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What Is Clinical (Medical) Negligence?

We are right to be proud of our NHS, which delivers a fantastic service despite limited resources. Sometimes however, things go wrong, which cause an avoidable injury or result in a condition worsening. If the injury or decline in a condition occurs due to negligence, there may be a claim. Contrary to what is often written in the tabloids about the so called ‘compensation culture’ it is in fact difficult to establish negligence. Mistakes happen in every job, but very few will be negligent, so what does ‘negligent’ mean? If a reasonable and responsible body of doctors would support the actions of the doctor alleged to be at fault, it is unlikely negligence could be established. For example, you have hip replacement but afterwards suffer pain and clicking in the new joint. Even though the outcome isn’t as you wanted, providing the standard of surgery would be supported by a reasonable and responsible body of doctors, you are unlikely to have a claim. Conversely, if the surgeon implanted the joint badly, such that the surgery couldn’t be supported by a reasonable body, you may have a claim.

How do you assess whether there is a claim? There is no legislation or regulation to set out what is or isn’t negligent. We therefore rely on evidence from expert witnesses to advise whether the surgery or treatment reached an acceptable standard. An orthopaedic surgeon would replace a hip, so from my example above, it would be another, independent, orthopaedic surgeon who would give the opinion. He/she would need to see all your relevant medical records and any imaging, such as x-rays and scans.

Negligent errors can occur in a number of ways: -

  1. Badly implanted replacement joints.
  2. Injury caused to an organ or other body tissue during surgery.
  3. Failing to identify that an injury has occurred during surgery.
  4. Delay in referring a patient i.e. a GP not referring someone to hospital with symptoms of cancer.
  5. An avoidable injury caused to the baby and/or mother during childbirth.

You may also have a case if you were not properly advised about the risks of surgery. Mrs Montgomery was a woman with diabetes and small body frame. She delivered her son naturally, but he suffered complications in the birth canal, due his large size in combination with his mother’s small size, and was sadly deprived of oxygen during his delivery, which caused a brain injury resulting in cerebral palsy. The mother’s obstetrician had not advised her of the increased risk of such an injury occurring in these circumstances. Had she been advised of the risk, she would have opted for a caesarean section, which would have avoided the baby’s brain injury.

Medical negligence cases are complex and require specialist advice. We are always happy to provide initial advice without charge if you think you have suffered an avoidable injury.

For more information please visit our website at: -, or contact the writer at:-

01603 877066 or 01603 877067

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69 - 75 Thorpe Road,
Norwich, NR1 1UA
01603 877066 or 01603 877067
FAX: 01603 230125
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*MJP Conveyancing LTD is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority – SRA No. 590889

MJP Conveyancing Ltd is a company registered in England and Wales Registered No: 8026741 VAT Number: 157917571. A full list of the directors is available upon request. We use the word 'Partner' to refer to a Director of the Limited Company, or any employee or consultant with equivalent standing and qualification. Equality and Diversity Policy Equality and Diversity Policy Statement for Clients * - In calculating this we measure the average time it takes to reach the stage of exchange ( not the date you actually move in which is known as the completion date) from the date we receive the contract from the sellers solicitors or from when we send the contract to the buyers solicitors. This period can be longer when delays arise which are not within our control. We cannot guarantee that we can achieve this average turnaround time in all transactions. This turnaround time does not apply to leasehold and leasehold and new build transactions.
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