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What is Medical Negligence?


Dec 7, 2021

In the UK, more than ten thousand claims of medical negligence are received by the NHS every year. And many more are sent to private healthcare providers. We all might think that we have an intuitive understanding of what medical negligence is: the healthcare provider does a poor job, and they’re made to pay for it.

But in legal terms, medical negligence amounts to something quite specific. If you’re considering taking legal action against an individual or organisation that you believe is culpable for your mistreatment, you might wish to first investigate whether medical negligence has occurred.

Duty of Care

Individuals and organisations which provide treatment owe what’s called a duty of care to their patients. This care should be of a standard that a reasonable person in their position would not make. Thus, doctors have to be more than simply careless to be considered negligent.

For negligence to have occurred, three things need to have happened. Firstly, the defendant will need to owe a duty of care to the claimant. Secondly, that duty of care will need to have fallen beneath the standard required. Thirdly, the claimant will need to have suffered harm as a result.

So, if your doctor makes a terrible mistake, they’re not negligent unless you’ve actually been hurt by it.


In practice, the consequences of medical negligence can range from minor to life-altering. The amount of compensation paid out in damages will be proportionate to the harm inflicted, and to the precedent established by previous cases. If you’re seeking damages for the financial losses you’ve incurred, then you’ll need to provide evidence of those losses.

Examples of Medical Negligence

Misdiagnosis and prescription errors are among the most common forms of medical negligence. Surgical patients might fall victim to maladministered anaesthesia and surgical negligence, while mothers might suffer preventable injuries during birth. In many cases, the effect of medical negligence can be twofold: not only does it cause damage directly, but it might prevent a patient from seeking effective treatment.

The Value of a Good Solicitor

A solicitor specialising in medical negligence will be able to guide you through what might be an unfamiliar process. They’ll let you know what constitutes negligence, and what doesn’t. Many solicitors in this sector will proceed on what’s called a ‘conditional fee agreement’ – or, as it’s more commonly known, a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement. This means that you solicitor will accept the risk of the claim being unsuccessful, saving you from the stress.

Your solicitor will also be able to guide you through the evidence you’ll need to present. Generally speaking, the more information you have, the likelier it will be that you can prove your claim.

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