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Clinical negligence

Explains what clinical negligence is, how to make a complaint about clinical negligence and where to find more information and support.

What is clinical negligence?

If you've been injured because of negligent medical treatment, this is called clinical negligence, and you may be able to get compensation for it.

Examples of clinical negligence include:

  • If you're diagnosed incorrectly, or there's a delay in diagnosing you.
  • If you're put on medication for an inappropriately long amount of time.
  • If a doctor fails to consider physical causes for your psychiatric symptoms.
  • If a doctor fails to prevent someone from dying by suicide, even though there was a known risk of this happening.

If you're a carer or family member, you might also be able to make a legal claim on behalf of someone who has experienced clinical negligence.

How can I prove clinical negligence?

To prove negligence, you need to show that:

  1. The healthcare professional owed a duty to take care of you and not cause injury.
  2. The healthcare professional failed in their duty to take care. In other words, there was a breach of that duty.
  3. Their failure to take care has caused harm to you.
  4. Their failure to take care was the main reason to cause you harm; and
  5. Damage or other losses have resulted from that harm. Damage includes physical injury, psychiatric injury like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as financial loss, for example future earnings.


Josh was transferred from his child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) psychiatrist to an adult psychiatrist in the community. He told his new psychiatrist that he was suicidal and it was agreed that he would be given a treatment plan. However, the psychiatrist sent Josh a letter saying he was being discharged from the service without a treatment plan.

Because of this, Josh tried to take his own life. He was then detained under the Mental Health Act and had to delay his plans to study.

In this case, it was found that the psychiatrist's failure to take care of Josh was clinical negligence.

What if I'm detained under the Mental Health Act?

If you're detained under the Mental Health Act (or 'sectioned'), it can be more difficult to prove clinical negligence because the law allows you to be given treatment without consent. See our page on consenting to treatment for more information.

See our pages on sectioning for more information about being detained under the Mental Health Act.

This information was published in November 2018. 

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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