for better mental health

Clinical negligence

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

How do I make a complaint about clinical negligence?

If you feel that you've received negligent medical treatment, there are steps that you can take to resolve the issue. The steps that you can take will depend on your circumstances and what you want to achieve.

Broadly, there are three steps you can take to address your problem. These are:

  1. Speak to someone informally. This can be a much easier and less stressful way to get your problem solved, and it is often the quickest too.
  2. Make a formal complaint. You could do this by speaking to someone or writing a letter. If you're in Wales and your complaint is about the service you received under the NHS, you can make a formal complaint under the separate Welsh complaints system.
  3. Make a legal challenge. There are specific things you should think about if you want to make a legal challenge about clinical negligence.

It's usually best to try these in this order, since it's much easier to solve something informally or through a formal complaint than by making a legal challenge. However, it's not always necessary to make a complaint before making a legal challenge.

For more information about making a complaint generally, see our pages on complaining about health and social care.

How do I make a complaint about the NHS in Wales?

You can sometimes claim compensation under the Welsh complaints system Putting Things Right, rather than making a complaint using the court process. When a complaint has been raised about a service provided by the NHS, they must consider whether you have experienced harm as a result of your treatment. If you have, they should think about offering you compensation, known as 'redress'.

Redress could include:

  • an explanation
  • a written apology
  • a report on the action which has or will be taken to prevent similar incidents arising in future
  • an offer of financial compensation and/or remedial treatment.

Where can I get support?

Making a complaint about clinical negligence can be stressful, and you might feel you need some support. For example, someone like an advocate could help you express your views, and make sure that your voice is heard.

Our page on getting support when making a complaint has more information about this.

This information was published in November 2018. We will revise it in 2021.

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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