Clinical Negligence – When is medical treatment negligent?

Clinical Negligence – When is medical treatment negligent?

The value of clinical negligence claims against the NHS was reported this week as being in excess of £80bn. A number of issues arise out of the reports, including the extent to which the NHS is learning from previous mistakes, defensive medicine and the standard of care provided to patients across all disciplines of medicine.

The issue of whether care provided to a patient is negligent or not will depend very much on the type of care provided.

Care, for these purposes, includes the interpretation of investigations, for example x-rays and blood samples, the provision of information regarding treatment options, including surgery and prescription drugs, as well as any surgery or non-invasive treatment provided.

Although the standards by which treatment will be judged by the Courts continue to evolve, there are a number of areas where the picture is becoming clearer.

The long-standing principles in the leading cases of Bolam and Bolitho still exist, but are applied more sparingly, for instance, the decision of a medical professional to follow one of a number of choices regarding a patient's care must still be one that a reasonable body of medical opinion would adopt and which stands up to logical scrutiny.

Clinicians are required to take reasonable care in interpreting the results of scans, blood and tissue samples, which is a slightly different standard.

One notable development in recent years is the extent to which medical staff are required to inform patients about the risks associated with particular treatment or surgery. Courts have found that, even when surgery or treatment has been carried out non-negligently, but medical staff have given insufficient information about the risks of that treatment, a claim could succeed. Medical staff are under a greater duty to both consider the risks of treatment and inform patients of them in order for a valid informed consent to be given.

Clinical negligence claims are frequently complex, and it is important that anyone considering such a claim seeks advice at the earliest opportunity. To arrange an appointment with one of our clinical negligence specialists, or to discuss your individual circumstances in further detail, contact our Client Relations Team today on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an enquiry' form on our website. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham and Sheringham offices.

Visit our dedicated webpage on clinical negligence for further information on how to make a claim.

*This article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or other professional advice.