According to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, medical negligence affects one in ten of patients who are admitted to a hospital in the UK. The NHS Litigation Authority Annual Report and Accounts 2012, points to the number of personal injury claims for clinical negligence having risen by 13 per cent since 2011, which now stands at more than 40 per cent higher than just three years ago.
Negligence, an area of tort law involving harm caused by carelessness, can be defined in civil law as a "failure to exercise the care that could be reasonably expected of a person, given the circumstances".
So when a medical intervention in the treatment of a patient has materially contributed to a deterioration of a patient’s condition due to a failure to adhere to normal standards or procedures, the duty of care owed by a medical practitioner to their patient may have been breached. As a consequence, the issue of accident compensation tends to be raised
Within the National Health Service (NHS), it is the clinicians' employers - the healthcare provider - rather than the individuals themselves who are regarded as holding the duty of care to patients and therefore, the claimant has to prove that they have suffered injury or other harm because of the negligence of the healthcare provider.
Some estimates say nearly a million people have been victims of medical negligence by doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, from a basic misdiagnoses to serious surgical errors and the administering of incorrect medication or dosages.
The Public Accounts Committee has also said that, “...there is undoubtedly substantial under-reporting of serious incidents and deaths”. The report states, “Around a quarter of medical negligence incidents were not reported” and nearly 4 in 10 too close to call as being reportable.
A review from 2003 highlighted that, “Cases have tended to take a long time to conclude...” although the average time to resolve a claim is still under sixteen months, and the NHS also accused of “trying to cover up malpractice and deliberately withholding evidence” to slow down prosecutions. Around 95 per cent of cases end up settling out of court.
The Department of Health itself, acknowledges the high level of undesirable incidents in NHS hospitals. Not only has it admitted that “10 per cent of in-patient admissions result in some form of adverse outcome”, the Department also says that “five per cent of the general population report suffering a personal injury” or other ill effects of clinical error or through the medical care they received.