What are the most common clinical negligence cases?

Call 0345 872 6666

What are the most common clinical negligence cases?

If you require medical care at any point in your life, you are placing your trust in the competence, professionalism and expertise of the medical professionals responsible for your care. In most cases, these standards will be met, and you will receive the high quality of care that you deserve. However, there will always be exceptions to this, and when mistakes are made, the consequences can be devastating.

Medical negligence is an issue across all areas of medicine, but inevitably certain fields tend to generate a higher overall number of cases - reflecting the fact that certain departments will be dealing with a higher volume of patients, and that some forms of treatment inherently pose greater risks than others.

In this blog post, we will examine official data from the NHS to provide insights into the most common types of medical negligence claim, and offer insight into what you should do if you have experienced failings in your medical care.

Breaking down the most common medical negligence claims

To get an indication of what the most common types of medical negligence compensation claim are, we have examined the latest annual statistics from NHS Resolution, the arms-length body responsible for processing, resolving and learning from claims made against the NHS.

According to the organisation's data for 2021/22, there were a total of 15,078 new claims brought against the NHS during this period, while 13,070 were settled during this financial year. The amount spent on claims in 2021/22 was £2.5 billion.

Breaking this down by specialism revealed that the following departments saw the highest volume of new claims during this period:

SpecialtyNew clinical claims
Emergency Medicine1,233
Orthopaedic Surgery1,203
Obstetrics (excluding cerebral palsy or brain damage cases)1,055
General surgery755
General medicine500
Psychiatry/Mental Health326
Obstetrics (cerebral palsy and brain damage cases)188

Meanwhile, examining payment totals for clinical claims for each specialty revealed that the following departments saw the highest amounts paid out in terms of damages and legal costs for claimants and the NHS:

SepcialityTotal costs
Obstetrics (cerebral palsy and brain damage cases)£738,092,144
Emergency Medicine£199,410,773
Obstetrics (excluding cerebral palsy or brain damage cases)£165,811,984
Orthopaedic Surgery£161,038,724
General surgery£94,082,366
General medicine£47,544,084
Psychiatry/Mental Health£34,250,977

There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn from examining these figures:

  • The amount being spent by NHS Resolution on settling claims has been increasing steadily, growing from £581.7 million in 2006/07 to £2.4 billion in 2021/22.
  • Emergency medicine, orthopaedic surgery and obstetrics (which relates to the care of mothers and babies during birth) are the sectors with the highest number of claims, and also the largest overall settlement values, underlining the potential risks that come with these types of treatment.
  • Medical negligence claims relating to cerebral palsy, brain damage and paediatric medicine tend to be much higher in value than the average. This reflects the fact that when medical negligence arises in these fields, the compensation totals will usually need to be higher to reflect the fact that patients will require lifelong care.

It is important to bear in mind that NHS Resolution functions similarly to an insurer, handling the process of claims and disputes on behalf of the health service. This ensures that any compensation claims do not come at the expense of NHS budgets. Moreover, by making a claim when medical or surgical negligence occurs, patients can ensure that the right lessons are learned, helping to ensure that nobody else has to go through the same experience.

Common types of clinical negligence claim

To provide a further breakdown of the most common reasons behind medical negligence cases, here we will break down some of the most frequently cited reasons why people choose to make a claim against their healthcare providers:

  1. Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis: this is one of the most common reasons for clinical negligence claims. If a medical professional provides an incorrect diagnosis or causes a delay in diagnosis, it can lead to incorrect treatment, or prevent the necessary treatment from being administered quickly enough. This can exacerbate the patient's condition and, in some cases, can lead to fatal outcomes.
  2. Surgical errors: these can range from operating on the wrong body part to leaving surgical instruments inside the patient's body. Such errors can lead to severe complications, long-term damage, and even death.
  3. Medication errors: these can involve prescribing or administering the wrong medication, incorrect dosage, or failing to consider harmful drug interactions. Such errors can lead to adverse reactions, worsening of the patient's condition, or the development of new health issues.
  4. Birth injuries: these can occur to either the mother or the baby during pregnancy, labour or delivery. They can result from actions such as improper use of forceps, failure to monitor the baby's oxygen levels, or delay in performing a necessary caesarean section. Birth injuries can lead to long-term or permanent damage, such as cerebral palsy.
  5. Negligence in care homes: this can involve poor hygiene leading to infections, failure to prevent bedsores, or neglect leading to malnutrition or dehydration. In severe cases, it can also involve physical or emotional abuse.
  6. Failure to obtain informed consent: before any treatment or procedure, a healthcare professional is required to explain the risks, benefits and alternatives to the patient. If they fail to do so, and the patient suffers harm as a result, this can lead to a clinical negligence claim.
  7. Failure to refer or follow up: if a healthcare professional fails to refer a patient to a specialist when necessary, or fails to follow up after treatment, leading to the patient's condition worsening, this can also be grounds for a claim.

Remember, each case is unique, and proving clinical negligence can be complex. It is crucial to seek advice from specialist medical negligence solicitors who can guide you through the process.

Do I have grounds for a medical negligence case?

Determining whether you have grounds to make a medical negligence claim can be complex, but there are some key factors to consider that can help you assess whether you may have a valid claim:

  1. Breach of duty (negligence): the first step in determining whether you have a valid medical negligence claim is to establish whether there was a breach of duty. This means that the care you received fell below the standard that could reasonably be expected from a competent healthcare professional in the same field.
  2. Causation: you must also demonstrate that this breach directly caused you harm or injury. For example, if a doctor misdiagnoses your condition but you suffer no harm as a result, you may not have a valid claim. However, if this misdiagnosis leads to a delay in treatment that causes your condition to worsen, you may have grounds for a claim.
  3. Harm or damage: the harm or damage caused by the breach of duty can be physical or psychological. This could range from a physical injury or worsening of an illness, to emotional distress or loss of earnings due to being unable to work. The harm must be significant enough to warrant a claim; minor or temporary discomfort may not be sufficient.
  4. Time limit: generally, you have three years from the date of the incident or the date you became aware of the negligence (known as 'date of knowledge') to make a claim. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as if the patient is a child or lacks mental capacity, so it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

If you believe you have experienced medical negligence, speak to a specialist medical negligence solicitor to ask them to review your case, gather necessary evidence, and guide you through the complex process of making a claim. They can also help you understand the potential value of your claim and the likelihood of it being successful.

Find out more

If you believe that you have experienced medical negligence and are considering making a claim, the specialist team at JMW Solicitors is here to help. We offer a free, no-obligation conversation to help you better understand your position and the next steps you should take, and we are able to take cases on a no win, no fee basis.

Learn more about our medical negligence expertise, or call us on 0345 872 6666 today.

Did you find this post interesting? Share it on:

Related Posts