Articles and Case Studies

Patient claims involving hospital doctors

26 Nov 2021

Janet Harry

by Ms Janet Harry

Patient claims involving hospital doctors

From time to time, doctors employed in the public hospital system are contacted by lawyers acting on behalf of the hospital. 
 

When a patient makes a claim

Patients can make a claim against a doctor or a hospital, alleging they received negligent treatment. 

‘Negligence’ is a legal term, and the patient must prove negligence on the part of the doctor or the hospital by demonstrating:

  • they were owed a duty of care
  • the duty of care was breached, and
  • the breach caused the damage or injury to the patient.

 

If the claim is against you

If you receive a letter from a lawyer asking to meet with you, prior to responding you should:

  • contact MDA National for advice
  • confirm that the lawyer is acting for the hospital
  • confirm that you’re entitled to hospital indemnity in the proceedings.

 

Once your indemnity has been confirmed, agree to liaise with the lawyer. 

Prior to the meeting, review the medical records (it’s vital not to make any changes to the records) or ask the lawyer to provide you with an advance copy of the records. 

Bring any other relevant documents, such as separate or contemporaneous notes you may have made.

At the meeting, the lawyer will obtain detailed information about your role in treating the patient. Depending on the extent of your involvement, the lawyer will prepare a draft statement for your review.

You should check that the statement is a complete and clinically accurate description of your role in the patient’s treatment. MDA National can help you by reviewing the draft statement, even in hospital-based matters. 

Once you’re satisfied with the statement, you can sign and date it and return it to the lawyers.

 

What happens next?

You may hear nothing more regarding the matter. The majority of medical negligence claims are either discontinued or settled without any hearing or trial, on a confidential basis. 

In fact, less than one in twenty medical negligence claims proceed to a hearing – and matters of this nature can take up to three years to be resolved.

 

If the claim is against the hospital

If the lawyer is acting for a patient who is suing the hospital, you should first contact MDA National or the hospital’s administration or legal team for advice. 

Generally, in this instance, the advice will be that you should not speak to the lawyer.

 

Whether it’s MDA National or your hospital requesting information, it’s important to cooperate with whoever is indemnifying you – as it’s in their best interests to protect your best interests. A request for a statement is not a reflection of your care. The purpose of your input is to help the lawyer acting on behalf of the hospital to piece together the whole story, so they can determine the best way to manage the matter.

 


Complaints and Adverse Events, Medical Records and Reports, Regulation and Legislation, Anaesthesia, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, General Practice, Intensive Care Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ophthalmology, Pathology, Psychiatry, Radiology, Sports Medicine, Surgery, Physician, Cardiology, Plastic And Reconstructive Surgery, Radiation Oncology, Paediatrics, Gastroenterology
 

Library

Career complications and contending with uncertainty

Among the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for junior doctors is how to respond to medical training impacts and career uncertainty. In this podcast, Dr Caroline Elton (a psychologist who specialises in helping doctors)and Dr Benjamin Veness (a Psychiatry registrar) share advice for coping with medical training and career delays, disruptions and unknowns.

Podcasts

10 Aug 2020