Time Limits For Suing The NHS – How Much Time Do I Have?


NHS medical negligence claims time limits guideBy Lewis Morrison. Last updated 13th January 2023. Welcome to our guide on time limits for suing the NHS. In this guide, we break down the typical “suing the NHS” time limit for all compensation claims. When wondering how long do you have to sue for medical negligence, it comes down to the NHS negligence claims time limit.

Now, the NHS usually provides a very good level of service, and patients are often happy with the outcome of their treatment. However, on some occasions, things do go wrong. In these situations, it might be possible to sue the NHS if you’ve suffered as a result of medical negligence.

In this guide, we’ll look at when you could be eligible to seek compensation and, importantly, the time limits for suing the NHS. Whether you’re claiming for injuries that you’ve suffered, or if you’re representing somebody else (such as a child) who’s unable to claim on their own, you should find this guide helpful.

Medical Negligence Assist believes that anybody who’s suffered due to negligence by a medical professional should be able to claim compensation without worrying about the costs involved. That’s why we provide free legal advice on claiming and a no-obligation assessment of any case. Furthermore, if your claim is strong enough, we could introduce you to one of our panel of specialist medical negligence solicitors who’ll work on a No Win No Fee basis. But you must still comply with the NHS negligence claims time limit.

To operate within the time limits for suing the NHS to begin your claim, please call an advisor on 0800 652 3087 today. Alternatively, please continue reading to find out more about the time limit to claim for medical negligence.

Jump To A Section

A Guide On Time Limits When Suing The NHS

If you suffer because an NHS medical professional makes a mistake, you could be eligible to claim compensation. A claim could be made for mistakes by GPs, surgeons, nurses, dentists, anaesthetists, midwives and paediatricians. In this guide, we’ll look at the time limits for suing the NHS and the types of scenarios that could lead to a claim.

It’s important to understand your rights about claiming for medical negligence, and it’s also very important to claim in time. That’s because all claims have a limitation period after which the claim could be statute-barred, and you wouldn’t be able to seek compensation. The general “suing the NHS” time limit for medical negligence is 3 years from the date avoidable harm was inflicted or a subsequent illness was diagnosed (not necessarily the date the negligence occurred). However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Therefore, we’ll look at when you might be allowed longer to make your claim.

While the NHS has a complaints procedure, we would always advise that you seek legal advice about your claim as soon as possible. That’s because some claims can be tricky to prove and require complex medical evidence. Gathering that evidence can take time, so the earlier you engage with a medical negligence solicitor, the more time they’ll have to prepare your case properly. Our panel of specialist solicitors has a good understanding of legislation that can be used to sue the NHS and have access to medical experts who could be called upon to provide evidence in your case.

When you’ve completed this guide, please call us if you’d like to begin a claim. Our advisors could also help if you’re unsure whether to claim or have any further unanswered questions. Remember, our advice is free, and there’s no obligation to make a claim within the NHS negligence claims time limit. So, you have nothing to lose by calling Medical Negligence Assist today.

Suing A Hospital – What’s The Process?

When suing a hospital, there are a number of key steps that you can take to begin a claim. Below, we have compiled a short list. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive. There are other steps you may need to take, depending on your claim.

  • Report the instance of negligence – No matter where you are treated, there will be a senior figure to whom you can make a report. Tell them what occurred and how your health was affected. Any correspondence between you could act as evidence.
  • Gather evidence – You’ll need to be able to support your claim. For instance, your medical records will contain vital information pertaining to your treatment. You will also require an independent medical assessment to log the extent of your injuries.
  • Consider hiring legal assistance – Whether you are claiming for a physical injury or suing for emotional distress in the UK, hiring a lawyer could help you.

To find out more about how much you can sue for emotional distress in the UK, as well as physical injuries, get in touch with our advisors today.

What Are Claims Against The NHS?

Before considering the time limits for suing the NHS, let’s talk about how to claim. So, claiming compensation against the NHS is possible in several ways. You might claim against a pharmacy, GP practice, hospital, NHS foundation trust or a clinical commissioning group. You don’t need to worry too much about which party to claim against, though, as the specialist solicitors on our panel will guide you through the process and explain everything as the case progresses.

As part of the claims process, your solicitor might advise you to raise a complaint against the NHS using their complaints procedure. This isn’t always the case, but any response could identify what went wrong and who was to blame and could be used to help prove liability. And we can advise on how long do you have to sue for medical negligence.

Breaches Of The NHS Duty Of Care

One of the things that must be proven in a medical negligence claim is that a breach of duty occurred. This means that the medical professional has provided substandard treatment that led to their patient suffering.

Legally, the Bolam principle is used to test whether a ‘responsible body of clinical opinion’ could support the medical professional’s actions who are accused of negligence. You should read this prior to the NHS negligence claims time limit expiring to avoid any disruption.

The principle doesn’t look at what the defendant could have done, but what they should have done, i.e. does the panel of medical professionals agree with what the defendant did, or would they suggest something else should’ve happened. You need to gather this information before the time limits for suing the NHS expiring.

Causation In NHS Compensation Claims

As well as understanding the “suing the NHS” time limit, another element of proving a medical negligence claim is causation. This means that you need to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the suffering you are claiming for and not something else.

For instance, if a GP failed to refer you to a specialist because they misdiagnosed your condition, you’d need to prove that any suffering was a direct result of the delay in being treated. If it can be shown that you’d have suffered the same symptoms even if you had been referred on time, you’d be unlikely to have valid grounds to claim compensation.

So, to summarise, to make a successful medical negligence claim, you’d need to show that a medical professional owed you a duty of care which they broke (breach of duty), which caused you to suffer, and the suffering, on the balance of probabilities, was caused directly by the breach of duty (causation).

While a defendant might admit breach of duty, they could argue over the level of causation. That’s why we advise having a specialist medical negligence solicitor on your side. They’ll have the required understanding of relevant legislation. They could use expert medical witnesses to counter any arguments by the defendant, all to try and ensure you receive the correct level of compensation for your suffering.

If you’d like to discuss whether you could be eligible to claim against the NHS, please get in touch with an advisor today.

Who Could I Claim For NHS Medical Negligence From?

We briefly looked at who compensation could be sought from earlier, but we’ll provide more details in this section. In some cases, the medical professional could be sued. In others, the claim could be against the organisation that employs them. In certain circumstances, a claim could be made against multiple parties. If you are supported by one of the medical negligence solicitors on our panel, they’ll assess your claim and help determine who is liable for your injuries and who the claim should be directed at.

Here are some of the different entities who could be sued in a medical negligence claim:

  • A GP or medical practice.
  • Dentists or dental nurses.
  • Hospitals, including community hospitals.
  • NHS trusts.
  • Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

Generally, the time limits for suing the NHS won’t be affected by which organisation your claim is against. The process for making a claim might differ, though, but your solicitor should handle everything for you. Don’t worry if you can’t see the organisation you want to claim against listed. This is just a sample. Get in touch with one of our specialist advisors within the NHS negligence claims time limit. And they’ll assess your claim and let you know who the claim could be made against. And they will also explain the “suing the NHS” time limit in greater detail.

Reasons To Sue The NHS

As we’ve already explained, you need to prove that you suffered due to a negligent act by a medical professional to be able to claim compensation against them. This could happen in several different ways and different medical environments. The list below contains some examples of when claiming compensation might be possible:

  • If you suffer because a medical professional failed to identify a condition, such as cancer, you could be entitled to claim. This could be because the condition became worse due to a lack of treatment or, in some cases, became inoperable.
  • It is also possible that you could be entitled to compensation for avoidable injuries to the mother or baby during childbirth.
  • Anaesthetic mistakes. When you undergo treatment, it might be possible to claim if you suffer pain due to an anaesthetic error.
  • Surgical errors. Avoidable injuries sustained during surgery could entitle you to compensation. You could also claim if you suffer due to faulty medical clips or ineffective suturing. Finally, it might be possible to claim if surgical items are left inside your body following your operation.
  • Hospital superbugs. You might be able to claim if you’re made ill during a hospital stay because of superbugs like MRSA. These can lead to serious conditions like sepsis or pneumonia.
  • Prescription errors. Being given the wrong medication can cause serious side effects and sometimes lead to allergic reactions. In other cases, your underlying condition could become worse because you’re not receiving the medication prescribed.

Whatever type of negligence has caused you to suffer, whether listed here or not, we could help you begin a claim. Our advice is free, and our team will assess your claim on a no-obligation basis. Please call to discuss what happened, and we’ll let you know whether you could begin a compensation claim against the NHS. That way, we can answer, “how long do you have to sue for medical negligence”.

Emotional Distress Claim UK – Can I Claim For Psychological Harm?

If you are suing a hospital after suffering from medical negligence, you might wonder if you can claim for any psychological harm. For example, you might experience anxiety and distress following a misdiagnosis of cancer. Additionally, after an operation has gone wrong, you may suffer symptoms from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If you could prove that it was a breach of duty of care that caused you psychological harm, you could potentially claim for this. It could also be factored into a claim for a physical injury.

We’ll discuss compensation amounts for mental health injuries in the next section. However, please note that the figures we feature in our compensation table only apply to claims in England and Wales. If you wish to know the value of an emotional distress claim in the UK, we would recommend speaking to our advisors for more information.

Time Limits For Suing The NHS

Now we come to the crux of this guide: the medical negligence time limit for suing the NHS. As with other types of claim, there is a limitation period, set in law, for the claim to be made. Failure to lodge the claim within this time limit could mean that it becomes statute-barred, and no compensation will be paid.

In general, the time limit for claiming is 3-years from the date of diagnosis of avoidable suffering (the same as the personal injury claims time limit). However, there are exceptions to this rule which we’ll demonstrate in the table below and the following sections.

Type Of ClaimTime Limit
Medical negligence claim.3-years from date of the negligent act or the subsequent diagnosis of an illness.
Child's medical neglience claimAny time before they turn 18 or 3-years from their 18th birthday.
Claim on behalf of patient with dimished mental capacity.3-years from the date of their recovery or at any point if somebody else claims on their behalf while they're still suffering.

Regardless of the type of claim, our advice would be to contact a specialist as soon as possible within the NHS negligence claims time limit. Even though 3-years can seem like a long time, your solicitor will have several tasks they’ll need to complete before submitting a claim. When complex medical evidence is required, this can take some time to obtain, so the sooner you begin your claim, the better.

Time Limits For Children To Sue The NHS

In law, children are not allowed to represent themselves in legal matters. That doesn’t mean a claim can’t be made for medical negligence, though. A parent or responsible adult could act as their ‘litigation friend’ and represent them to make a claim. In this scenario, the claim can be made at any point before the child turns 18. If that doesn’t happen, they have 3 years from their 18th birthday to make their own claim when the claimant becomes an adult. In effect, then, adulthood is when their “suing the NHS” time limit begins.

Time Limits For Those With Diminished Capacity To Sue The NHS

It might not be possible for some patients to claim because their injuries have left them with a diminished mental capacity to do so. In these cases, the patient’s 3-year time limit would begin from the date they fully recover and can begin a claim themselves. However, if their prognosis suggests they won’t be able to manage the claim themselves, then somebody else could claim on their behalf at any point while the patient is still suffering the effects of the medical negligence.

What Could I Claim? Calculating Compensation When Suing The NHS

After answering questions about time limits for suing the NHS, we often hear, “can you get compensation from the NHS?”, And then the next question is often about what you can claim for. So long as you claim within the time limits, the first part of your claim is for general damages. This is compensation designed to cover any pain, suffering or loss of amenity caused by your injuries.

To demonstrate what type of compensation you could be paid as general damages, we’ve included the table below. This is instead of a personal injury claims calculator, which can sometimes be cumbersome and difficult to use. The figures you can see have been taken from a legal publication known as the Judicial College Guidelines, used to value claims.

Type Of InjuryCompensation Further Details
BowelsUp to £150,110Dependant on age, this category covers injuries which result in loss of function and reliance on colostomy.
Severe Psychiatric Damage Generally£54,830 to £115,730Your ability to cope with life and work influences the award within this bracket.
Severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
£59,860 to £100,670You may find all aspects of your life detrimentally affected.
Bladder£63,980 to £79,930Injuries that result in impairment of control, some pain and incontinence.
Back£38,780 to £69,730Injuries such as disc lesions or vertabrae damage which lead to chronic conditions causing pain, discomfort and depression.
KidneyUp to £63,980Injuries that cause a significant risk of urinary tract infection or loss of function.
Spleen£20,800 to £26,290The loss of the spleen and a risk of internal infection due to the damage to the immune system.
Mental Anguish£4,670You may fear impending death.

The next part of your claim is known as special damages. This is paid to try and compensate you for any financial losses caused by your injuries. There are many different elements of a special damages claim, including:

  • Travel Costs.
    You may need to visit a GP, hospital or pharmacy on multiple occasions while recovering from your injuries. Therefore, you could include fuel, parking or other travel-related costs in your claim.
  • Medical Expenses.
    The cost of paying for prescriptions or other medication can soon build up, so you could ask for these costs to be paid back.
  • Care Costs.
    In some cases, you may need to be cared for while recovering from your injuries or illness. If that’s the case, you could ask for any associated costs, such as a professional carer’s fees, to be paid for as part of your claim.
  • Lost Earnings.
    Should your injuries mean you lose income because you have to take time off from work to recover, you could claim the lost earnings back. If you suffer long-term injuries that affect your ability to work, you could ask for future lost income.
  • Home Adaptations.
    If the claimant is left with a disability (permanent or temporary), a solicitor could ask for the cost of modifying their home to be paid for to make it possible for them to live an independent life.

Claims for special damages need evidence to support them. Therefore, you should try and retain receipts, bank statements and wage slips that prove your losses. It’s best to do this as early within the NHS negligence claims time limit as possible. If you’re in any doubt whether you can claim an expense back, please get in touch with your solicitor for advice before committing to it.

No Win No Fee NHS Negligence Compensation Claims

Along with wondering how long do you have to sue for medical negligence, you may wonder about terms and conditions. We know that when clients ask us how to sue the NHS and the “suing the NHS” time limits, they’ll often be worried about the costs involved. Therefore, our panel of specialist solicitors works on a No Win No Fee basis for any claims they handle. This reduces the financial risks for claimants and gives them the confidence to pursue the compensation they could be entitled to.

The first step of the claims process is where the solicitor will review your case with you. If they believe they could win the claim for you, they’ll provide you with a No Win No Fee agreement, which is sometimes called a conditional fee agreement (CFA).

In the CFA, you’ll find important information confirming that:

  • You don’t need to pay any upfront fees to begin the claim.
  • There are no fees to pay during the claim.
  • You won’t need to pay the solicitor’s fees if the case is unsuccessful.

Also, the CFA will explain that when a claim is won on your behalf, the solicitor might ask for a small contribution towards their costs, known as a success fee. This is a percentage of your compensation that’s deducted at the end of the claim. You don’t need to worry about this too much, though, as it’s legally capped, and you’ll know the exact percentage you’ll pay when you sign the CFA.

To find out if one of our panel of specialist solicitors could work for you on a No Win No Fee basis, please speak with a member of our team today.

Contact Us

If you have suffered medical negligence, you may be curious as to how to sue the NHS. Our advisors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer your questions and offer free legal advice. They could assess your claim against the NHS in a free consultation. If you have a valid claim, they could put you in touch with a medical negligence solicitor from our panel.

To find out if you can sue the NHS for negligence, get in touch is the following:

  • Pop up using our free online chat service
  • Call our advisors at any time on 0800 652 3087
  • Complete a claim online form and we’ll be in touch with you

Helpful Links

Thanks for reading our guide about the time limits for suing the NHS. Hopefully, you’ve found the information helpful and now understand whether you’re able to claim or not and what the NHS negligence claims time limit is. In this final section, we’ve provided links to some more of our guides, as well as information from some relevant external sources. Please feel free to ask an advisor if there’s any more information you require.

NHS Resolution – The NHS body that deals with compensation claims on behalf of NHS trusts, clinical commissioning groups and other medical providers.

Complaining About The NHS – This page explains the process the NHS uses to handle complaints, including information on the limitation period for medical negligence claims.

NHS Service Finder – This tool is useful if you need to look up the address of an NHS service so that you can request medical records or raise a complaint.

Misdiagnosis Claims – Information on when you could use a medical negligence solicitor from our panel to sue because you’ve suffered due to a misdiagnosis.

NHS Negligence Claims – Rather than concentrating on the time limit for medical negligence claims, this guide looks at the scenarios that could lead to a claim.

GP Negligence Claims – A guide explains when a medical negligence claim could be made against a GP whose negligence has caused you to suffer.

Written by Brett

Edited by Ed

Time Limits For Suing The NHS FAQs

Can I sue the NHS within 10 years of the introduction of any defective medical equipment?

Yes, you can. But once the product is more than 10 years into circulation, then this cannot happen.

How long does it take for a medical negligence claim to reach a conclusion?

There is no limit on this, though most lawsuits reach an out-of-court settlement within 12-18 months.

Do the NHS settle out of court?

Often they do, assuming that the evidence is overwhelmingly in your favour.

What are the stages of a medical negligence claim?

So firstly, there’s an investigation, a medical assessment, a consultation with a solicitor, initial negotiations and the issuing of court proceedings. Now, if successful, this leads to either the negotiating of an out-of-court settlement or court proceedings resulting in you receiving compensation.

Thank you for reading our guide about time limits for suing the NHS. We hope you now have a strong understanding about the “suing the NHS” time limits. But please get in touch if you want to know more about the NHS negligence claims time limit.