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Speed up clinical negligence claim reform, Scottish government urged

Costs of personal injury discount rate hampering frontline services, says medical defence body

Caroline White

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Scottish medical defence body and GP indemnifier, the MDDUS, has called on the Scottish government to speed up its reform of the controversial personal injury discount rate and stop punishing costs from hampering NHS frontline services.

In a letter sent to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, the MDDUS asks him to move quickly on important reforms in the handling of clinical negligence claims, and in particular, the personal injury discount rate.

In 2017 the Scottish government decided to follow the UK government’s decision to change the rate from 2.5% to minus 0.75%.

This decision has had a significant impact on the size of compensation payments in personal injury cases where there is an element of future care costs and earnings, says the MDDUS. Last year the NHS in Scotland spent a staggering £38.3m on clinical negligence claims.

MDDUS chief executive Chris Kenny said: “We were extremely disappointed when the Scottish government chose to follow the line taken by Westminster in changing the discount rate. The impact on claims has been significant and we have successfully convinced Westminster that the rate must be reviewed again.

“Now the Scottish government must give clarity on what it plans to do to address this issue. We fully accept that there must be reasonable compensation for patients harmed through clinical negligence but this needs to be balanced against society’s ability to pay.”

He continued: “This is money that could be spent on frontline care. Given the wider pressures on the healthcare system, the rising cost of clinical negligence is already having an impact on what the NHS can provide.”

The Scottish government has announced that the Damages Bill will form part of its programme for 2017-18 but so far there has been no announcement on when the bill will be introduced and no timeline for the consultation process and responses to the bill.

Mr Kenny added: “We are pleased that in Westminster, the Ministry of Justice changes proposed will reform the methodology for setting the discount rate. This will help make sure that the rate more accurately reflects the way in which claimants choose to invest their compensation payments.

“This will help create a fairer system all round. It is vital that these changes are now brought in as quickly as possible both north and south of the border.”

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