I previously worked for seven years in Australia, where this became a big problem and was addressed by an act of parliament transferring the liability risk away from the provider, unless it was ruled criminal negligence. This has led to a year-on-year fall of medical protection and indemnity fees for colleagues in Australia, while those in the UK have risen inexorably, providing yet another reason why doctors are giving up in droves and taking early retirement.
The start of a new government offers an ideal moment to address this festering sore on the NHS’s future.
Professor Angus Dalgleish
Foundation professor of oncology, University of London
Sir, As medical litigation costs spiral and threaten the future of the NHS, the case for a no-fault compensation system becomes overwhelming. At present, if a patient cannot prove medical negligence, they will receive no financial compensation — the decision sometimes having more to do with inadequate record-keeping than true clinical incompetence or negligence. As a result, two patients may have identical medical injuries but one will receive nothing whereas the other may be well compensated after perhaps years of litigation.
New Zealand has had a successful no-fault compensation scheme since 1974, with changes in 2005 ironing out some of its early anomalies, resulting in most claims being resolved in weeks rather than years. Litigation lawyers are the only people benefiting from the system in the UK.
Dr Andrew Quayle
Retired GP, Martock, Somerset
Sir, The cost of medical negligence (or accidents) is indeed high, but the possibility that the size of a giant claim might be reduced means that many cases end up in court because the legal fees justify an expensive defence. However, with court and legal costs of about £2,800 per day on top of barristers’ and solicitors’ fees it is often cheaper for an NHS Trust to settle a little case for a small sum than to defend it. While this is often done without an admission of liability it is open to abuse, because once word gets around it may generate frivolous or spurious “me too” claims that result in a payment of a few hundred pounds without many questions being asked. The system needs to address this as well as the top-end settlements.
Dr Andrew Bamji
Rye, E Sussex
Sir, NHS legal costs are inflated partly because of perverse incentives. NHS lawyers are paid win or lose, which encourages “deny, delay, defend” behaviour and promotes speculative defences. By contrast, claimant lawyers are generally paid “no win, no fee”; payment is by result, which imposes commercial prudence. This is amply borne out by NHS Resolution figures which show that compensation is paid in 80 per cent of cases where proceedings are issued. NHS lawyers should be paid by result and not rewarded for failure.
Dr Anthony Barton
Solicitor, Medical Negligence Team
Professional Liability Insurance : Market Global Report Jan 2020 – Fusion Science Academy
New York Telecast: Global Liability Insurance Market Status (2015-2019) and Forecast (2020-2024)…
Lexicology: Wright Hassall LLP The most notable medical liability case in 2019
United Kingdom August 27 2019
The NHS is facing an existential crisis. The negotiations over junior doctors’ pay and conditions and widespread dissatisfaction among GPs, combined with a £2.45bn overspend by NHS Trusts, is impacting on patient care. The NHS is treating more patients than ever before, including a rapidly growing number of elderly people whose care, in many cases, is caught in a Mexican stand-off between the NHS and social services.
The NHS announced it has paid out more than £1.63 billion in damages for medical negligence in 2017/18; this is an increase from £1.08 billion in 2016/17 with the highest number of claims coming from emergency medicine. The number of claims made as a whole has decreased slightly (0.12%), but the cost to the NHS continues to increase.
The cases outlined below are some of our most notable and an indication of what can go wrong when the caring services come under pressure – and these are just the tip of the iceberg……
Update 29th Jan Times letters 2020:
NHS LEGAL CLAIMS
Sir, I would be delighted to accept the challenge from Dr Anthony Barton that NHS lawyers should be paid by results (letter, Jan 24) so long as in return he accepts that claimant lawyers should pay NHS costs when they lose. This should include the more than 80 per cent of cases that never reach court, often because they were frivolous claims which were pursued regardless of commercial prudence. These nevertheless incur NHS legal costs and waste vast amounts of NHS staff time, which often leaves them inadequate time to care for their patients.
Retired NHS consultant