Medical Malpractice Cases: Common Claims

Between 2019 and 2020, the NHS handled 15,550 medical malpractice claims, paying out over £8bn in compensation.

Common Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical malpractice cases are on the rise in the UK. Some of the most common claims doctors, nurses, dentists and other practitioners are facing claims are:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Prescription and medication mistakes
  • Surgical mistakes

In this post we’ll take a look at these most common medical malpractice claims in the UK.

Medical malpractice claims are rising in the UK

Misdiagnosis Claims

What is misdiagnosis?
A misdiagnosis is where a doctor fails to correctly diagnose a condition. They might completely overlook a condition, or they might mistake one condition for another. So the patient will either get the wrong treatment, or they’ll get no treatment at all. And any treatment they do get could prove ineffective at best, or actively harmful at worst.

According to one study, one in six NHS patients receive the wrong diagnosis. But not all misdiagnoses count as medical malpractice.

When are medical malpractice claims successful?
For a medical malpractice claim to be successful, the claimant must prove that the doctor was in some way negligent. For this, they’d have to prove that the majority of healthcare professionals with the same speciality would have correctly diagnosed the position. Though cases of misdiagnosis that resulted in further illness or injury are also likely to be successful.

You can read our full guide to misdiagnosis and medical malpractice.

Prescription and Medication Mistakes

What counts as a medication mistake?
A doctor might prescribe the wrong medication, or a pharmacist might choose the wrong medication when dispensing. Or, the doctor might recommend an unsuitable dosage – it could be too high or too low – or they might advise an incorrect treatment period.

In rare cases, a doctor might prescribe two medications that should not be taken together. And in even rarer cases, they might prescribe a medication to which the patient has known allergies.

When are medication mistake claims successful?
In each of these situations, it should be easy to demonstrate who’s at fault. And similar to misdiagnosis claims, if the mistake lead to further illness or injury, the case is likely to rule in the claimant’s favour.

Surgical Mistakes

The NHS classes surgical mistakes as “Never Events”. These are serious incidents that are “wholly preventable because guidance or safety recommendations… should have been implemented by all healthcare providers.”

What is a surgical mistake?
The NHS outlines the surgical mistakes that they class as “Never Events”. They include:

  • Wrong site surgery – Invasive procedures performed on the wrong patient, or on the wrong part of the body.
  • Wrong implants and prosthesis – When doctors place implants or prothesis that differ from the procedural plan.
  • Retained foreign object post procedure – Where surgeons accidentally leave surgical equipment in the patient following a procedure.

When are surgical mistake claims successful?

While “never events” are defined as wholly preventable, the NHS outlines exceptions to each of these. For example, they do not consider a dentist removing the wrong teeth as a “never event”. You can learn more about the exceptions.

This does not necessarily mean that a medical malpractice claim concerning a surgical mistake that’s not a “never event” won’t be successful. The claimant may still be able to make a medical malpractice claim on the basis of medical negligence.

Protect Yourself Against Medical Malpractice Claims

The NHS is facing more medical malpractice claims than ever before. That’s why it’s essential that all healthcare professionals get medical malpractice insurance. This can cover you for claims involving misdiagnosis, surgical mistakes, prescription errors, and many other allegations of medical negligence.

Your employer will likely already have a group medical malpractice insurance policy. However, this policy might not give you total cover. For example, it may only cover you for claims that arise while you’re working for your current employer.

Often, patients don’t notice any negative effects until long after their procedure. By the time they make a claim against you, you might have changed employers. And if you’re no longer covered by your employer’s group policy, then you’ll be personally liable to cover all costs.

So for total protection, consider getting your own personal medical malpractice insurance policy, to cover any areas that your employer’s policy might overlook.

If you have any questions, or you’d like to discuss your options, you can contact the Tapoly team at You can also call our helpline on +44(0)207 846 0108, or you can use our website chat function.