Accident & Emergency negligence claims

There are over 21 million attendances at Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments in the UK every year. Mistakes happen frequently due to understaffing, overwork or straight forward errors of judgement.

Whilst treatment provided in A&E departments is usually of an excellent standard, errors are made, and injuries sustained. When this happens it is possible for a patient to pursue a claim for compensation. At Boyes Turner we are experienced in dealing with claims from attendance at Accident and Emergency departments.


Admission of liability for failure to recognise a pulmonary embolism

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence solicitors  have secured an admission of liability...

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A&E medical negligence claim - delay in treatment of ruptured achilles tendon

Mr S obtained £25,000 in compensation following the delay in diagnosis and treatment of a...

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Failure to diagnose snapped achilles tendon - £21,500 compensation recovered

Our client, Mr W, injured his Achilles tendon whilst playing football in June 2004. He...

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£37,500 compensation claim settled - delayed diagnosis of footballer's injury

An  accident and emergency negligence claim  was brought on behalf of our client...

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Common A&E claims

Over the years we have dealt with a large range of cases involving negligent treatment in A&E departments. Typical cases include:

  • Delay in assessment of critically injured patients resulting in permanent injury or death
  • Failure to investigate and recognise the underlying cause and seriousness of presentation resulting in progression of symptoms and life long injury or death

Specific examples of situations in which we have succeeded in medical negligence claims include:

  • Delay in assessing children resulting in permanent brain injury and death
  • Failure to investigate and treat serious underlying infection resulting in permanent brain injury and death
  • Failure to identify serious head injury leading to failure to treat with consequence of permanent life changing brain injury
  • Failure to properly investigate and treat cardiac arrests and stroke with the consequence of life changing injury
  • Failure to properly investigate evolving cauda equina syndrome, assuming the patient is presenting with chronic lower back pain and failing to assess change in perineal sensation, bowl or bladder function and failure to arrange radiological investigation leading to permanent nerve injuries

What errors are made?

There is always a lot written in the press about problems with emergency care in the UK, with frequent references to hospitals being at "crisis point". But why? This is a complex issue with no straightforward answer. Possible explanations for the problems faced by A&E departments include an ageing population with long term and complex health issues, staff shortages, too few beds for those who need to be admitted, and a lack of information about where else patients can turn for help. This is all placing a strain on A&E departments.

When examining the A&E negligence claims we have dealt with, certain errors appear time and time again. These include:

  • Failure to take a complete patient history
  • Not performing an adequate examination
  • Inadequate investigations (which might include blood tests, x-rays, scans)
  • Incorrect reporting of test results
  • Inappropriately sending patients home
  • On discharge, providing poor (or no) advice regarding what to do if symptoms persist

Where can patients go other than A&E?

For those who are in urgent need of care, there are other alternatives which include:

  • Urgent care centres
  • Walk-in centres
  • GP out of hours services
  • Minor injury units
  • The NHS 111 telephone advice service
  • Pharmacies

These services are run with a mix of NHS and private provision. In considering the care provided by these services it is essential to understand who/which company or organisation is responsible for the care provided as well as assessing exactly what care should have been provided and how, had that care been given, the patient’s treatment and outcome would have been improved.

Accident & Emergency definitions

The medical language associated with Accident and Emergency negligence can be technical. We have identified some of the key terms in use every day in relation to A&E negligence.


Accident & Emergency department

An Accident and Emergency department is a medical treatment facility which provides acute care to patients. An appointment is not required. Patients can self-refer, although some are brought in by ambulance. Also known as an Emergency Department, Casualty or Emergency Room.


Acute describes an illness or disease with a rapid onset, or short course. This is in contrast to chronic conditions. The related medical specialty is 'acute medicine'.


Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a neurological condition caused by compression of the nerves causing symptoms which can include bladder and/or bowel dysfunction, reduced sensation in the saddle area and sexual dysfunction.


Chronic describes a condition or disease that is persistent or long-lasting in its effects.



An examination is the process by which a medical professional investigates the body of a patient for signs of disease.



A fracture is a break to a bone.



Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.

Minor Injuries Unit

A Minor Injuries Unit is a hospital department largely staffed by emergency nurse practitioners who treat minor injuries.


NHS 111

NHS 111 is a telephone advice service designed to make it easier for patients to access local NHS healthcare services, particularly out of hours. It can be used when medical help is needed but it is not a 999 emergency.


Out of hours

Out of hours, in the medical context, is usually defined as 18.30 - 08.00 on weekdays and all weekend and bank holidays.


Patient history

The term patient history refers to information obtained by a medical professional, by asking the patient (or someone accompanying them) questions, with the aim of reaching a possible diagnosis.



Sepsis is a life threatening illness caused by the body over-reacting to an infection. Also known as blood poisoning.



A tendon is a tough band of fibrous connective tissue that usually connects muscle to bone, for instance, the achilles tendon.


Urgent Care Centre

An Urgent Care Centre is a facility which provides medical care, generally situated outside of a hospital's Accident & Emergency department, and usually with no appointment being required. These centres primarily treat patients who require immediate care but their condition is not serious enough to require the Accident & Emergency department.


Walk-in Centre

A Walk-in Centre is a facility usually managed by nurses, again with no need for an appointment. 

I am overwhelmed by the outcome in terms of the monetary value and know I should consider it as a near a 'sorry' as I am likely to get from the hospital. It will be nice to start the process of closure on the whole issue now and look towards the future for us as a family. 

Mrs T, Surrey 

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