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Posted on 3rd December 2018

Medical Negligence in the Hospital FAQs

What is hospital negligence?

In the eyes of the law, something counts as negligence if:

1. The healthcare professional has failed to carry out their responsibilities

2. This failure has caused you harm

Sounds simple, but the definitions with these two points are often what leads to the debate around whether somebody has a claim.

So, for example, the NHS could claim that the physician did not have a particular responsibility in accordance to what is normally expected of a doctor, even though it can still feel like they did wrong. There's also debate around what 'harm' can count as (it is a broad, but particular definition). All of these points are covered clearly and concisely in our page about proving medical negligence.

In hospitals negligence can be a huge variety of different things, but in every instance legal negligence must be proven to make a claim. However, you can still complain about conditions even if they don't formally count as negligence, for example, the cleanliness of hospital.

How can I report hospital negligence?

In the NHS or if you are in a private hospital but funded by the NHS (for example, under the Choose and Book Scheme):

  • Go direct to the hospital or trust by asking a member of staff to tell you their specific complaints procedure or contacting the hospital/trust in question. Lots of hospital websites will tell you how to make a complaint. If you can't find the information online use the hospital's "contact us" details – you should be referred quickly to the relevant parties.
  • If you don't want to contact the service provider direct you can complain to the commissioner of the services (either NHS England or CCGs). For hospitals it will normally be CCGs. You can find your clinical commissioning group by using the NHS's dedicated search engine.

In a private hospital:

If your treatment is being paid for by the NHS you can use the NHS complaints procedure. If the practitioner is a member of the Independent Sector Complaints Adjudication Service or the Independent Health Advisory Service, then you can contact them for help.

You can also contact the GMC, the Care Quality Commission and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Can I sue the NHS?

The short answer is yes, if medical negligence can be proven. The same basic law applies to most medical negligence cases, two factors must be established:

1. That your medical practitioner was at fault because they didn't provide the level of care expected during your specific treatment

2. That you suffered harm, injury or loss as a result of this

There is no special quality about the NHS which prevents patients from making a claim against the service. So, in the same way that you can bring a case against a private practice, you can also claim against the NHS.

Can I sue the NHS for neglect?

If the neglect you suffered qualifies as negligence in the eyes of the law then you can make a compensation claim.

Can I sue the NHS for misdiagnosis?

Yes, in some cases you will be able to sue for misdiagnosis.

How do I claim against the NHS?

Suing the NHS is a similar process to making a claim against a private practice, there are certain stages that you must go through in accordance with the Pre-Action Protocol. If you want to find out the exact stages that you'll go through when making a claim take a look at our explanation here.

What is the NHS complaints procedure?

The NHS complaints procedure is covered here. You should make your complaint as soon as possible, there is a 12 month time limit of the date the event occurred. It can be extended in some instances where there are mitigating circumstances (for example, if you were undergoing trauma or grieving as a result of what happened).

How long do NHS compensation claims take?

Negligence claims are not quick fixes and can take a substantial amount of time depending on the complexity of the case. Generally a claim will take a minimum of 12-18 months, often longer. If your case is straightforward it might be quicker than this, but in the same way, if the injuries were severe and there is debate over whether the NHS is liable it can take several years.

If the NHS has admitted liability there are situations where interim compensation can be gained to relieve difficult financial situations, if the claim is going to take a long time.

Does the NHS pay compensation?

The NHS doesn't directly pay compensation, instead an organisation called the NHS Resolution, which is funded out of the NHS budget, handles claims brought and will pay compensation.

How many medical malpractice deaths are there per year?

It's difficult to find exact data as to how many people die as a result of medical malpractice, but there is data available about the amount of claims made to the NHS LA which have 'fatality' marked as the injury code under which the claim has been made. According to this data the following claims have been made:

Year Claim Was First Made

Number of Claims












Year Claim Was Closed (Successful claims only)

Number of Claims












Can I sue the NHS for wrongful death?

Yes, you can claim against the NHS for death that has occurred through negligence. You will be claiming on behalf of the deceased person.

Can I claim compensation on behalf of someone who has died?

Yes, you can claim on behalf of the deceased's Estate if negligence and harm can be proven as it would in any other case. Relatives can also claim for their own losses, for example if dependents will be impacted financially, for funeral expenses and a fixed 'bereavement award' of £11,800.

This award can be claimed by the married partner of the deceased or the parents if the deceased and unmarried and under 18.

How do I claim compensation on behalf of someone who has passed away?

The process is similar to claiming compensation on your own. Make contact with us, we will take the necessary details and a solicitor will be in contact if you have a case. Like all negligence cases, the neglect and harm will have to be proven.

Further Information