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NHS clinical negligence claims up by 14%

£1.08 billion paid out last year – double amount stumped up in 2010-11

Caroline White

Friday, 14 July 2017

The amount paid out in clinical negligence claims against NHS hospital trusts in England has shot up by 14% (£132 million), with the NHS stumping up £1.08 billion in damages over the past year — twice the amount of cash paid out in 2010-11.

This is despite a fall in the number of new clinical negligence claims of 2.5% to 10,686, show the new figures from NHS Resolution, the new operating title for the NHS Litigation Authority, in its annual report.

The NHS now faces total claims liabilities of £65.1 billion in 2017-18 — up from £56.4 billion the previous year.

While obstetric claims represented only 10% of the total by number in 2016-17, they accounted for 50% of the total value of new claims reported, the figures show. NHS Resolution has pledged to concentrate on developing processes to better support the staff involved to help improve the experience for families involved in incidents.

Despite the overall decrease in the number of claims, the amount paid out to claimants’ lawyers for clinical claims has continued to increase. Last year, the cost of legal fees rose by 19% to £498.5 million.

But legal costs for non-clinical claims fell by 21% to £19.7 million, which is attributed to the continuing impact of fixed recoverable costs for this area and efficiencies in the claims process.

However, damages payments for non-clinical incidents rose by 15% to £30.7 million. The highest value and number of non-clinical claims fell for orthopaedic injuries, resulting from slips, trips and falls.

NHS Resolution chief executive, Helen Vernon said: “Our review highlights the extent of the financial challenge that negligence presents to the NHS.

“This year we launched our new five year strategy, Delivering fair resolution and learning from harm which sets out how we will tackle the multiple drivers of claims costs and how we will work with our partners  to help prevent harm from happening in the first place.

“By supporting NHS trusts to be candid and manage concerns fairly and openly when things go wrong we hope to jointly deliver the learning which goes hand-in-hand with any claim for compensation.”

But Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “We cannot go on like this with the NHS spending more and more on litigation. We now have fewer claims but we are paying more to claimant’s lawyers in legal fees.”

He added: “What is more the decision by the last Lord Chancellor to change the way compensation claims are calculated is about to make the costs even higher. The Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that this decision alone will cost the public sector an extra £1.2 billion a year. According to one report, as a result an NHS trust saw the cost of one claim go from under £4 million to more than £9 million.”

He continued: “It seems madness that we are now paying out sums greater than almost any other country in the world, when we have a universal, government funded system of healthcare.”

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