PAC condemns staggering £3.9bn bill for NHS negligence

3 May 01
Public Accounts Committee chairman David Davis has condemned as 'staggering' the £3.9bn clinical negligence bill facing the NHS in England.

04 May 2001

The figure, which is the health service's total outstanding liability as of March 2000, rocketed by £700m in the year since March 1999, a study by the National Audit Office has found. Davis said the report showed that the current arrangements for dealing with patients' claims of negligence against hospitals were not working.

'It fails to provide either satisfaction to the patient or value to the taxpayer,' he said. 'Delays in settling claims are endemic and costs increasing – clear symptoms of a system spiralling out of control.'

NAO inspectors found there were 23,000 claims outstanding with a value of £2.6bn, and anticipated a further £1.3bn bill for incidents they believe have occurred but have not yet been reported. In the 1999/2000 financial year, 9,600 claims were settled at a cost of £386m, compared with a £107m bill for 1998/99, and £50m in 1997/98. Of these settled claims, 44% cost more in legal and associated fees than the amount of damages awarded. About 10,000 new claims were lodged in 1999/2000.

Claims also take years to resolve, with cases closed in 1999/2000 lasting on average five and a half years, and nearly one in ten dragging on for ten years or more. The NAO found experimental schemes that explored other solutions, such as offering apologies, explanations for what went wrong and reassurances that it would not happen again, had cut the time taken to resolve claims and avoided costly litigation.

Auditor general Sir John Bourn said: 'The human and financial costs of clinical negligence are enormous.'


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