Medical Negligence: What Is It?

Having access to the healthcare system is every citizen’s right in the UK. While this is something we’re extremely lucky and grateful to have, sometimes things can go wrong. Patients can be harmed as a result of medical negligence or malpractice.

If you or your family have been harmed as a result of negligence, know that you can make a hospital complaint and claim for compensation. There are many specialist solicitors who can support you through the process.

This page will tell you more about clinical negligence claims and how you can claim compensation for any injuries or losses suffered as a result of the negligent treatment you received.

Medical Negligence: At a Glance

Clinical negligence occurs when a medical or healthcare professional fails to uphold the care standards of their profession and causes injury to a patient. A patient may have a medical negligence claim if they have been harmed or have suffered as a result of a medical misdiagnosis, surgical negligence, prescription error, and birth injury.

  • Birth Injury – This is when medical staff have failed to recognise serious conditions which resulted in a birth injury. If a mother and their baby have received poor care during childbirth, they may also have a clinical negligence claim.
  • Medical Misdiagnosis – This is when a medical professional fails to identify/diagnose a patient’s symptoms, or gives the wrong diagnosis and incorrectly diagnoses their symptoms.
  • Prescription Error – This is when a medical professional has prescribed the wrong medication. Supplying the wrong dosage also falls under this category.
  • Surgical Negligence – This is when a surgeon has performed the wrong surgery on a patient and caused greater harm.

Clinical negligence is the most complicated type of personal injury claim. It’s worth noting that no two cases are the same. The harm inflicted on an individual can range from minor to life-changing, and in extreme cases, may be even fatal.

The claims process differs between the NHS and private sector healthcare providers. Add in the complexity and the burden of proof that can prolong the process. But despite these, clinical negligence claims are crucial in that they hold dangerous malpractice to account, whether it be a public or private practice.

Making a Complaint

Are you still unsure about issuing a claim? Perhaps you’re more concerned with getting an explanation or an apology. You can write a letter to the hospital trust or the doctor who treated you to get closure after the incident and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

You may pursue financial compensation if you have suffered an injury, complication, or financial losses as a direct result of a negligent act. This is when you need the assistance of a solicitor and lawyer.

Filing a Claim

Clinical negligence has a strict legal definition. The claim only goes forward if the claimant is able to prove liability and causation. Let’s delve deeper into these two conditions that you need to prove when filing a claim.

  • Liability – The burden of proof includes proving the medical professional’s liability: that they treated you in a way that no responsible professional in the same field would treat a patient.
  • Causation – This involves proving that the harm done is a direct result of the negligent action and wouldn’t have otherwise occurred. It is assessed on the balance of probabilities. There must be at least a 50% chance that the practitioner caused more harm.

Proving Clinical Negligence

Solicitors deal with different types of evidence to support a medical negligence claim. Below, we outline what they are and what they mean.


The solicitor must demonstrate that a patient-medical professional relationship existed. The solicitor must establish this fact to confirm that the medical professional or healthcare provider owed a duty of care to look after the patient for the duration of the treatment.

If the patient has been harmed by their action or inaction, then the medical professional breached that duty and can be liable. Medical records that confirm the professional or provider was treating the patient can be used as evidence of duty.


Dereliction, sometimes described as deviation, occurs when medical professionals accidentally or deliberately fail to follow the care standards of their profession, causing more harm to a patient as a result.

Direct Cause

Direct cause refers to the specific action or inaction by a medical professional or healthcare provider that directly caused the harm to a patient in their care, like leaving a medical item inside a patient after surgery and causing scarring or disfigurement. Misdiagnosis and prescription errors can also be accepted as direct cause.

Funding a Claim

When considering pursuing a claim, cost is understandably the main concern. The vast majority of clinical negligence claims are funded through Conditional Fee Agreements (CFA). These are “No Win No Fee” arrangements designed to ensure that there is minimal financial risk to the claimants.

After the initial meeting, the solicitor will then determine if their client has a strong case for making a claim. They will then discuss the available funding options, which may include:

  • Private funding
  • Conditional Fee Agreements (CFA)
  • Legal Aid
  • BTE and ATE insurance policies

Need to Make a Claim?

From birth injury to cancer misdiagnosis, any harm or losses suffered as a result of negligent treatment and malpractice is always a heavy burden to carry. Thus, patients are encouraged to file a claim to hold the responsible party to account. For more information on making clinical negligence claims, get in touch with Haymans Solicitors today.

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