There is a built in inflation in medical negligence claims. GP insurance is rising rapidly, and some years ago the removal of unlimited cover occurred. Some GPs are paying well over £1500 per month, and the average is £1000 per month. This comes back over the years in the pay review package, but there is built in delay. £3.2 billion (£3,200,000) represents a bill for £500 for each citizen, man, woman and child, paid for “negligence” annually by 2010. If we exclude the people who pay no tax, the burden will fall on a small number – say 25% of the population, which means £2000 each. Why are the politicians ignoring the idea of “no fault” compensation? The escalating scale is reported in the Mirror in July, and that’s just for this year..
Clinical negligence claims are likely to cost the NHS £3.2 billion a year by 2020, and could worsen patient care, the National Audit Office has warned.
Action to control costs will require co-operation across government departments, it has said in a report but the government has no coherent strategy.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “The cost of clinical negligence in trusts is significant and rising fast, placing increasing financial pressure on an already stretched system. NHS Resolution and the Department [of Health] propose measures to tackle this, but the expected savings are small compared with the predicted rise in overall costs.”
Spending on the clinical negligence scheme for health service trusts has quadrupled, from £400 million in 2006-07 to £1.6 billion in 2016-17. In the same ten years the number of successful clinical negligence claims where damages were awarded rose from 2,800 to 7,300. Last year 590 claims were settled with an award of more than £250,000, while NHS Resolution, which handles claims for the health service, spent £602 million on legal costs. In 61 per cent of successful claims last year the claimant’s legal costs exceeded the damages awarded.
The report said that trusts spending a higher proportion of their income on clinical negligence were significantly more likely to be in deficit. In 2015-16, all 14 trusts that spent 4 per cent or more on clinical negligence had deficits.“There are indications that financial stress faced by trusts has an impact on patients’ access to services and quality of care,” the report said.
A rising number of claims accounted for 45 per cent of the overall increase in costs but rising payments for damages and claimant legal costs accounted for 33 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.
The Department of Health and NHS Resolution have put forward measures aimed at reducing costs, including fixed recoverable legal costs for low-value cases and a voluntary alternative compensation scheme for birth injury cases.
But the NAO report said that some of the biggest factors were outside their control, including changes in the way courts calculated lump sum payments.
A government spokesman said that clinical negligence costs were too high and that it was taking action.
Experts say the NHS is sitting on a ‘timebomb’ of future claims and legal reform is needed to tackle the problem