, prescriptions or rehabilitation you required
  • Statements from family members or friends explaining any changes to your life or personality since you received the substandard care
  • Medication packaging if your case related to a prescription error
  • Medical records obtained from the facility where you received treatment, including test results, treatment plans and medication records
  • A record of any correspondence with the healthcare provider, such as letters, emails, or communication through the NHS complaints process
  • Financial records related to lost wages and any out-of-pocket expenses you incurred, such as travel costs or medical aids

Additionally, you may have to provide a detailed account of how the NHS treatment has affected your life. Your solicitor will use these and potentially other types of evidence to build a strong case and start your NHS negligence claim.

What counts as NHS negligence?

According to the NHS Constitution, the National Health Service (NHS) is committed to delivering services of top-notch quality, ensuring safety and effectiveness. All healthcare staff are expected to possess the highest level of expertise and knowledge, while patient care should revolve around individual needs and preferences.

As a patient, you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. You should not experience neglect or any form of degrading care or treatment. It is your right to be informed about your treatment options, including the associated risks and benefits. You should have the opportunity to make well-informed decisions regarding whether to accept or refuse treatment.

Many different scenarios may be considered negligence, each with varying levels of severity and different evidence requirements. Some of the most common types of NHS negligence claims include:

  • Errors during surgery
  • Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose
  • Illness caused by poor hygiene or safety observations
  • Errors interpreting laboratory results and imaging tests
  • Insufficient follow-up recommendations
  • Omission to refer patients to specialists
  • Inadequate use of sterile instruments
  • Injuries to organs, nerves, or tissues during surgery
  • Poor aftercare or postoperative treatment plans
  • Emotional and psychological complaints caused by NHS errors and negligence
  • Wrong medicine administration or lack of medicines
  • Failure to prescribe pain relief when necessary, resulting in heightened symptoms and emotional distress
  • Failure to monitor oxygen or fluid levels
  • The development of malnourishment or dehydration
  • Not obtaining patient consent before procedures take place

Please note that this list is not exhaustive, as negligence can be caused by any healthcare professional, including GPs, consultants, dentists, nurses, mental health specialists, and others.

However, not every negative outcome or dissatisfaction with care is considered medical negligence. For example, it would not be regarded as negligent care if:

  • The doctor exercised reasonable care and skill, but you did not respond to treatment. Some conditions may worsen despite proper caution.
  • Your condition is untreatable and has an inevitable outcome.
  • You experienced an adverse or poor outcome, although the doctor has followed the standard procedure.
  • Your healthcare provider showed poor manners or rude behaviour.

If you believe you have suffered harm due to medical negligence, seeking legal advice is crucial. Your solicitor will review your medical records and consult a medicolegal expert to determine if you have a possible clinical negligence claim.

What are the most common types of NHS negligence claims?

In 2021/22, there were an estimated 570 million patient interactions with NHS services, the equivalent of 1.6 million daily interactions. Although NHS care is generally very good, things can occasionally go wrong. The most common scenarios leading to a claim against the NHS include:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis: You can claim if a healthcare professional has failed to diagnose your medical condition promptly and correctly. That can lead to delayed treatment and cause harm or worsen your condition.
  • Surgical errors: Surgical errors can vary in severity and significantly worsen your health and well-being. These include wrong-site surgery, nerve damage and anaesthesia errors.
  • Medication errors: Such errors are a significant issue in healthcare and can cause severe harm or injury to patients. They occur when there are mistakes in prescribing, administering, dispensing, or monitoring medications.
  • Birth injuries: Negligence during childbirth can cause injuries to the baby or the mother. These include brain injuries, nerve damage, fractures and haemorrhages. While some injuries may be short-lived, others, like cerebral palsy, can have lifelong consequences.
  • Dental negligence: This type of negligence refers to situations where a patient suffers harm or injury due to substandard care provided by a dental professional. It includes infections, misdiagnosis, improper treatment and other complications.
  • Hospital-acquired infections: Claims may arise if a patient contracts infections such as MRSA while receiving treatment in the hospital due to inadequate infection control measures.
  • Negligent care: Claims can be made when patients receive substandard care, leading to avoidable complications or worsening of their condition.
  • Failure to obtain informed consent: Informed consent is a fundamental principle in medical practice. It requires healthcare professionals to provide patients with clear information about their condition and the risks and potential outcomes of a medical procedure or treatment. Failure to do so could lead to a valid claim for medical negligence.
  • Mental health negligence: Claims can arise if there is a failure to provide appropriate care and treatment for patients with mental health conditions, leading to harm or worsening of their mental health.
  • Elderly care negligence: Claims may be made if there is negligence in the care provided to elderly patients, such as nursing home residents.

If you suffered any injury or illness due to an NHS healthcare professional breaching their duty of care, you might be able to make an NHS negligence claim. To find out if you are able to claim compensation, call 0800 032 3660 or enter your details into our online claim form to receive a call back.

How do I prove that the NHS was negligent?

Proving NHS negligence can be more complex than claims for standard personal injuries. That is because there is an element of interpretation to be considered, rather than a concrete division between negligence and unfortunate natural occurrence.

To prove NHS negligence, solicitors often refer to the Bolam test. This test came about following a 1957 legal case and provides guidelines to help determine whether negligence occurred. Using the Bolam test, the care standard you received can be assessed based on how other medical professionals would likely react in similar circumstances to those presented in your case.

Alternatively, your case might be judged based on the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines. NICE is an independent organisation in the UK responsible for providing evidence-based guidance and recommendations on healthcare practices and treatments. NICE guidelines aim to improve the quality of healthcare and ensure that patients receive the most effective and appropriate treatments.

Healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses, use NICE standards to make informed decisions about patient care. These cover a wide range of medical conditions and treatments, from managing chronic illnesses to surgical procedures and prescribing medications.

An NHS negligence claim will only be successful if your solicitor can demonstrate that the care and treatment that you received fell short of the standards that are considered reasonably acceptable.

Can I make a medical negligence claim against the NHS on behalf of a family member?

Unfortunately, some negligence cases happen to people who are unable to conduct their own NHS compensation claim or, at their worst, result in fatalities. Other times that it is appropriate to claim on behalf of a family member include claims made on behalf of a child who has suffered from medical negligence.

With children under the age of 18 at the time of the negligent treatment, a parent or guardian can claim on their behalf. All actions should be taken with the child’s best interests at heart, and solicitors will strive to achieve the highest compensation possible. In these incidences, it may be possible to claim on behalf of a family member, and you would be referred to as their litigation friend.

Before appointing you as a litigation friend, the court must verify that you can conduct legal proceedings fairly and competently. It is also essential that there is no conflict of interest between you and the claimant. Some of the duties of a litigation friend include:

  • Provide instructions to solicitors and take legal advice
  • Make decisions about the case
  • Consider settlement offers from the defendant
  • Keep the person they are representing informed about the progress of the case
  • Comply with court orders and procedures
  • Sign legal documents and deal with correspondence
  • Attend court hearings if necessary

The compensation secured on behalf of a child or an incapacitated adult must be reviewed and approved by a judge. Based on the circumstances of the case, you and the claimant may have to attend an Approval Hearing before a judge.

If you lost a loved one due to medical negligence, you could claim for financial dependency and the loss of services they provided. You may also be able to recover funeral expenses and any financial losses incurred by your relative before passing away. A limited number of relatives can also claim a bereavement award of £15,120.

Should I make a formal complaint against the NHS before claiming?

You are not obliged to raise a formal complaint against the NHS before initiating a claim for compensation following negligence. However, many patients use the NHS Complaints Procedure to highlight their case and to ascertain the NHS’s response. In doing so, patients often feel they are encouraged to pursue or abstain from a compensation claim.

Filing a formal complaint can help you understand what happened during your medical treatment, provide you with an explanation for any errors or issues, and allow the NHS to address and rectify any mistakes. It may also lead to improvements in their practices and prevent similar incidents in the future.

If you make a complaint, you are entitled to expect that:

  • It will be acknowledged and thoroughly investigated
  • You will be informed of the progress and the outcome
  • You will be treated fairly, courteously, and with respect throughout the process
  • The complaint will not impact your ongoing care and treatment
  • Appropriate measures will be taken in response to it

Discussing your case with a medical negligence solicitor as early as possible is advisable to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of your situation and potential outcomes. There is no obligation to pursue an NHS claim once you have spoken to a solicitor. But you will then know exactly where you stand and what your options are.

How much compensation will I be awarded if my claim against the NHS is successful?

The amount of compensation awarded to you greatly depends upon the particular details of your case. Your solicitor will provide a realistic estimate of the outcome once they have assessed your case during your free consultation. As a general rule, the more severe your symptoms and the impact on your daily life and future, the higher the compensation you could receive.

Your solicitor will aim to secure the highest NHS compensation sum possible. They will do this by gathering as much evidence and details as possible to support your claim. You can help this by providing your legal team with proof of your symptoms and treatment as well as thorough records of all medical procedures you have had and financial losses sustained.

The NHS compensation will cover two types of damages:

General damages intend to compensate for the pain and suffering caused by the medical error, such as:

  • Physical and mental disability
  • Emotional and psychological distress
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of ability to pursue a hobby or social activities
  • Loss of consortium or companionship

General damages are non-monetary losses and are not easily quantifiable. They are calculated based on previous successful claims and the guidelines provided by the Judicial College. You can refer to our compensation calculator to see how much you could receive based on the type and severity of your injury.

Special damages refer to the specific financial losses and expenses incurred as a direct result of medical negligence or malpractice. These can include:

  • The cost of further private medical treatment
  • Loss of earnings and earning capacity
  • The cost of travel to and from medical appointments or treatments
  • Expenses for caregivers and other care and assistance needs
  • The cost of any necessary medical equipment or aids needed to manage the injury or condition
  • Adaptations to your home or vehicle to accommodate a disability
  • Any other out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the negligence

Time limits to start an NHS negligence claim

The Limitation Act 1980 sets a three-year time limit to start a personal injury claim starting from the date of an accident. This date may apply in case of surgical errors or dental negligence. However, the date of knowledge will likely apply to most NHS medical negligence claims. That refers to the moment you knew or should have reasonably realised that you have suffered an injury that could have been due to medical negligence.

If you do not start a claim within the allotted timeframe, your case will be statute-barred and no longer considered valid. The court can, however, use its discretion to extend this period, but this only happens in exceptional circumstances.

You should always seek legal advice as soon as possible if you want to start a claim. That will ensure you will not miss any essential deadlines and make it easier to collect evidence and build your case.

The time limit may differ in certain circumstances, such as:

  • If the injured person is a child, a parent or legal guardian could claim on their behalf anytime until they turn 18. The three-year limitation period begins afterwards, and the injured child will have until their 21st birthday to claim.
  • Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, an adult lacking the mental capacity to make informed decisions is considered a protected party. There is no time limit to start a claim on behalf of a protected party as their litigation friend. The three-year countdown only begins if they recover from their illness or condition.
  • If you lost a loved one due to substandard medical care, you could claim compensation within three years after their death. Alternatively, the time could begin on the date a post-mortem has confirmed the cause of death.

To start an NHS negligence compensation claim straight away, enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 032 3660 today for a free case assessment.

How long does an NHS claim take?

The length of time it takes to resolve an NHS claim can vary depending on numerous factors, such as:

  • The type and severity of your injury or illness
  • Whether you have suffered multiple injuries
  • The estimated value of your NHS compensation award
  • The time it takes to secure evidence
  • Whether there are liability disputes
  • How long it takes to agree on a settlement
  • Whether you go to trial or not

Your solicitor will be able to give you a rough estimate of how long your claim will likely take once they have thoroughly assessed your case. According to NHS Resolution, it takes between several months and two years to settle a claim valued under £100,000. If the compensation award is substantially higher than this, it could potentially take over five years to come to a conclusion.

However, if there are no liability disputes and you are likely to win, your solicitor may be able to secure interim payments on your behalf. These are partial payments made by the defendant during the ongoing claims process to cover immediate expenses or financial hardships while the full compensation amount is being determined or negotiated.

Will my compensation claim go to court?

Whether an NHS claim goes to court will depend on several factors, including liability disputes and the ability of the parties involved to agree on a settlement. If a case is particularly complex or has a substantial value, it is more likely to reach trial. However, both claimants and NHS Resolution usually prefer to resolve matters without court proceedings for several reasons:

  • Going to court can be a lengthy process. Settling out of court can resolve the case much faster, providing a quicker resolution.
  • Court proceedings can be expensive due to legal fees, expert witnesses, and court expenses. Settling out of court can save both parties from incurring these costs.
  • It can alleviate the stress and anxiety associated with a trial.
  • Settlements are confidential, protecting both parties from public exposure and ensuring their privacy.
  • Settlement agreements are more flexible and can be tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of the parties involved, allowing for more creative solutions.
  • The outcome is uncertain in court and depends on the judge’s decision. In a settlement, both parties have more control over the resolution and can negotiate terms they find acceptable.

According to the annual report released by NHS Resolution for the year 2022/23, 80% of all claims they handled were settled without court proceedings. Of the remaining 20% that required proceedings, only 0.07% went to court, and the others resolved before reaching trial. Thus, it is highly unlikely you will have to go to court to argue a claim against the NHS. Even if this happens, your solicitor will offer you all the support you need and make sure you are fully prepared.

Can I claim medical negligence compensation on a No Win No Fee basis?

If you are considering claiming against the NHS, you may have concerns about investing significant time and money into the process without a guarantee of success. With the no win no fee service offered by our partner solicitors, you do not have to worry about this.

This service is also known as a conditional fee agreement (CFA) and means you do not have to pay any upfront fees to get legal representation. If your solicitor believes you have a fair chance of success, they will take on the risk of litigation. You do not have to pay them anything upfront, and they will only receive a success fee if your case is successful.

The success fee is capped at 25% of your NHS compensation for pain, suffering and past financial losses. The exact percentage will be agreed upon at the beginning of your claim, and there will be no hidden charges.

Additionally, your solicitor will arrange an After the Event (ATE) insurance policy on your behalf. This type of legal expenses insurance will cover all the costs and disbursements incurred during the claims process if your case is unsuccessful, such as:

  • The defendant’s legal expenses
  • Court and counsel fees
  • Medical and expert witness reports
  • Paralegal and other staff time
  • The cost of transportation to and from legal appointments
  • Barrister fees if you go to trial

No win no fee is the preferred way of funding an NHS negligence claim because it involves no financial risks. To find out if your case has merit and you can make a no win no fee claim, call 0800 032 3660 or enter your details into the contact form below to receive a call back.