Armed forces medical negligence claims

Updated: October 8, 2018


According to Government statistics there are currently around 196,000 serving UK Forces Service personnel - including trained and untrained Regular, Full time and Reserves.

Over a 5 year period between April 2010 and March 2015 reported injury and ill health incidents to personnel (including MOD civilians) totalled 42,640 - 37% of them classified as major or serious.

Armed forces compensation claims are made in relation to a wide range of injuries and illness sustained by members of the military. In some cases it may be possible to make a clinical negligence claim if the serviceperson's injury occurred as the result of negligent medical treatment.

Surgeons in theatre
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Defence Medical Services

Medical, dental and related support services are provided to service personnel by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the National Health Service (NHS) through Ministry of Defence Hospital Units (MDHU) - military healthcare facilities, embedded within a civilian hospital or NHS hospital, under the umbrella of the Defence Medical Services (DMS)

Encompassing the entire medical, dental, nursing, allied health professionals, paramedical and support personnel, the primary role of the DMS is to promote, protect and restore the health of service personnel to ensure that they are ready and medically fit to go where they are required in the UK and throughout the world.

Working alongside civil servants and other supporting units, personnel from all 3 services - regulars and reserves - provide healthcare to service personnel in the UK, abroad, at sea; and in some circumstances family dependants of service personnel and entitled civilians.

The DMS is headed by the Surgeon General, whose responsibilities include:

  • setting the overall direction on all clinical matters relating to the practice of military medicine
  • setting and auditing the professional performance of all military medical personnel
  • setting clinical and medical policies and standards, and auditing compliance by military organisations across defence
  • providing a comprehensive healthcare system that achieves the appropriate timely healthcare to service and other entitled personnel
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Clinical negligence in the military

Medical care provided by the DMS is generally of a very high standard.

A patient may, however, receive the wrong treatment for his condition, or treatment may be delayed through misdiagnosis or a healthcare professional failing to carry out adequate tests to identify an injury. A patient's health may further deteriorate as a result, or recovery may take much longer.

If it can be demonstrated that the treatment fell below medically acceptable standards, and directly caused pain and suffering, then it may be possible to bring a claim for clinical negligence.

The right to claim exists whether the patient was treated by a medical professional employed by the MOD or by the NHS. It also applies whether the original accident happened during active operations or not.

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When to claim

It is rarely recommended that service personnel delay bringing a claim until they have been discharged from or left the forces.

Under most circumstances clinical negligence cases should be started in the Court no more than three years after the date of the accident or date that the patient became aware of their injury.

However, in addition to the civil route to making a claim, there are other options available to service personnel.

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme

If the original accident occurred after 6th April 2005, it may be possible to make a personal injury compensation claim via the no-fault Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.

Claims can be under the scheme within a 7 year time limit of the injury, although the compensation paid out is often less than would be awarded through a civil Court.

The War Pensions system

For those whose injury occurred prior to 6th April 2005 a claim may be made through the War Pension system. Eligibility to claim only comes into effect upon discharge.

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No Win, No Fee medical negligence compensation claims explained

A No Win, No Fee agreement, or CFA (Conditional Fee Agreement), is the start of a personal injury claim.

The agreement sets out the work your case handler will deliver as well as a "success fee". The "success fee" is the amount to be deducted from the compensation award once the case is successful.

Using a Quittance personal injury lawyer, you will be able to prioritise your rest and recovery, with the knowledge that there is nothing to pay if the case is unsuccessful.

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Meet our team

The nationwide network of Quittance solicitors handle all types of work accident claims, from fast track claims to long-term injuries. Our lawyers are selected on the basis of their track record in recovering compensation and their years of specialist experience.

Click here to meet more of the Quittance Legal Services team.

Kevin Walker Serious Injury Panel Solicitor
Emma Bell Employers and Public Liability Panel Solicitor
Shahida Chaudery Complex Injury Claims Panel Solicitor
Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

About the author

Howard qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and has specialised in personal injury for over 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and is a recognised Law Society Personal Injury Panel expert.

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