UK medical negligence pay-outs reach ‘unsustainable’ levels

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NHSPay-outs given to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) patients who have been victims of negligence should be reduced because they are “unsustainable”, The Guardian reports health service leaders have told the Justice secretary. The rising cost of pay-outs is diverting significant amounts of funding away from frontline patient care, they said.

Seven leaders including Niall Dickson, CEO of the NHS Confederation, warned UK justice secretary David Gauke that the rising cost of clinical negligence claims was having a significant impact on the health service. The health and social care secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was also copied into the letter.

The report says the group, which includes the chairs of the British Medical Association and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said the NHS spent £1.7bn on negligence claims last year and the annual cost has doubled since 2010/11. They added that the estimated total liabilities, which is the cost if all current claims are successful, stands at £65bn, up from £29bn in 2014-15.

The group said: “We fully accept there must be reasonable compensation for patients harmed through clinical negligence but this needs to be balanced against society’s ability to pay.

“This is money that could be spent on frontline care. Given the wider pressures on the healthcare system, the rising cost of clinical negligence is already having an impact on what the NHS can provide.”

They argue that the financial impact on the NHS was “greatly exacerbated” by a controversial decision by Liz Truss, then justice secretary, to reduce the personal injury discount rate which came into force in March last year. The change meant compensation payments in personal injury cases where there is an element of future care costs and earnings significantly increased.

The report said the first case settled under the new rules saw an NHS trust forced to nearly triple its pay-out to a 10-year-old girl left with cerebral palsy from £3.8m to £9.3m.

The group is also calling for “more fundamental reforms” such as introducing fixed-costs schemes for claims up to the value of £250,000. Government proposals currently only suggest caps up to £25,000.

In response, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “All personal injury victims should of course be fully compensated, but the costs involved should also be proportionate. To help ensure this happens, we have set out proposals for a fairer way of setting the personal injury discount rate, as well as asking the Civil Justice Council to look at measures to control costs in clinical negligence cases.”

The spokesperson added that the ministry will soon be responding to the justice select committee’s report on their proposals to reform the way the personal injury discount rate is set.

The Guardian report

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