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Clinical negligence claim costs double in a year

Clinical negligence claim costs double in a year
By Léa Legraien Reporter
16 July 2018

The cost of clinical negligence claims by patients has doubled this year, a new report has found.

A new report by NHS Resolution – formerly NHS Litigation Authority – showed that NHS England paid out more than £1.63bn in damage settlements in 2017/18 compared with the previous year, a 50% increase.

Of the £1.63bn paid in damages settlements, £404m was caused by the Government’s decision last year to change the personal injury discount rate (PIDR) from 2.5% to minus 0.75%.

The NHS Resolution said that ‘legislation to address this is currently progressing through Parliament’.

Key figures breakdown

Number and costs of clinical claims

  • The highest number of clinical negligence claims related to emergency departments – 13% – followed by orthopaedic injuries with 12%
  • There were 10,673 new clinical negligence claims in 2017/18 compared to 10,686 in 2016/17
  • Total payments related to clinical schemes increased by £520.4m, from £1,707.2bn to £2,227.5bn – inclusive of the increase due to the change in the PIDR
  • Damages paid to patients rose from £1,083bn to £1,632bn
  • Claimant legal costs fell by £31.8m, from £498.5m to £466.6m
  • Defence legal costs increased by 2.5%, from £125.7m to £128m

Number and costs of non-clinical claims

  • The highest value and number of non-clinical claims was related to orthopaedic injuries – 2,548 (58%) costing £35.3m (72%)
  • The number of non-clinical claims fell from 4,082 to 3,570
  • Damages – excluding the PIDR effect – and legal costs were reduced by £2.2m. The PIDR change added £2.3m to damages costs in 2017/18

‘All-time high’

NHS Resolution chief executive Helen Vernon said: ‘ […] The cost of clinical negligence is at all-time high. The total provisions for all of our indemnity schemes continue to rise from £65bn last year to £77bn as of 31 March 2018, which brings a renewed urgency to efforts across government to tackle the drivers of that cost.’

According to NHS Resolution, the majority of claims this year – 69.6% – ‘were resolved without formal court proceedings’.

‘Balanced against ability to pay’

Responding to the findings, NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said that ‘the justifiable case for compensation has to be balanced against society’s ability to pay and the fact that we have a free at the point of use health care system’.

He added: ‘We cannot go on like this with the NHS spending more and more on litigation.

‘Money that is used for this purpose cannot be used for frontline care. At a time when NHS finances are already under enormous strain, this just makes things worse.’

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