NHS clinical negligence claims ‘one of government’s biggest liabilities’

6 Oct 17

NHS clinical negligence claims are one of the government's biggest liabilities with the health service having set aside £65bn for existing and potential future claims, a think-tank report has said.

This is draining the NHS of funds and putting patients at risk, consultant neurologist and policy strategist Dr Paul Goldsmith warned in his report published by the Centre for Policy Studies today. 

The UK spent £1.6bn on medical negligence claims last year, which is more than twice the US’s £9 per person, at £24 per person. This is likely to increase, Goldsmith warned.

The author wrote in The Medico-Legal Crisis and How to Solve It report: “The current system for assessing and paying medical claims for injury is expensive, unsustainable and can cause more harm than good.

“It is one of the government’s greatest liabilities.”

In the March 2017 Budget, the chancellor set aside a further £5.9bn for these claims, including GP claims, for the timeframe until 2020. This money comes out of the NHS budget.

Goldsmith said in the report that the law should be changed to help cut the claims, especially where people receive compensation to pay for private medical care, even if they end up using the NHS.

He also said people should give back money if the patient’s situation improves, or if they die earlier than expected.

“The cost of claims is also increasing rapidly (by roughly 10% a year) and is set to increase even faster, not least because of the drop in the discount rate by which lump sum damages are assessed,” he added.

Clinical negligence claims are a part of personal injury law, which covers any situation where an individual suffers physical or psychological harm as a result of the actions or omissions of another individual or institution.

The National Audit Office has urged the government to act as a result of these rising negligence costs.

The medico-legal system is to rehabilitate, improve standards and identify bad doctors as well as to seek financial settlement.

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