Medical Negligence: How Common is Your Claim?



increase in compensation costs in 2018/19


increase in clinical negligence mediation claims in 2018/19


the number of clinical negligence claims will be present by 2023.

What is Medical Negligence?

The term ‘medical negligence’ covers a broad range of situations, but in the most basic of terms it adheres to one core principle: if a medical professional provides inadequate care to a patient that causes injury or worsens a pre-existing condition, then they can be found negligent.

This definition is applicable to both physical and psychological conditions that an individual may be left with.

It is important to at least consider making a medical negligence claim if you feel that you, or a loved one, have suffered at the hands of a trusted professional as not only have you been left in a lesser state of health, but the professional body has likely breached their duty of care.

When pursuing a medical negligence case, it is the responsibility of the affected individual’s legal representation to prove that any injury or harm that has affected them was in a direct relation to the actions taken, or not taken, by the professional body. 

Most Common Medical Negligence Claims

All data is based on 2018/19 statistics provided by the annual NHS report.

In their latest annual report, the NHS revealed exactly how many clinical negligence claims had been made within the year, as well as what speciality they fell under. This data has allowed us to determine the most common negligence claims within the UK as well as identify how much was spent on the corresponding pay-outs. 

Orthopaedic Surgery 

The third-highest number of claims fell under the orthopaedic surgery specialism which admitted responsibility for 12% of all claims with 1,262 on record. Now, these cases are typically pursued by individuals who have recently broken or fractured a bone as well as those who undergo joint replacements.

Some examples of orthopaedic negligence include; surgical errors, misdiagnosed fractures, as well as incorrect treatment. Such mistakes can cause a number of negative effects for an individual, both short and long term, and may also cause serious damage to their psychological wellbeing and financial stability. As such, many seek compensation for their suffering. 

Yet, whilst orthopaedic surgery negligence produced a significant number of claims, the overall value of these claims did not match those of other specialities. In total they cost the NHS £216 million, making up 4% of the overall payout value.

Emergency medicine

The second-highest number of claims was shown to be in direct relation to emergency medicine, racking up 1,409 notable cases and contributing 13% to all claims. 

The emergency department is undoubtedly a high-stress environment, whereby medical professionals must execute their duties with optimum efficiency at all times – nevertheless, no patient should suffer due to careless mistakes. 

Emergency medicine cases often relate to one of the following; misdiagnosis or delay in delivering the correct diagnosis, failure to admit a patient for further investigation, an inadequate initial examination of a patient – to name a few! These claims can be increasingly dangerous for the individual in question as they vary in severity, and can sometimes lead to fatalities. As a result, the compensation costs that correspond to the negligence cases equate to a substantial £422 million – making up 9% of all compensation costs.  


Despite not ranking in the top three specialities in terms of the volume of claims received, obstetrics recorded a significantly higher value of claims than any other speciality.

The group made up 50% off all compensation costs, roughly equating to £2.5 billion

And although no claim can morally be scaled against another, obstetric medical negligence claims often take on another degree of seriousness due to the nature of harm administered and the emotional complexity. Unfortunately, the errors made can be detrimental to both mother and infant with the potential to cause lifelong ailments. 

Some examples of common mistakes are; misinterpretation of scans, delay in diagnosing issues such as ectopic pregnancy, harmful actions taken within the delivery process. 

Other claims

The highest number of medical negligence cases were categorised under ‘other’ – meaning that any claim that did not directly fall under a particular specialism was placed under the term. These claims made up 34% of all claims with 3,660 cases! Yet, this group only accounted for 15% of all compensation costs, causing the NHS to spend £761 million.

Notable Cases of Negligence

The UK has paid witness to a number of significant, and somewhat shocking, medical negligence cases over the years. We researched some of the most prolific instances:

Mr Bolam – 1957

The case began after Mr Bolam suffered fractures to his acetabula following electro-convulsive therapy. The argument was that as the professionals had not provided the patient with a muscle relaxant, nor did they restrain him throughout the procedure, he was ultimately left with serious physical injuries that may have been avoided if the actions had been taken. An argument was also made regarding the fact that the patient was not fully aware of the treatment’s attached risks.  These accusations were met with further arguments from medical professionals that the injuries could have actually worsened had the actions been taken. 

This case is extremely interesting as although the jury sided with the hospital, agreeing that they did not breach their duty of care, it did lead the introduction of the Bolam Test. This test was implemented to allow a more distinguished conclusion to be made when judging medical negligence. The test requires all medical professionals to demonstrate that they acted in a manner that other expert medical professionals would agree with. In a sense, the Bolam Test implemented a peer review system that became a pivotal tool when pursuing a medical negligence case.

Nadine Montgomery – 1999

Nadine Montgomery spent 15 years fighting for compensation in relation to complications at birth that severely affected the health of her child.

In 1999 Montgomery gave birth to her son, Sam. The issue with this birth was that Nadine is diabetic, which often results in babies that are of a larger-than-average size and weight. Due to her small stature, there was concern as to whether her child’s shoulders would be able to pass through her pelvis – and she voiced these concerns to her consultant prior to the birth.

The consultant argued that she would not normally inform expectant diabetic mothers on the risks of shoulder dystocia as it was often minimal. She also argued that it may cause mothers to choose a course of care that may not be in their best interest. 

The birth itself ran into complications. Her child’s shoulders became stuck and he had to be freed by medical professionals – by which point his brain had been starved of oxygen causing irreversible damage. The argument was that had Nadine been advised of the risks, she would have opted for a cesarean birth and avoided Sam’s sustained injuries and, eventually, the Supreme Court agreed. The case awarded Nadine Montgomery £5 million. 

This case was so significant due to the implications that followed. The Supreme Court enforced a law that definitively defends an adult’s right to consent to the medical treatment they adhere to. 

Maisha Najeeb – 2010

Maisha was a happy ten-year-old girl when she underwent surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Up until this point, she had suffered from a rare illness called arterio-venous malformation which is where the arteries and veins can become tangled and as a result cause unwanted bleeding. Each time that Maisha suffered one of these bleeds, she would undergo a treatment called embolization whereby the injection of glue would stop the bleeding and the injection of dye would allow surgeons to assess overall blood flow.

Tragically, the syringes containing both the glue and dye were not distinguished correctly within the procedure. As a result, the glue was injected directly into the artery to Maisha’s brain. This caused permanent brain damage meaning that Maisha needs constant care to do everyday tasks. She has been left in a wheelchair and has lost a large proportion of her cognitive abilities. Maisha’s case was settled at £24 million.  

How to Know if You Qualify for a Claim

It may seem difficult to determine whether you have the right grounds to make a claim, but in reality, it’s not. The only question you need to ask yourself is: have you sustained injury or harm, or had a pre-existing condition worsened, due to a medical professional’s actions? 

If your answer is yes, then it’s important to reach out to a legal professional who can offer you further advice on how you might progress. Fortunately, most medical negligence solicitors offer a free initial consultation at a location that best suits you.

This meeting will allow the solicitor to understand the details of your case and consequently give you clear and informative advice regarding the process ahead. 

A detail to be mindful of when making a claim is that it has to be filed within the legal time limits. This stipulation requires any individual to bring their case forward within three years of the incident – however, this means from the date at which they became aware of an injury or illness as a direct result of negligence.

Medical Negligence FAQs

Want to know more about the Medical Negligence claims process? In this video, Diana Infanti and Tim Humpage, both Partners at Gotelee, talk you through everything you need to know about Medical Negligence claims:

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