Official figures released by NHS Litigation Authority, the body that deals with claims on behalf of the NHS, show that the NHS set aside £56 billion in 2016 to pay for medical mistakes made by their staff. This represents almost half of the total NHS budget of £116 billion. This figure is almost double the £31 billion put aside in 2014 and up from £665 million in 2005/6.
This revelation prompted Britain’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO), to launch a 6-month investigation as to why this amount of money is necessary, with their findings due to be released in the summer of 2017.
The Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers (SCIL) is the body of Clinical/Medical Negligence Specialists that has been working hard to get the Government to look at the costs of Medical Negligence cases. SCIL have criticised the vast spend, with the cause being attributed to a culture of “defend, deny and delay”. They support the NAO enquiry, stating it is long overdue and critical for the safety of patients in the country.
SCIL estimates that of the 3,311 cases where the NHS was taken to court in 2015/16, the NHS paid compensation in 2,514 of those cases – 75.93 per cent. It is alleged that most of these cases should have been settled much earlier without the substantial costs of court proceedings and raises questions about the assessment the NHS makes when deciding whether to defend a claim.
Furthermore, the consequence of bringing so-called “indefensible” cases through the court system has resulted in Claimant lawyer’s costs being greatly increased when compared to reaching early settlement. The NHS Litigation Authority said that despite the number of claims falling by 4.6 per cent in 2016, claimant legal costs had risen by 43 per cent. The average cost to the NHS of settling at an early stage would be £2,650 but by fighting through the courts costs increase to £18,000. This culture not only adds to its legal bills but also prolongs the emotional suffering for devastated patients and families.
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About the author
Angus Buchanan works in the Medical Negligence department of Brindley Twist Tafft & James, a firm of solicitors in Coventry that specialises in medical negligence cases nationwide. Angus has dealt with claims including medication prescription error, perforation caused by an endoscopy and a lack of pain relief during a caesarean section.