Hospital Dr News

Cost of clinical negligence claims to the NHS continues to spiral upwards

The NHS paid out more than £1.08 billion in damages to claimants in 2016/17, a 14% increase on the previous year.

The first annual report of NHS Resolution – the new operating name of the NHS Litigation Authority – shows how clinical negligence claims increased by £132 million.

This is despite a fall in the number of new clinical negligence claims of 2.5% to 10,686.

NHS Resolution Chief Executive, Helen Vernon said: “Our review highlights the extent of the financial challenge that negligence presents to the NHS.

“This year we launched our new five year strategy, ‘Delivering fair resolution and learning from harm’ which sets out how we will tackle the multiple drivers of claims costs and how we will work with our partners  to help prevent harm from happening in the first place.

“By supporting NHS Trusts to be candid and manage concerns fairly and openly when things go wrong, we hope to jointly deliver the learning which goes hand-in-hand with any claim for compensation.”

NHS Resolution is encouraging trusts to better manage maternity claims.

Whilst obstetric claims represented only 10% of clinical claims by number in 2016/17, they accounted for 50% of the total value of new claims reported.

Early notification and involvement will assist NHS Resolution in sharing robust learning across the system.

Despite the overall decrease in the number of claims, the amount paid out to claimants lawyers for clinical claims has continued to increase.

Last year the amount paid out to claimant lawyers in legal fees for clinical claims rose by 19% to £498.5 million.

In contrast, claimant legal costs for non-clinical claims fell by 21% to £19.7 million in the last year which is attributed to the continuing impact of fixed recoverable costs for this area and efficiencies in the claims process.

However, damages payments for non-clinical incidents rose by 15% to £30.7 million. The highest value and number of non-clinical claims fell under the category of orthopaedic injuries, resulting from slips, trips and falls.

Emma Hallinan, Director of Claims at the Medical Protection Society, said: “While there has been a small but welcome reduction in the number of new clinical negligence claims, the cost of claims to the NHS continues to spiral with £1.7bn paid out during 2016/17. This is up from £1.5bn in 2015/16, and since 2010/11 spend has increased by a worrying 98%.

“It is important that there is reasonable compensation for patients harmed following clinical negligence, but a balance must be struck against society’s ability to pay.  If the current trend continues the balance will tip too far and the cost risks becoming unsustainable.

“Legal reform is required to strike a balance between compensation that is reasonable, but also affordable – this includes the introduction of a limit on future care costs based on a tariff agreed by an expert group and fixed recoverable costs for claims up £250,000 to stop lawyers charging disproportionate fees.”

Read the report.

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