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What are the Most Common Claims in Medical Malpractice?

The term ‘medical negligence is often used interchangeably with ‘personal injury’, but the former is far more specific and focused on clinical settings and applications.

More specifically, the term medical negligence refers to instances where a clinical practitioner fails in their duty of care through acts of negligence, error or omission. These typically result in injury to the patient, triggering future claims and requests for compensation.

But why are medical negligence claims on the rise, and what are the most common claims in the UK?

The Rise of Medical Negligence Claims 

Between 2012 and 2018, it’s fair to surmise that medical negligence claims largely plateaued throughout the UK.

For example, some 10,129 clinical claims were processed in the financial year 2012/13, with this number increasing only incrementally to 10,684 in 2018/19.

Since then, however, we’ve seen compensation claims from London to Edinburgh rise sharply, to 11,677 cases in 2019/20 and a new high of 12,629 in 2020/21. Of course, some of this may be as a result of the coronavirus and its impact on other elements of healthcare, but this is still a noticeable rise that will be concerning for public and private healthcare entities alike.

But what exactly are the most common medical negligence claims in the UK? Here’s a brief breakdown:

#1. Surgical Procedures and Errors

Often among the most common and impactful cases, medical negligence claims driven by surgical or procedural errors can be underpinned by a wide range of causes.

For example, this can describe performing the incorrect treatment or operation, while claims may also arise as a result of damage from surgery or infection after a surgical process.

High-profile case studies include the experience of Jessye Norman, who passed away from septic shock and multi-organ failure after a treatment error that also left her paralysed.

Former French footballer Jean-Pierre Adams also died after spending 39 years in a coma, when he entered hospital for a simple knee surgery. However, his subsequent state was caused by an ‘anaesthesia error’ at the hands of an inexperienced practitioner.

#2. The Failure to Identify or Treat Symptoms

Next up is the failure to identify or treat symptoms, which often occurs at GP level when patients first begin to report their symptoms.

Of course, this can lead to serious or life-threatening illness, with missed cancer diagnosis one of the most common examples of this.

This issue is particularly prevalent among older and vulnerable citizens, with the number of prisoners requiring legal advice as a result of medical negligence rising exponentially in recent times according to charities.

#3. Misdiagnosis

We close with instances of misdiagnosis, which involves a healthcare professional wrongly diagnosing your symptoms after one or more consultations.

This can lead to severe physical and mental health consequences, while even causing death in the worst-case scenarios.

This rising issue can be discriminatory too, as was borne out by a recent report about ADHD diagnosis rates in the UK.

More specifically, the report found that boys are five-times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than girls (particularly among younger age groups), with this suggesting an increased instance of misdiagnosis that can have a knock-on effect in terms of future prescriptions and mental wellbeing.

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