Introduction to clinical negligence

A guide to help members facing allegations of negligence relating to their clinical practice.

Support when you need it

Please remember that the MDU is at your service throughout what may be a disruptive and distressing process. The team handling your case will include a doctor, a case handler and sometimes a solicitor. You are always welcome to telephone or write to any member of your team. You can also call our 24-hour advisory helpline on 0800 716 646 for help at any time.

Anticipating the unexpected

Remember, too, that you can contact the MDU about incidents which might give rise to a complaint or claim. We can help you to write an account of your own role at the time of the event. This can be an invaluable investment if a complaint or claim is made at a later stage. So if a problem occurs, please tell us about it. 

Opportunities for resolution

Although the MDU continues to receive a steady stream of claims for clinical negligence, this does not reflect changing standards of clinical practice, which remain very high. Rather, it reflects an increase in patients' expectations and their tendency to resort to litigation in the UK.

Do remember that many claims notified to the MDU do not go beyond initial disclosure of medical records. Only two per cent of all claims get as far as a court hearing.

The legal process is now much more flexible than it used to be, thanks to recent reforms. The system is quicker and it is designed to prevent claims without merit going forward to court, so confrontation may be minimised. This is good news for doctors and patients.

However, since time is of the essence, it is more important than ever that you respond promptly and appropriately to correspondence about a claim. We need you to help us to help you. Find out more about the background to litigation and notification of a claim

Legal terms are defined in the glossary.

This guidance was correct at publication . It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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