Medication error compensation claims

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Paul Carvis

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A guide to making a No Win No Fee medication error claim

Errors in the prescribing, preparing, dispensing and administering of medicine occur relatively frequently and are estimated to cost the NHS around £2.5 billion a year.

That figure includes the cost of managing adverse health outcomes for patients who have received the wrong drugs, as well as the litigation costs associated with a drug-related error.

People who are resident in hospitals and care homes are particularly at risk. In-patients depend on staff to administer the correct drugs, in the right dosage, at the right time. 

Any hospital, nursing home or care home resident who has suffered injury as a result of a medication error may be eligible to make a medical negligence claim. Depending on the circumstances, the claim would be brought against the private hospital, care home or the relevant NHS Trust.

What is considered to be a "medication error"?

The National Patient Safety Agency defines a medication error as any error in made in the prescribing, dispensing, preparing, administering, monitoring or providing medicine advice, regardless of whether any harm occurred.

Examples of medication error can include the following:

  • Being prescribed the wrong drugs
  • Receiving a too-high dosage
  • Receiving the wrong strength of drug
  • Time errors, where drugs are given earlier or later than planned
  • Administering medication to a patient who has an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the medication
  • Administering unauthorised medication
  • Combining medications that should not be taken together, such that one medicine contraindicates the other

Best practice following medication errors

Hospitals and care homes are expected to have a robust medication policy in place to deal with the administering of medicine and the reporting of errors and near misses.

Procedures should give staff clear guidance on how to rectify the immediate situation and what must be done to prevent a medication error happening again.

Following appropriate procedures may result in the avoidance of serious medical consequences, or reduce the impact of adverse events on a patients long-term health. If, however, the patient has suffered some harm, whether physical or psychological, as a result of the error it is likely that a claim can still be made.

Making a claim for medication error

To make a successful claim, the injury lawyer must prove:

  • That medical staff were negligent in prescribing or dispensing the medication; and
  • That injury or illness occurred as a result.

Negligence usually is established where the standard of care delivered by the health care team was below that of a reasonably competent medical professional in that specific area of medicine. Arguments can be reasonably complex and usually turn on expert medical reports as well as the "best practice" system the health care facility has in place.

The second test is known as causation. It is not possible to claim compensation just because something went wrong - the Claimant must demonstrate that the error has caused significant injury. A supporting independent medical opinion is usually necessary for the case to succeed.

How does No Win, No Fee work with medication error claims?

No Win, No Fee agreements, also known as CFAs or "Conditional Fee Agreements", are the basis of a personal injury claim.

A CFA lays out the contract or "terms and conditions" between you and your lawyer.

It explains the service executed by the solicitor, and importantly, a percentage success fee that will be taken from your compensation award once your lawyer wins the case.

You can focus on your rest and recovery, with the knowledge that that you will never be out of pocket. You have no hidden fees when choosing a a Quittance personal injury solicitor.

What should you do next?

Making the right decision for you depends on getting the right information. Get your questions answered before you choose a lawyer.

If you would like to know more before calling, try our FAQ pages.

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Alternatively you can start your claim online or phone 0800 612 7456.