NHS Figures Show Why People Make a Medical Negligence Claim

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Kate McCue

Medical Negligence Associate Solicitor

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Money is not a key motivation for people who claim medical negligence compensation (claimants), according to recent figures. In this guide, we will be taking an in-depth look at the statistics and research from an NHS Resolution report.

NHS Resolution

According to data from NHS Resolution, formerly called the NHS Litigation Authority, just 6% of claimants cite getting financial compensation as their main reason for claiming. Only 8% said their main reason was to get financial support in coping with the future.

Instead, claimants appear to be driven more strongly by the hope of imposing changes across the NHS. Some 35% of those polled said their main reason for claiming compensation was to prevent similar incidents happening to other patients.

Meanwhile, 21% said they wanted to hold the clinicians involved to account, and 10% wanted to see a detailed investigation and explanation of the medical negligence incident. A further 10% said their main reason for claiming was to get an apology, while 9% were prompted to make a claim by frustration with the handling of the incident.

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External Factors Influencing Decision to Claim

The NHS Resolution data also indicated that a number of external factors have contributed to people’s decision to claim for medical negligence. For instance, 29.9% of those surveyed said they were advised to seek damages by the healthcare provider itself.

Many also confirmed that their decision to claim was triggered by conversations with friends, relatives and work colleagues, and how these people reacted to what had happened. NHS Resolution pointed out that since these reactions occurred in the period when people were still processing the impact of their changed circumstances, these may have further influenced the claimants to make a claim.

Reasons for Claiming Medical Negligence

The most common incident that led to a claim was a failed or delayed diagnosis of the condition. Another was that the clinician made the wrong diagnosis entirely, which accounts for 345 of all survey respondents.

295 of the survey respondents indicated that the medical professionals made mistakes during surgeries and 63 patients suggested that they weren’t warned of the risks beforehand.

Out of all previous claimants that responded to the survey, 20% had to take between 1 – 6 months off work, which then led them to make a claim for financial loss. 12% of the respondents stated that they were still unable to return to work at the time of completing the survey.

How Did they Feel after Deciding to Claim?

According to NHS Resolution, the people who had decided to claim compensation largely felt determined, calm and optimistic at the time they started their claim. This, it is believed, is partly down to both the service and expectation-setting provided by their legal representation during their early conversations.

However, NHS Resolution has suggested it may also be down to the fact that claimants started to feel in control of the course of events, possibly for the first time since the act of medical negligence occurred.

“Whilst other things (e.g. the incident, the response to the complaint, the explanation or apology they received) were ‘done to’ them, this was an opportunity to ‘do something’ themselves,” the report said.

However, that’s not to suggest that people making medical negligence claims were full of positivity, as they were still dealing with the emotional fallout of what had happened.

For instance, respondents to the survey described experiencing feelings such as a sense of loss, a lack of closure, a sense of injustice, anger and deep frustration. In fact, when asked to select all the reasons for making a claim that applied to them, more than three-quarters of those polled said frustration with the handling of the incident in their answers.

The Outcome of Their Claims

Not all claimants get the outcome they want, or need, from a medical negligence claim. While you may feel that you deserve a certain amount of financial compensation, the Court may decide that you are entitled to an alternative amount instead.

Just 6% of the claimants felt that appropriate actions were taken that would help to prevent the same incident from happening again. Furthermore, 71% of respondents don’t think that the healthcare provider carried out any investigations into the incident after the initial complaint.

Only 31% of the claimants felt that they received an apology from the medical professionals or clinicians. Out of the remaining people who did receive an apology, only a small minority rated their apology highly.

45% reported that the staff didn’t take the appropriate responsibility for the incident and 34% said that the staff weren’t sympathetic to what happened at all.

Out of the 728 survey respondents, 65% of them suggested that their claims were settled with financial compensation, leaving 35% of respondents without financial compensation.

Those 65% of respondents were then asked a follow-up question of how much compensation they claimed. 42% claimed up to £24,999 and 10% claimed between £25,000 - £49,999.

Medical Negligence Claims – All You Need to Know

The Difference Between General and Special Damages

All claimants’ circumstances are different, which means that your claim will vary. In a clinical negligence case you can claim   general damages and  special damages .

General damages  will cover compensation for the pain that you have suffered and experienced, as well as any loss of amenity. This type of case will take into account the extend of any injuries suffered and how the pain can be resolved.

 Special damages  will include all losses you incurred including loss of earnings, medical expenses, care requirements, and funeral expenses in the event of bereavement.

Who Can Claim for Medical Negligence?

If you feel that you experienced a treatment or care that fell below the minimum standard that you were entitled to, you may have a claim. You will need to prove that your injury could have been avoided and that the person responsible breached their duty of care towards you. It’ll also need to be shown that someone of similar experience and in the same role wouldn’t have made those same decisions.

What is a Breach of Duty of Care?

Every medical professional has a duty of care towards their patients, which outlines the basic standard that they must meet at all times. A breach is when the clinician’s treatment and/or care falls below this threshold.

Rather than considering what could have been done instead, it’s a matter of focusing on what to do next. Essentially, you need to think about whether a responsible person would have taken those actions and made the same decisions.

Is There a Time Limit?

If you wish to make a claim for medical negligence, then you have 3 years to start the process. A claimant must issue their claim within those 3 years. There are some exceptions to the rule, including if you weren’t aware of the situation, but as soon as you know about the incident and your injuries, the 3-year period begins. Additionally, people who are under the age of 18 years old or who are deemed to not have mental capacity, are not subject to the same  time limits.

Can I Represent Myself?

It’s completely up to you whether you want to seek legal representation. While we would advise to have a specialist Medical Negligence Solicitor on your side, you can represent yourself in court. To do this, you will need to submit a ‘Letter of Claim’ to the NHS Trust that was overseeing and responsible for your care.

This letter must clearly outline what allegations you’re making, the breach of duty that is being reported, and the clinician’s name. You will also need to highlight the dates of the incident. Furthermore, you will need to provide an outline of the symptoms you’re experiencing due to the breach in duty and what compensation you are looking for.

How to Know if Your Claim Will Be Successful

If you’re not sure about the likelihood of your claim being successful, we can offer a free consultation. During your consultation, we’ll discuss your claim in detail and provide you with your legal options. We’ll give you an overview of how successful we think your claim will be, so you know exactly what to expect.

If you decide that you would like to go ahead with a claim, our Medical Negligence Solicitors are here to help. We’ll always communicate with you in plain English, so you never have to worry about any legal jargon. Your dedicated solicitor will always keep you in the loop, so you’re never left wondering what’s happening.

Why Choose Us

At Simpson Millar our Medical Negligence Solicitors have recovered hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation for victims of clinical and medical negligence. The case studies below show just a few of the compensation settlements we have secured for our clients.


Advice for claimants – NHS Resolution. (n.d.). NHS Resolution. [online] Available at: https://resolution.nhs.uk/services/claims-management/advice-for-claimants/

Rigg, N. (2018). NHS Resolution research explores claimant motivation. [online] NHS Resolution. Available at: https://resolution.nhs.uk/2018/10/23/nhs-resolution-research-explores-claimant-motivation/

NHS Resolution (2019). Home - NHS Resolution. [online] NHS Resolution. Available at: https://resolution.nhs.uk/

Behavioural insights into patient motivation to make a claim for clinical negligence Final report by the Behavioural Insights Team. (2018). Available at: https://resolution.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Behavioural-insights-into-patient-motivation-to-make-a-claim-for-clinical-negligence.pdf

Kate McCue

Medical Negligence Associate Solicitor

Areas of Expertise:
Medical Negligence

Kate joined the Clinical Negligence department at Simpson Millar in January 2023 after previously working at Chris Kallis Solicitors in Plymouth. Kate qualified as a solicitor in 2004 and has developed extensive experience in both Personal Injury and Medical Negligence.   

Initially Kate started working as a Defendant Solicitor for firms such as Bond Pearce LLP and DAC Beachcroft Claims Ltd. This has allowed Kate to develop a tactical advantage to her cases, using the experience of how a claim is dealt with from a Defendant’s perspective. 

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