What is a Medical Accident?
When something goes wrong with medical treatment, this is called a medical accident or an adverse event. In some cases, this doesn’t mean there’s been a mistake. Like during open heart surgery or brain surgery. These procedures involve inherent risks and can involve complications. The same goes for minor procedures too.
What is Clinical Negligence?
Clinical negligence is the legal term for when harm has come to a patient that could have been avoided with treatment or the proper standard of care. This doesn’t equate with incompetence. It just means that the healthcare worker made a mistake in this case. This can be things like making mistakes with drugs, during a procedure or giving a wrong diagnosis. Clinical negligence can also mean the failure to do certain things. Such as not giving treatment, not getting the patient’s consent, or not warning the patient about the risks of treatment.
Clinical negligence covers not only doctors, but other healthcare professionals like: nurses, midwives, physiotherapists and more, see the full list here.
If you or a loved once have experienced a medical accident.
Get in touch with:
Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA)
They are a charity that offers practical and emotional support to patients. They can also provide medical information, legal help in making an effective complaints, and also put you in touch with clinical negligence solicitors who can help.
Get A Second Opinion: Speak with several other healthcare specialists and get advice from them, if you’re not satisfied with your doctor’s treatment.
Keep Records: Note down dates, times and details of events as they happen. This will avoid confusion later on. It also provides solid background, should a legal case be necessary.
Access Your Medical Records: You are legally allowed to get medical records from hospitals or clinics, under the Data Protection Act 1998. There may be an administration fee of around £10 and photocopying costs.
Contact a Regulatory Body:
If you believe you or a loved one were put at risk by a healthcare professional, then complain to the regulatory organisation. These organisations will investigate individuals if there’s a question over their fitness to practice. See a comprehensive list here.
Raise a Complaint with the NHS: Public healthcare through the NHS is covered by the NHS Complaints Procedure. There is a six month time limit on making a complaint from the time you knew about the issue (or one year in total).
Local advice bodies will be able to provide assistance and support during your complaints process with the NHS.
- England: the Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (See below)
- Wales: Community Health Councils provide advice (See below)
- Scotland: Health Council (See below)
- Northern Ireland: Health and Social Services Council (See below)
Raise a Complaint with a Private healthcare organisation: Each private healthcare organisation has their own complains handling policy, similar to the NHS. Follow the steps required for this complaints procedure. A leaflet about this can be downloaded here.
Take Legal Action: It needs to be stressed that taking legal action is only about compensation. Other things (like an apology) may be more important to you. Once legal proceedings start, these other options may be closed. So before starting legal action, think about what you want out of it. Taking legal action is costly, lengthy and stressful, and should only be pursued in certain cases. If you decide to go down the path of legal action, do not allow the legal claim to go outside of a three year legal time limit. Find out more about the law, and taking legal action at AvMA.
I believe that my loved one has died as a result of a medical accident. What do I do?
- As well as the above steps, get in contact with your local coroner.
- The coroner will conduct an inquiry into the cause of death; to see if an inquest or public hearing should be held.
- Speak with AvMA or a clinical negligence solicitor. Either AvMA or the solicitor can provide reasons to the coroner why an inquest should be held. They can also arrange for a second post-mortem if required.
- If you can’t afford a solicitor, there are other avenues to getting legal help. You should firstly speak to your Community Legal Service. See below for contact information.
For General Help and Advice
Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA)
Client advice line 0845 123 2352 (Local call cost. Open between Monday to Friday 10 am – 5pm)
44 High Street
Croydon, CR0 1YB.
For NHS Complaints
Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (England)
Find a local ICAS provider near you here.
Community Health Councils:
Telephone: 029 2023 5558.
Health and Social Service Councils:
Telephone: 0800 917 0222.
Citizens Advice Bureau:
Telephone: 0808 800 0121.
The Health Service Ombudsman
England: 0345 015 4033
Wales: 01656 641150
Northern Ireland: 0800 34 34 24
Scotland: 0800 377 7330
For Legal Aid
Community Legal Services
Telephone 0845 345 4 345 (4p per minute)
Or go to their website.
* Please note that the rules about qualifying for Legal Aid, are set to change in April 2013. Check the website for more details.