Government urged to curb rising costs of clinical negligence claims

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A coalition of organisations representing the NHS and health professionals is calling for urgent action to reduce the spiralling cost of medical negligence claims in England, after £1.7bn was paid out last year alone.

In a letter to David Gauke, the new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the organisations urge him to bring forward important reforms in the handling of clinical negligence claims.

It follows a change last year to the way compensation payments are calculated – the ‘discount rate’ – from plus 2.5 per cent to minus 0.75 per cent. This has pushed up compensation payments in personal injury cases where there is an element of future care costs and earnings.

“We fully accept that there must be reasonable compensation for patients harmed through clinical negligence, but this needs to be balanced against society’s ability to pay,” the letter says.

“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.”

On average, a frontline hospital will pay around 2 per cent of its income on clinical negligence claims every year. The value of claims in the pipeline stands at a staggering £65 billion.

‘A fairer system’

The letter, coordinated by the NHS Confederation, and signed by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, British Medical Association, Family Doctors Association, Medical Protection Society, Medical Defence Union and the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland, goes on to say:

“We welcome the decision made by the Ministry of Justice to develop and consult on proposals to reform the discount rate. These would help to make sure that the rate more accurately reflects the way in which most claimants choose to invest their compensation payments. They would help to create a fairer system for all concerned.

“It is vital that these changes are brought in as quickly as possible, either as part of the Civil Liability Bill or through a single purpose bill.”

It also calls for 'more fundamental reforms' to control rising costs.

The letter to David Gauke follows an NHS Confederation roundtable on 11 January attended by Confederation members and the Medical Protection Society which called for action to stem the tide of litigation.

Find out more

Read NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson's comment piece in The Telegraph: Clinical negligence could bankrupt the NHS. It's time to address our culture of blame

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