NHS Resolution, which was formerly NHS Litigation Authority, has published research on the motivation of patients making a compensation claim when something has gone wrong with their healthcare.

The research, which was conducted in partnership with The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), surveyed 728 patients who had made a claim and looked at the incident that had occurred, how the patient felt it had been handled, how any subsequent complaint had been handled and the factors that led to the patient making a claim for compensation.  BIT also did an in-depth telephone interview with 20 past claimants.

The findings show that, in general, the research participants were not satisfied with the reactions of NHS staff following an incident or how their complaint was handled within the NHS.

It found that:

  • 63% of patients who responded felt that they did not receive an explanation for why the incident occurred.
  • Only 31% said they felt they had received an apology.
  • 71% of the people responding did not think that their healthcare provided undertook any actions to investigate the incident in the first instance.
  • Only 6% of respondents felt that actions were taken that would prevent the same incident happening again.
  • The majority rated the response to their complaint as ‘poor or very poor’ in terms of accuracy, empathy, speed of the response and level of detail.

 

It also found that both internal and external factors motivated patients to make a claim.  Personal motivations included:

  • Wanting to prevent similar things happening to others.
  • Wanting to receive an apology or an explanation for the incident, or to trigger a detailed investigation of the incident.
  • Wanting the clinicians involved to be held to account.
  • Emotional responses (e.g. frustration and anger) brought about by poor incident or complaint handling.
  • Financial compensation.

External motivations included:

  • Suggestions from NHS staff that making a claim would be appropriate
  • Advertising
  • Conversations with friends, family and wider social network

 

Helen Vernon, who is Chief Executive at NHS Resolution, said “This research confirms that claims for compensation can sometimes be made in the search of answers, which could have been provided when the incident occurred. Being open with patients when they suffer avoidable harm and taking tangible steps to learn from what happened are essential. We would like to thank the patients who spared the time to contribute to this valuable research, which will help us to build on our work with the NHS to improve the response when things go wrong.”

 

Full details of the research conducted can be found on the NHS Resolution website.