Annual NHS Resolution accounts 2019/20 reveal that the costs charged by lawyers representing injured patients has fallen over the last year. Meanwhile, the number of claims has gone up.
NHS Resolution Annual Report 2019/20
NHS resolution, the body responsible for dealing with compensation claims against the NHS, released their annual accounts, in July. The report highlights some interesting statistics:-
- 11,682 new clinical negligence claims and reported incidents were received. An increase of 9.3% (998) from 2018/19. Although 401 of those are from a brand new scheme which covers mistakes in general practice.
- 15,550 claims settled. 71.5% without court proceedings being issued; 27.9% after court proceedings had been started, and the rest at trial.
- Compensation was paid in 63% of the clinical negligence claims which settled – up from 59% the year before.
- 5,805 of the claims which settled without court proceedings being started involved no compensation being paid; 5,312 involved compensation being paid.
- Once court proceedings started the NHS’s pay out rate increases considerably. Payments were made in over 80% of the cases that got to this stage, according to their figures.
- Obstetrics claims make up 50% of the total value of clinical negligence claims reported for 2019/20 (£4,778.7 million). This is despite them making up only 9% of the total volume of claims. This is due to the severe consequences in these claims.
- The average claimant costs, in a claim valued between £1 and £100,000 has fallen to less than it was in 2014/15 (£48,592).
- Average compensation payments have also fallen to below what they were in 2014/15 to £20,332.
- The total value of clinical negligence claims was down to £8.3 billion, down from £8.8 billion the previous year.
- Administration costs increased by £1.8 million (not including the cost of the new general practice scheme).
Behind the Headlines
As ever, statistics can be deceptive. Whilst giving the appearance of factual data, by their very nature, they have been manufactured to help make them easier to visualise and report. A side effect of this is that they are selective. The details are, at best, buried in the 215 page NHS Resolution report, or in some instances omitted entirely, making any detailed analysis by third parties impossible.
NHS Resolution seem to have identified the problem though. Their focus seems set on reducing legal fees, with the NHS Resolution Chairman, Ian Dilks describing the cost of clinical negligence as “the elephant in the room”. He said “we hope a way can be found to significantly reduce the cost to the public purse at no detriment to justice”.
Whilst well-meaning, this aim seems to be misplaced. The figures they have made public show claim numbers rising, whilst legal costs fall. So, shouldn’t prioritising patient safety be the focus, for now? This will in turn reduce the number of claims and therefore the compensation bill. This approach will also reduce other expenses, such as long-term treatment for people who have been catastrophically injured and the tax bill, for those unable to work and reliant on benefits.
After so many years focused on reducing the legal costs associated with claims, they seem to have forgotten that the most effective way to reduce the legal bill would be by eliminating the need for anyone to make a claim.
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