According to a recent BBC Freedom of Information request, the NHS is currently facing paying legal costs of £4.3bn to settle all outstanding claims of clinical negligence. The estimations reported last year to settle the amount of outstanding compensation owed to injured Claimants totals £83bn.
Clearly, the figures faced by the NHS in England and Wales are significant, the claims alone represent in the region of 2% of their total budget for the year, however, steps are being taken to attempt to manage this. A scheme has been instituted to manage the funding of the claims and legal costs, known as The Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts, which is overseen by NHS Resolution. This sees hospital trusts place contributions into the scheme and encourages more open communication with patients seeking redress.
A spokesperson of NHS Resolution commented regarding the process of the cases that “over 70% of the claims brought against the NHS are resolved without going to court.” They also indicated that they were trying to keep costs down, for instance by promoting mediation as a solution. Dr Christine Tomkins, chief executive of the Medical Defence Union, said: “This is money that should be going to healthcare, but instead is going to compensation claims – which is impairing all of our access to healthcare”.
Amy Crundwell, Associate Solicitor, commented that “We often hear the terms ‘compensation culture’ and ‘forgiving mistakes’, particularly in light of the reports such as this. These terms can be hurtful to our clients, who are taking a necessary step to put them back in the position that they would have been, but for the negligent treatment that they received. In order to succeed in a clinical negligence case evidence must show that the standard of treatment was below an acceptable standard and that it has directly caused an injury that would otherwise have not occurred. More than simply a mistake or a culture of claiming. Our clients have unfortunately had to endure life changing or long-lasting injuries as a result of a medical mistake, they need answers about what has happened to them, and they require damages to help them with their recovery and on-going treatment and financial losses.”
Suzanne White, from the Association of Personal Injuries Lawyers, said people came to her daily with no intention of suing the NHS. But she said they often found it difficult to get answers from the medical authorities – and were left with no other option but to sue.
“What they want to do is find out what went wrong, why they have received these injuries… and to make sure it doesn’t happen to other patients.”
She said that although only 10% of claims relate to obstetrics, they take up 50% of compensation. This is often because a child injured at birth will need a lifetime of care.
Pryers help many clients who have suffered from medical negligence, sometimes caused by the NHS but also private health care providers. Such as Emma, who we helped claim compensation after her doctors missed the symptoms of her strangulated bowel which led to a complex and lengthy recovery. If you have suffered like Emma get in touch with our experts to see how you can claim compensation.