A person who has suffered medical negligence may experience a range of feelings such as, anger, frustration, disappointment, injustice, betrayal and regret. These feelings may change over time as you process what has happened. It is important to identify what you wish to achieve to make your actions count.
Below are options available to you following medical negligence:
1) Complaint Procedure
Making a complaint to your healthcare provider is a way to obtain an explanation, change practices and an apology. NHS bodies are under a legal obligation (complaint legislation here) to handle complaints. A written complaint received within 12 months of an incident must be investigated and a written response provided. Private healthcare providers are not covered by this legislation, but in practice most will deal with complaints in a similar way.
A sample complaint letter along with more information on making a complaint about medical negligence may be found here.
If you are not happy with the complaint response, you may put further questions to your healthcare provider and/or ask the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to review the complaint response. You may find more information about this here.
You are entitled to a full copy of your investigation file, which includes: all draft reports, correspondences and statements. You may request a copy of this in the same manner as your medical records.
Please contact us if you would like help with making a complaint or if you wish to have a second opinion on a complaint response.
2) Obtaining Medical Records
If your desire is to find out more about what happened you should obtain your medical records. These will contain detailed information about your clinical course and it will often explain the rationale behind clinical decisions. Test results and radiology images are also available to you.
It is your legal right under the General Data Protection Regulations to obtain a copy of your medical records, usually free of charge. You may find information on how to do this here.
Medical records disclosed can be incomplete and not well ordered. It can take skill and experience to make sense of the large amount of papers supplied. Should you have any queries about your medical records we are happy to speak to you.
3) Professional Disciplinary Action
If you have a concern about a healthcare professional’s fitness to practise following your experience you may raise this concern with the appropriate regulatory body. Here are links to the main regulatory bodies, doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists.
4) Refer a Death to a Coroner
The coroner’s court investigates deaths in violent circumstances; unnatural deaths; and deaths in state detention including those detained under the Mental Health Act. A coroner’s investigation is called an inquest. The scope of an inquest is narrow and deals with the questions of who, when, where and how the death occurred. An inquest does not assign blame or civil liability.
The relevance of a coroner to medical negligence will be to situations where a healthcare professional’s actions has caused death and deaths of those sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Doctors when registering a death ought to report applicable deaths to a coroner. However, members of the public may also do this.
You may find the Ministry of Justice’s Guide to Coroner’s Services here. The coroner’s system has its own procedures and laws, which can be daunting to those not used to dealing with it. If you have been unfortunate enough to have lost someone due to a medical negligence, we recommend you contact us to for advice and possible assistance with an inquest.
5) Bring a Medical Negligence Claim
If your aim is to obtain compensation then bringing a medical negligence claim in the civil court system is the main method to achieve this. With a civil claim the court only has the power to make an award of monetary compensation. The court does not have power to order a defendant to give an explanation, make an apology, change its practices or hold particular professionals to account.
It is possible to bring a medical negligence claim on behalf of a child or a person who does not have capacity. It is also possible to bring a claim on behalf of someone who has passed away. In these situations there are rules on who may bring the claim. If this applies to you, we recommend you contact us to discuss whether you are eligible to bring a claim.
Bringing a medical negligence claim can be a difficult decision to make. Litigation can sometimes take time and it can be stressful but we aim to take away the stress as much as possible and guide you through the process. That is why it is important to instruct a specialist solicitor who is able to talk you through the process to ensure it is dealt with swiftly and sensitively to achieve the best possible outcome.