Medical Negligence Claims and the Bolam Test Case

By Jo Jeffries. Last Updated 18th November 2022. Welcome to this guide to the Bolam test case and medical negligence claims. In the sections below, we answer questions about compensation for medical negligence, such as ‘What is the Bolam test or Bolam principle?’ ‘What does the Bolam test establish?’ and ‘Is the Bolam test still used?’  We also look at medical negligence payouts in the UK, explaining how medical negligence compensation is calculated.

Medical Negligence And The Bolam Test

Healthcare and medical professionals have a duty of care to safeguard and protect patients. If they fail to do this and a patient suffers an injury or illness because of it, the patient may be able to make a medical negligence claim. Negligence is identified using the Bolam test case."<yoastmark1. medical negligence compensation 2. compensation for medical negligence 3. medical negligence payouts uk" The Bolam test

Clinical negligence can cause a range of issues, such as:

You should be able to trust medical professionals to provide you with safe and adequate care. When a doctor breaches their duty of care, it can be physically and emotionally damaging. Working with a medical negligence lawyer on a clinical negligence claim can help you get your life back on track.

Our team of advisers are available 24/7 to offer free legal advice and have a chat about your situation. If you have a valid claim, they can connect you to a medical negligence solicitor from our panel to discuss No Win No Fee agreements with you.

You can contact our friendly team of advisers by:

  • Calling them on 0800 073 8801 to have a chat about your case.
  • Filling out our online claims form to receive a response at your nearest convenience.
  • Chatting with an adviser through our instant live chat pop-up box for an immediate response.

Select A Section

  1. A Guide To Medical Negligence Claims And The Bolam Test Case
  2. What Duty Of Care Do Doctors Have?
  3. Statistics On Never Events In The NHS
  4. What Is The Bolam Test Case? – A Summary
  5. How Is The Bolam Test Case Applied?
  6. What Is Medical Informed Consent?
  7. Mistakes In Diagnosing Your Condition
  8. Does The Test Always Apply?
  9. Medical Negligence Compensation
  10. Compensation For Losses And Expenses
  11. Can I Make A No Win No Fee Claim?
  12. Why Make Your Claim With Our Team?
  13. Start Your Claim
  14. Essential References
  15. Frequently Asked Questions About The Bolam Test Case

A Guide To Medical Negligence Claims And The Bolam Test Case

Firstly, the guide will look at the duty of care and duty of candour that doctors have. Next, there’ll be some NHS statistics and a summary of the Bolam test case. The article will also look at how the Bolam test case is applied.

Additionally, the article will discuss possible mistakes in diagnosing your condition and whether the Bolam test case always applies. There will also be a compensation table. Next, the guide will look at special damages that may apply in a medical negligence claim.

We provide a solution for those looking for a medical negligence solicitor who works on a No Win No Fee basis. Moreover, some further guides and answers to frequently asked questions will be provided to offer more information.

What Duty Of Care Do Doctors Have? 

Medical professionals duty of care

All medical professionals have a duty of care to safeguard and protect patients as much as reasonably possible. The NHS states if a health care practitioner’s care has fallen below expected professional standards the duty of care has been breached. Known as the Bolam principle – this tests whether the practitioner’s actions were negligent.

In order to make a successful medical negligence claim, you must prove two key areas; breach of duty of care and causation. Negligence must have directly caused the injuries. The injuries must have been avoidable or not resulted in such a severe state. If there’s a high chance that you would’ve suffered the harm despite the breach of a duty of care, you’re less likely to receive compensation.

Medical professionals duty of candour?

The General Medical Council states that the Duty of Candour means medical professionals must be honest with patients about potential risks of treatment or if something has gone wrong and what the risks are. Medical professionals must:

  • Inform the patient (or their advocate/family member) if something has gone wrong
  • Give the patient (or their family member/advocate) an apology
  • Offer support and a way to solve the issue (if they can)
  • Explain the short and long-term effects in detail

Moreover, doctors must also be honest with their colleagues and not prevent other doctors from raising concerns or being dishonest about a problem that has occurred.

Statistics On Never Events In The NHS

An event that should never happen is a Never Event. Essentially, it’s a severe act of medical negligence. The table below shows the number of NHS Never Events that happened between 1st April – 31st July in 2021 by the month of the incident.

As you can see, July had the most Never Events out of the 4 months, with 38 being reported. On the other hand, the lowest number was in June, with 26.

Bolam test case

What Is The Bolam Test Case? – A Summary

The Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee [1957] WLR 582 was the landmark case that established the Bolam test. Mr Bolam was a patient at a mental health institution. He consented to electroconvulsive therapy. However, he didn’t receive muscle relaxants.

This meant that his body began to violently convulse with nothing holding him down and no medication to relax his muscles. As a result, he suffered acetabula fractures and other injuries.

Mr Bolam then sued the hospital, stating that he should’ve been told about the risks of the procedure, he should’ve been restrained and he should’ve been offered muscles relaxants.

It was argued that the medical professional wasn’t negligent as a responsible body of professionals would’ve acted in the same way, as restraining him could’ve increased the risk of more serious fractures and muscles relaxants were medically opposed. The Bolam test was then introduced.

How Is The Bolam Test Case Applied?

The Bolam test case is applied by asking a group of peers with the same medical training if a medical professional acted in a way that was responsible and acceptable.

Even if a group of medical professionals would’ve acted differently, this doesn’t mean the doctor has failed the Bolam test case. The matter of importance is that the group of responsible medical professionals believe the doctor’s behaviour was acceptable and justified.

Our team of advisers are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you have and offer free legal advice about your case. If you have a promising claim, an adviser can connect you to a medical negligence solicitor to begin working on your medical negligence claim.

What Is Medical Informed Consent?

Informed consent means that the patient consents to the procedure whilst knowing all the risks involved.

For example, in the case of Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board [2015] AC 1430, Montgomery was not made aware of all the risks involved when labouring her child.

Here the Bolam test was overruled when a judge at the appeal case overruled the decision not to award Montgomery’s child compensation. Has this set a precedent for future cases?

The field of medicine can be very complex and it may not always be clear whether the treatment you had was the right option for you. If you have any questions at all that pertains to informed consent why not give our advisers a call. They are free 7 days a week 24 hours a day.

Mistakes In Diagnosing Your Condition

A misdiagnosis of a condition can happen when it is diagnosed as a different illness or injury. A doctor making a diagnosis based on data, for example, scans, is known as a ‘pure diagnosis’. The Muller v King’s College Hospital NHS (2017) case was seen as a pure diagnosis.

The court had to decide whether the doctor had been negligent when misdiagnosing a malignant melanoma that was on examining slides that contained specimens.

There was no question that the illness should’ve been diagnosed. Therefore, Kerr J felt that this isn’t the type of case he thought the Bolam test was appropriate for when he established it.

Kerr J noted that the misdiagnosis was absolutely misconduct and unacceptable medical practice. However, the Bolam test meant that a respected body of medical professionals was to decide if it fell below acceptable practice.

Kerr J stated that he regretted having to adhere to the Bolam test in this case as it was obvious there was medical misconduct. He said he would’ve rather denied the Bolam test in this case as it wasn’t ‘Bolam-appropriate’.

Does The Test Always Apply?

The Bolam test doesn’t always apply. In the FB v Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (2017) it was argued that as the doctor was deployed and was acting in a role different from their own how could the Bolam test apply.

The doctor who had examined FB in the accident and emergency department had been deployed to this role.

The diagnosis was meningitis and brain injuries. FB survived the illnesses but is now permanently deaf, has learning difficulties and has permanent damage to her brain. It was claimed that the doctor failed to take an adequate medical history of the girl and failed to examine her properly. If this had been carried out it may have drawn the conclusion that the child would be left with no injuries.

The Bolam test did not apply because it measures the competency of professional standards within medicine, not the skill and care appropriate to the role.

Medical Negligence Compensation

You may be wondering ‘what are medical negligence payouts in the UK?’. These can vary depending on your specific circumstances. 

However, generally, medical negligence compensation settlements can consist of general damages and special damages. General damages seek to compensate for the pain and suffering you have experienced as a result of the harm sustained due to medical negligence.

Solicitors can use the Judicial College Guidelines to help them value this head of claim. The guidelines contain compensation brackets for different injuries. We have used these to create the table below. Please only use them as a guide.

Injury: Notes: Compensation:
Psychiatric Injury Moderately severe. Common cases in this bracket are stillbirths that occur as a result of negligence and cause psychiatric issues.  £19,070 to £54,830
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Severe. The individual is unable to work or function at the same level they did before the injury. Every part of their life is impacted.  £59,860 to £100,670
Leg Injuries Amputation. Loss of both legs. Both legs have been amputated above the knee or one leg has been amputated below the knee.  £240,790 to £282,010
Brain Damage Moderately Severe – Full time care needed, little response to surroundings, seriously disabled. £219,070 to £282,010
Digestive System Disabling pain, diarrhea, stomach cramps. £910 to £3,950
Facial Disfigurement Cosmetic disability but worst effects reduced by cosmetic surgery. £9,110 to £30,090

You could also receive special damages which we have explored in more detail in the section below.

For more information on the compensation for medical negligence claims that you could receive, please get in touch on the number above.

Compensation For Losses And Expenses 

Special damages offer compensation for the financial impact your injuries have had on you. However, it’s difficult to claim special damages without evidence of the financial loss. Here are some examples of financial loss you may have experienced:

  • Care costs –  So, if your injury was so severe that you needed extra care, for example, to cook and clean your house, you may have paid your own money for this. Therefore, an example of evidence you could provide to prove this is bank records.
  • Travel costs – If you had to attend follow-up appointments due to the injuries caused by medical negligence, you may have had to pay out of pocket to travel there and back. Therefore, an example of evidence you could gather for this is bus tickets or bank statements.
  • Last but not least, loss of earnings – Suffering an injury due to clinical negligence may mean you have time to take off work. Special earnings can compensate you for the loss of earnings you suffer because of this. An example of evidence you could provide for this is payslips or bank statements.

To conclude, our team of advisers would be happy to answer your queries and discuss your situation with you. If your claim is valid, they can connect you with a medical negligence solicitor to begin the claims process with you.

Can I Make A No Win No Fee Claim? 

A No Win No Fee agreement is also known as a Conditional Fee Agreement. It’s a contractual agreement between you and your medical negligence solicitor outlining the conditions your solicitor has to meet before receiving payment. It states that you don’t have to pay your solicitors success fees if your case fails.

If your case loses, you won’t have to pay the fees your solicitor gained throughout your case. If your case succeeds, your lawyer will deduct a small, legally capped percentage of your compensation. Your lawyer will discuss this with you beforehand and you will receive the majority of your compensation.

You can chat with our expert team of advisers today to find out more about No Win No Fee agreements. If your claim is legitimate, they can connect you with a medical negligence solicitor to discuss No Win No Fee agreements with you.

Why Make Your Claim With Our Team?

It’s important that you find a medical negligence lawyer who suits your needs, showing empathy as well as professionalism. You may think you have to stick to a lawyer in your area, but this isn’t always the case.

Our medical negligence team are happy to work with claimants across the country to help them get the right amount of compensation for their suffering. They’re experienced in personal injury claims and clinical negligence claims. Therefore, they know how to help claimants receive the compensation they deserve.

Start Your Claim 

Our team of advisers are available around the clock to answer any questions you may have and offer legal advice for free.

If you have a valid claim, they can connect you to a medical negligence solicitor to begin working on your claim. They can also discuss No Win No Fee agreements with you at this point.

To get in touch with our team of advisers, you can:

  • Call them on 0800 073 8801 to discuss your claim.
  • Request a call back at your earliest availability.
  • Use our live chat pop-up box to begin speaking with an adviser right now.

Essential References 

Serious Injury Claims Guide – If you’ve suffered a serious injury due to someone else’s negligence, our article looks at how you may be able to make a personal injury claim.

How Much Compensation For Criminal Injuries Can I Claim? – Have you suffered a criminal injury? Our guide explores how to make a criminal injury claim.

Care Home Staff Coronavirus PPE Related Claims Guide – If you or a loved one has suffered PPE negligence in a care home, our article discusses how you can make a compensation claim.

How Do I Know If I’ve Broken A Bone? – Do you suspect you may have suffered a broken bone injury? This NHS guide explains the symptoms of this injury.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Bolam Test Case

What is the Bolam test in medical negligence?

The Bolam test decides if negligence has occurred. It assesses whether the doctor acted within professional standards.

What is the standard of care in negligence?

The doctor must act in a way that a standard doctor would, and not in a way that a standard doctor wouldn’t.

What was the Montgomery v Lanarkshire health case?

This was a landmark case in the UK for informed consent.

What is the Bolam test?

The Bolam test, or the Bolam principle, is a legal construct formed in Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee [1957] 1 WLR 582. It’s used to determine whether the medical professional provided their patient with the correct standard of care.

When was the Bolam test established?

The Bolam test was established in a case in 1957 involving a man who suffered fractures while being given Electro Convulsive Therapy. The case failed, but established the Bolam test as a measure of whether a medical professional had breached their duty of care towards a patients.

Is the Bolam test still used?

The Bolam test, the Bolam principle is still used in medical negligence cases. It has not at the time of posting been superceded by other tests. As well as proving a breach of a medical professional’s duty of care, a claimant would also need to prove they’d suffered avoidable or additional harm because of it.

What does the Bolam test establish?

The Bolam test establishes whether a medical professional accused of negligence has breached their duty of care towards a patient.

Can I claim for psychological injuries as well as physical injuries?

If you suffer psychological injuries due to medical negligence, you could include these within your claim. Some people could suffer PTSD if something has gone wrong with their medical care.

Others might suffer anxiety, depression or mental trauma. Please talk to our team about your potential claim. We could assess what you could claim.

Thank you for reading this guide about the Bolam test case.