Medical Negligence

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Should Doctors be Responsible for their Actions during the Coronavirus Covid-19 Lockdown?

View profile for Malcolm Underhill
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The nation’s efforts are directed towards supporting professionals in the NHS, to enable them to treat patients diagnosed with Covid 19. To maximise our prospects of coping with the spread of the coronavirus, retired health workers and those training to join the ranks of healthcare workers, have been called upon to support NHS workers as they work at full stretch to treat and care for thousands of coronavirus patients.

With this added burden and the risk that some health workers will be working outside their area of expertise, there have been calls for doctors and nurses to be spared the stress and anxiety of legal action. There is a call for doctors to be given immunity from legal action, should they make an error, mistake or be negligent.

What is medical negligence

In most cases, even during the coronavirus emergency, most patients are likely to receive a good standard of treatment and care. Unfortunately, on some occasions, there will be an adverse outcome, whether the client is being treated for Covid 19 or in hospital for other treatment. Although there may be an adverse outcome, that does not automatically lead to a claim for compensation.

Claims for compensation can only succeed where the health professional has been negligent; where the treatment or care delivered has been below a reasonable standard. That standard is determined by independent experts.

The test, as the standard of care, is that of an ordinary skilled woman or man using their particular skill. They are expected to use the ordinary skill of an ordinary competent person in the particular area of medicine that they are practising. Therefore, a health professional will not be open to a medical negligence compensation claim if they have acted in accordance with a practice which is accepted as proper by a reasonable body of medical opinion. Consequently, an error or mistake will not automatically mean that the health professional has been negligent.

Argument for immunity from compensation claims

The argument put forward by the Medical Defence Union, which represents and provides insurance cover for doctors, argues that doctors should be spared the stress and anxiety of legal actions, as in a number of states in America. In some American states doctors are immune from clinical negligence compensation claims provided their actions have been undertaken in good faith.

Argument against immunity from compensation claims

As explained, every error or mistake will not lead to a claim for compensation against a doctor or other health professional. Provided they work within accepted guidelines and practice, they will not be exposed to a compensation claim.

The threshold for a patient to overcome, in order to succeed in a medical negligence compensation claim, is high. The burden is upon the patient to prove that there has been negligence; not for the doctor or nurse to disprove it. Consequently, there are safeguards in place.

In any event it is morally wrong to deny a patient or their family their entitlement to justice, an apology, explanation and compensation for the injury and loss that may arise out of medical negligence.

To grant immunity to the healthcare service at this time, in respect of all care and hospital services, would be unjust. It could be the beginning of a path towards providing the healthcare service with complete immunity for their actions. That is not acceptable in a democratic society. Individuals are entitled to remedies where they have suffered loss. Whilst there may be concern at the cost of medical negligence claims, to the NHS, the way to avoid those costs is for the government to properly fund the NHS, so that they have the necessary numbers of healthcare workers (doctors, nurses and others), as well as equipment (including PPE), to ensure the high standards of care and treatment for all patients treated by the NHS.

Contact our medical negligence injury lawyers

If you or someone you know has suffered with life changing injuries suffered by negligent treatment, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact IBB Claims’ No Win – No Fee lawyers for a free initial consultation. We understand all patients come with their own unique circumstances;  we understand no one case is the same. We can make this as straightforward as possible to achieve a fair outcome. Please contact us today by calling 0333 123 9099 or email

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