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Clinical negligence: “We cannot go on like this with the NHS spending more and more on litigation”

Reaction to the NAO report that criticises Government efforts to tackle the spiraling clinical negligence bill the NHS faces:

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation

“We cannot go on like this with the NHS spending more and more on litigation. Over the last 10 years the cost of clinical negligence to Trusts has quadrupled from £0.4 bn in 2006/7 to £1.6 bn in 2016/17.

“We share the NAO’s concern that the Government lacks a coherent strategy to support measures to tackle these rising costs.

“The NAO finds that there is no evidence of poorer patient safety. Earlier this year we pointed out that we now have fewer claims but are paying more to claimant’s lawyers in legal fees.

“We do accept that there are too many mistakes and that more needs to be done to learn lessons when things go wrong. The Getting It Right First Time programme will certainly help with that.

“But this rising tide of litigation is draining the NHS of resources and must be urgently addressed.

“And indeed this has actually been made worse following the decision by the last Lord Chancellor to change the way compensation claims are calculated which is about to make the costs even higher.

“The Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that this decision alone will cost the public sector an extra £1.2bn a year.

“It seems madness that we are now paying out sums greater than almost any other country in the world, when we have a universal, government funded system of healthcare.”

Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, Senior Medicolegal Adviser at the Medical Protection Society

“The NAO is right to raise concerns about the rising cost of clinical negligence to the NHS. The cost of claims continues to spiral with £1.7bn paid out during 2016/17, and legal costs accounted for 37% of that bill. Earlier this year the OBR Fiscal Risks report cited higher clinical negligence costs and provisions as one of the key risks to be considered by Government.

“We believe legal reform is needed to help achieve a balance between compensation that is reasonable, but also affordable – both to the NHS and to healthcare professionals who are feeling the pressure of rising clinical negligence costs through their professional protection subscriptions.

“Of course controlling the cost of clinical negligence, once a claim is made, is just one component of a more sustainable system. This must go hand in hand with continual improvements in patient safety to help prevent adverse events, and a shift to a more open, learning environment in healthcare where mistakes are routinely discussed and learned from.”

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