In cases of suspected medical negligence, action can be taken either as a complaint against the NHS as a whole, or a complaint against an individual member of staff, with the aim being to try and secure compensation.
The NHS Litigation Authority handles negligence claims made against the NHS and works towards improving risk management practices in the organisation. It acts for the NHS body involved in a case and therefore doesn't give advice to individual patients. The law is that a person may receive compensation if they have been injured as a result of the negligence of another person. The doctor or other health professional must have acted in a way that fell short of professional standards and it has to be asked whether their actions could be supported by a "responsible body of clinical opinion".
The law goes on to say that the harm that is suffered by the patient concerned must be shown, on the balance of probabilities, to be directly linked to the failure of the health professional to meet appropriate standards. If there was a chance that the patient would have suffered the harm anyway, whatever the actions of the health professional, then the claim probably won't succeed.
The NHS Redress Act 2006 established a redress scheme to cover lower financial value clinical negligence cases, which, in some cases, may be used as an alternative to taking cases to court. Whilst the NHS Redress Scheme has not come into force, a pilot scheme is expected to be implemented in Wales during 2011.