What Is the ‘Bolam Test’? This Is the Comprehensive Guide

Mark Benson

Mark Benson

Money Savings Advice What is the Bolam test

The Bolam test relates to a ruling from 1957, which involved a patient who agreed to electroconvulsive therapy. Unfortunately, the patient involved was not given any form of muscle relaxant or restrained in any way.

As a consequence of the treatment, he suffered convulsions causing numerous injuries, including a fractured hip. The patient sued for compensation but was unsuccessful because the restraint/muscle relaxing techniques were not standard practice at the time.

The test is a means of confirming whether or not other medical practitioners in the same situation would have taken the same course of action.

This is a very important factor when pursuing medical negligence compensation, and it can literally be the difference between success and failure.

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What Is the Legal Definition of Medical Negligence?

In simple terms, medical negligence relates to act/acts of negligence during medical care. For many cases, the tipping point is the Bolam test which would clarify how other medical practitioners would have acted in the same situation. It is also worth noting that medical practitioners have a legal duty of care towards their patients.

What if the Defendant Finds Medical Practitioners to Back Their Actions?

The whole concept of the Bolam test is the fact that if the medical practitioner was wrong, then the claimant’s advisers should be able to find more evidence to support their claim. The defendant may find one or two practitioners to back up their actions, but if they were so out of sync with general practice, it is unlikely any practitioner would put their reputation on the line.

Are There Time Limits With Medical Negligence Claims?

Usually, there will be a time limit of three years with the clock beginning at the time the claimant was diagnosed. It is very important to realise that there is a difference between when the incident occurred and when the claimant received a diagnosis.

The time period can be extended if the individual was under 18 years of age or lacked the mental capacity to pursue a claim at the time.

Does Medical Negligence Just Cover NHS Doctors?

No. This will cover dentists, cosmetic surgeons, private surgeons, etc. - basically anybody carrying out medical procedures.

Will My Medical Negligence Claim Go to Court?

Many people pursuing compensation for medical negligence are concerned that they may be forced to stand up in court and relive their ordeal. Obviously, this is not a welcome scenario for anybody.

However, where there is a strong case for medical negligence and compensation, it is highly unlikely your claim would reach the courts. The vast majority of claims are negotiated in private and very rarely do they actually make the courtroom.

Can I sue the NHS for Negligence?

Yes. While many people feel uncomfortable taking action against the NHS, if you have been injured as a consequence of medical negligence, then you have every right to pursue compensation.

It is also worth noting that without compensation claims, it is unlikely that unhelpful/negligent procedures would ever be changed. So, while it may feel a little uncomfortable pursuing compensation from a medical practitioner, it is worth remembering the long-term consequences.

Does a Legal Disclaimer Prevent Me From Pursuing Compensation?

Unfortunately, in the past, many people were under the impression that by signing a legal disclaimer, they somehow signed away their rights. This is just not true. While there may be situations where a procedure is “risky” there is a big difference between carrying out a risky procedure and negligence.

In some cases, the risky procedure may be the only course of action, but even then this does not protect the medical practitioner from claims of negligence.

How Do I Proceed With a Medical Negligence Claim?

The first thing to do is gather as much evidence as possible for your claim. This will include:-

  • Details of your treatment
  • Tests undertaken/not undertaken
  • Patterns of similar negligence
  • Witness statements
  • Timeline of events
  • Third-party medical opinions

It is important to start putting your evidence together as soon as possible because as the days, weeks and months progress so the detail can become a little hazy. In order to give you the best chance of a successful compensation claim, your information needs to be as detailed as possible.

Depending on the consequences of medical negligence, there may be occasions where you are not in an immediate position to begin gathering evidence.

Should I Consult a Personal Injury Claims Company?

It is advisable to approach a personal injury claims company when pursuing any compensation but even more so with medical negligence which can be complicated. While the vast majority of personal injury claims companies will have contacts to assist with medical negligence claims, there are some companies that specialise in this area.

How Much Will It Cost to Pursue a Medical Negligence Claim?

Many personal injury claims companies work on a “no win, no fee” basis, which effectively means you have no upfront payments and no financial liabilities if your claim is unsuccessful.

As a consequence, when pursuing a claim on this basis, your advisers would generally require a relatively high chance of success often in excess of 60%. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that they would take on weak/borderline line cases because, in the event of defeat, they may be left with significant expenses.

How Does a No-Win, No Fee Arrangement Work?

While the exact details may vary slightly, your claims management company should be able to reclaim their expenses (from the defendant) in the event of a successful prosecution. Also, there would be a prearranged “success fee” entitling them to around 25% of any compensation award.

This is the financial incentive for the claims management company to pursue your case on a no-win, no fee basis.


The Bolam test is an integral part of medical negligence claims and can literally be the difference between success and failure. For many, this is the acid test to prove negligence after which point compensation can be negotiated.

Medical negligence claims tend to be more complicated than any other type of claim; therefore, it is advisable to approach a personal injury claims company.

How Can Money Savings Advice Help You With Making a Medical Negligence Compensation Claim?

Here at Money Savings Advice, we have partnered with some of the UK’s leading Medical Negligence Claims management companies. They have already helped thousands of people claim compensation for the negligence they have incurred, and they can do the same for you.

Choosing an independent claims management company means they won’t proceed with a claim unless they are sure it is in your best interests. They are also regulated by the FCA, which gives you an additional layer of protection.

If you would like to speak to one of these claim management companies who can help you make a compensation claim, then click on the below and answer the very simple questions.

Money Savings Advice Author Mark Benson

Mark Benson

Mark has been writing professionally for over ten years for the financial sector. Having started in the financial world as a stock-broker in central London and then moving to equities trader Mark is one of our senior financial writers who has a vast knowledge of multiple financial sectors.

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