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Only one in five medical claims win compensation

Medico-legal action against doctors may be common but defence organisations defend most successfully

Ingrid Torjesen

Friday, 12 August 2016

Only around a fifth of negligence claims are awarded compensation, the Medical Defence Union’s (MDU’s) Annual Report for 2015* shows.

While complaints may be common, around 80% of those defended by the MDU are defended successfully, the document reveals.

Dr Christine Tomkins, MDU chief executive, said: “While claims have increased over recent years, so has the MDU’s success rate in defending cases. In 2015, we only paid compensation in 20% of medical claims, successfully defending the remaining 80%. However, these unmeritorious claims still take their toll on members and there is a considerable cost to the MDU in investigating and responding to so many of them.

“Claims and complaints may be common, but it would be wrong to conclude that this represents a deterioration in standards of care. The climate in which doctors work can often seem difficult, but professional standards are very high and our members continue to provide excellent care to the communities they serve.”

The MDU emphasised that it will continue to push for a more reasonable and affordable system of awarding damages. Its report highlights that legal costs in low-value claims have often been excessive. “In one recent case the MDU paid the patient £4,200 in compensation and the patient’s lawyers’ fees were £70,000,” the report says.

In 2015, the Department of Health and NHS Litigation Authority announced they were considering a fixed recoverable costs scheme, for which a consultation was promised this year, it adds. “We believe it could have the merit of restoring proportionality to a system where costs have become out of proportion to the damages awarded in lower-value claims.”


* Report & Accounts 2015. The Medical Defence Union Limited, 2016.

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