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No fault medical compensation scheme for Scotland

Expert group considers simpler compensation scheme

OnMedica Staff

Monday, 01 June 2009

Patients in Scotland could be set to benefit from a new simpler, less expensive and quicker system of medical compensation.

An expert group has been established to consider the introduction of no-fault compensation north of the border.

If introduced, a system of no-fault compensation means that some patients would receive financial compensation without the need to go through the legal process.

At present compensation for medical injuries through treatment provided by the NHS in Scotland depends on proving legal responsibility and that there was clinical negligence.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "In our recent consultation on a Patient's Rights Bill we made it clear that we would look at the potential benefits for patients in Scotland of a no-fault compensation scheme.

"The expert group established today will first of all look at whether such a scheme should be introduced in Scotland and if so how this would work alongside the existing clinical negligence arrangements for the benefit of patients and NHS staff alike."

Dr Peter Terry, Chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, welcomed the proposals.

"BMA Scotland has long favoured the introduction of no-fault compensation as a less adversarial system of providing appropriate and timely compensation and support to those who suffer personal injury through medical mishap.

"Too often the current system of compensation results in unpleasant, stressful, drawn-out procedures for all those involved, with significant legal bills incurred by the tax payer."

Membership of the expert group will be drawn from key stakeholder organisations including the BMA, General Medical Council and Royal College of Nursing. It will also include patient representation. The group will be chaired by Sheila Maclean, Director of the Institute of Law and Ethics in Medicine at Glasgow University.

The number of clinical negligence cases in Scotland varies from year to year - in the latest year for which figures are available, 2007-08, there were 182 cases settled and the total sum paid was £14.5 million.

A no-fault approach would mean that it was necessary to prove that injuries were caused by medical treatment, but not to establish any blame or responsibility. This would be similar to the approach taken, for example, to compensation for criminal injuries.

The group's report should be submitted by October 2010.

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