At some point during your medical treatment, you may choose to use a private hospital. In fact, private medical treatment is on the rise. Some patients choose to pay for treatment because they believe they’ll get a quicker and better service while others are referred to private hospitals for NHS-funded treatment to reduce waiting times at public hospitals.
People tend to expect more from private hospitals – you’re paying for a better service, after all – but errors do occur, and patients may be harmed in the course of their care. But, when the standard of care falls below what a patient is entitled to, you may be left wondering if you can sue for medical negligence at a private hospital.
The answer is yes, but it can be a little more complicated than bringing a claim against an NHS hospital. We take you through some of the key differences, as well the processes involved in bringing a medical negligence claim against a private hospital. We’ll also cover how to make a complaint about the service or treatment you – or your loved one – received at a private hospital.
What is private hospital negligence?
Private hospital negligence is medical negligence that occurs in a private hospital setting. That is, a hospital that isn’t funded or run by the state. As with NHS hospitals, you can bring a claim for medical negligence against a private hospital for a number of reasons including delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis, procedural or surgical mistakes, incorrect treatment and birth injuries.
To be eligible for compensation in a case of medical negligence, you need to be able to prove two things:
1. That the care you received fell below medically acceptable standards.
Healthcare professionals have a duty of care towards their patients and an obligation to ensure their safety and wellbeing. According to the law, if the care you receive falls below the standard expected of a ‘reasonably competent and skilful professional’, this qualifies as a ‘breach of duty’ and may be cause for a negligence claim.
2. That this negligence directly caused injury to you or caused an existing condition to get worse.
You’ll need to prove that it was the negligent care that caused you harm, rather than an underlying condition. Proving this can be tricky, particularly if you were already ill prior to the treatment.
We can advise you on whether you have enough evidence to prove these two points and, if necessary, help you obtain a report from an independent medical expert.
What are the differences between private and NHS hospital negligence claims?
There are some key differences between hospital negligence claims against private hospitals and those against NHS hospitals.
The first is that, when it comes to private hospital negligence claims, it can be tricky to determine the individual or organisation you’re bringing the claim against. This is difficult for several reasons:
- There can be many organisations and individuals involved, and it may be unclear who actually owns the hospital you were treated in.
- The healthcare workers you interacted with may not be employees of the hospital. If they weren’t, they will be covered by their own insurance company or professional body, and your claim will need to be directed at them, rather than the hospital you were treated in.
- Even if you were getting treatment under the NHS, the treatment itself may have been provided by a private hospital.
When getting treatment at a private hospital you will usually enter into a contract with them, where you are the customer and there is an expected outcome. If this outcome isn’t met, you may be able to claim based on the terms of the contract.
That said, informed consent can be more of an issue in private hospital claims. If a procedure is being ‘sold’ to you, the risks and side effects may have been glossed over in order to make the sale. If you’re not fully aware of all the possible outcomes and risks, then you may not have given informed consent to the procedure.
Making a claim against a private hospital
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of negligent treatment in a private hospital, we can help. You can bring a compensation claim to cover any financial losses or costs you’ve incurred, including those related to any pain or suffering you have endured. The amount of compensation you’re awarded will depend on the extent of your injury and the amount of financial losses or costs incurred.
With all medical negligence claims, you have to start your claim in court within three years of your ‘date of knowledge’. This is the date when you first learned of the possibility of negligence, which may be immediately after the negligent treatment, or months or even years later. It’s best to get expert advice as soon as possible after this date as medical negligence cases can be complex and take a long time to investigate.
You can also claim on behalf of someone if:
- they’re under the age of 18
- they don’t have the capacity to bring the claim themselves
- they have passed away as a result of the negligence
Most hospital negligence cases are funded on a no win, no fee basis, meaning there’s no financial risk to you if your claim is unsuccessful. We understand that the decision to bring a claim against a hospital is not an easy one, especially if you’re still being treated there. You can contact us for a no-obligation conversation to help you get started.
Making a complaint against a private hospital
If you feel you received sub-standard care at a private hospital you may also want to make a formal complaint. You can complain directly to the hospital as most should have their own complaints procedure.
Some private healthcare providers, including some NHS Trust Private Patient Units (that is, private units within NHS hospitals), are represented by the Independent Sector Complaints Adjudication Service (ISCAS). They have a Complaints Code of Practice which includes a service to help sort out disputes.
You can also make a complaint to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), an independent body who inspect and regulate both NHS and private health and adult social care in England.