What happens when a surgeon makes a mistake?

13th August 2020 Clinical Negligence

We all make mistakes but when surgeons make errors in the operating theatre the impact can be devastating.

It is well understood that all surgical procedures carry risk but the vast majority are completed successfully without any complications.

Nevertheless, patients should be fully informed of the risks of the proposed procedure so that they can make an informed decision as to whether to go ahead with it or not. This is called giving informed consent and it usually involves both the patient and the surgeon signing a consent form which sets out the risks which have been discussed and confirms the patient is happy to proceed.

If a complication occurs during surgery, which is a known and accepted risk and is listed on the consent form the patient has signed, then usually the surgeon is not considered to be at fault.

However, some complications are caused by surgical negligence, which means the surgeon has made a mistake that was avoidable if reasonable care and skill had been used.

Surgical negligence occurs in less than 1% of operations performed in UK hospitals but can include the following:

  •      operating on the wrong part of the body;
  •      using incorrect surgical technique;
  •      performing unnecessary surgery;
  •      delaying surgery unreasonably;
  •      failing to remove foreign bodies such as surgical instruments or swabs;
  •      failing to warn the patient about the risks of surgery or failing to check their suitability for the procedure.

A patient can claim compensation if they have suffered injury, required additional surgery or treatment or had a prolonged recovery as a result of surgical negligence. Claims can be made in relation to surgery provided by the NHS as well as by private hospitals and clinics.

Where there are concerns about a surgeon’s fitness to practice, the General Medical Council may investigate and the surgeon may also face disciplinary action.

If you have undergone surgery where you believe the surgeon has made mistakes, you may be able to claim compensation.

Our clinical negligence team at JMW Solicitors are widely experienced in dealing with surgical negligence claims and regularly achieve successful outcomes for our clients and their families.  Our solicitors are always happy to discuss cases and will advise if we can assist with a claim on a no win no fee basis.


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Katie Nolan is an Associate located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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