Information For Patients

The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) handles negligence claims and works to improve risk management practices in the NHS.

When a claim of negligence is made we are responsible for acting on behalf of the NHS body involved. As a result, we are not able to offer advice to individual patients. However, we have developed this page to explain how negligence claims are handled and to outline alternatives to legal action when something goes wrong in the NHS. 

Negligence claims
Under English law, an individual may be entitled to compensation if they have been injured as a result of the negligence of another person. In order for a patient to obtain financial compensation when something goes wrong in the NHS, the following criteria must be met:
·         The doctor (or other health professional caring for the patient) must have acted in a way which fell short of acceptable professional standards. The test is whether the actions of the health professional in question could be supported by a “responsible body of clinical opinion”. It will not be enough to show that other health professionals might have done something differently if a “responsible body” of health professionals would support the action taken.
·         The harm suffered by the patient must be shown, on the balance of probabilities, to be directly linked with the failure of the health professional to meet appropriate standards. If, for example, there was a good chance that the patient would have suffered the harm even if the health professional had acted differently, then the claim is unlikely to succeed.
If you believe that these two criteria have been met and you wish to seek financial compensation you should seek legal advice. The organisation Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) can help you to consider the options that may be open to you after suffering a medical accident and can, if you wish, put you in contact with a specialist solicitor. AvMA also offers support to patients in coming to terms with the effect that a medical accident may have had on them, whether or not clinical negligence is potentially involved.
Alternative forms of redress
You may wish to pursue alternative forms of redress. The NHS complaints system gives an overview of how to complain and what your rights are.
Further information
Two of our Factsheets provide information about individual NHS trusts, Foundation Trusts and Primary Care Trusts which may be of interest to patients. Factsheet 4 sets out the latest assessment levels achieved by each NHS body against our risk management standards. Factsheet 5 shows how many claims have been made against each NHS body in recent years and the amounts paid out by the NHSLA on their behalf in each financial year.
Use of patient information by the NHS Litigation Authority
The NHSLA has a statutory duty to manage and raise the standards of risk management throughout the NHS. In order to achieve this, all NHS trusts are assessed every few years against a set of risk management standards which are based on those factors which give rise to the greatest number and cost of claims. More information about the NHSLA risk management programme is available under Improving Safety.
As part of the assessment process, the assessors will look at a small number of sets of patient notes and a selection of incident report forms. None of these documents will be removed from the premises. The aim is to ensure that these documents are created and managed in accordance with appropriate policies and procedures: for example whether they are written clearly, signed and dated, stored securely, etc. The assessors are not concerned with individual patient details.  They are all professional people who have previously worked in NHS organisations and are now employed on behalf of the NHSLA under strict principles of confidentiality.
If you wish to object to your records being made available during an NHSLA assessment, please just notify the trust.