Medical Tuesday Blog
NHS Litigation Claims Double Under Coalition
Scale of clinical negligence claims is now unprecedented prompting claims that reorganisation has harmed patient care
The number of litigation claims made against the NHS in a year has almost doubled under the coalition, prompting claims that the service is failing to deal with growing demands on its limited resources.
The scale of the clinical negligence claims is unprecedented, with 11,945 cases reported by NHS trusts over the last financial year compared with 6,562 in 2009-10.
Such are the costs of dealing with the legal actions that the NHS has increased the amount of money it retains to deal with claims, up from £8.7bn in the first year of the coalition government to £15.6bn in 2013-14 – adding to the financial stresses within the service.
The analysis, based on figures published annually by the NHS Litigation Authority, comes as NHS England revealed that 35,373 patients waited more than four hours for treatment in the first week of December. That number was 66% higher than the same period last year. Meanwhile 7,760 people were kept on a trolley for between four and 12 hours before a ward bed was found – up from 3,666.
Amid a barrage of criticism on Friday, Dame Barbara Hakin, the national director of commissioning operations for NHS England, was forced to admit in interviews that the NHS was “under a huge amount of pressure”. “We are seeing far more patients than we ever have before,” she said. The Department of Health has insisted that the NHS was well prepared for winter and that an injection of £700m would pay for extra nurses, doctors and beds this winter. . .
Shadow health minister Jamie Reed said: “These figures provide indisputable proof that the NHS is heading seriously downhill.
“The vast majority of NHS staff now say David Cameron’s NHS reorganisation has harmed patient care. The sad truth is that, by turning the NHS upside down with a damaging reorganisation and causing a crisis in A&E, this government has made care problems more likely, not less.
“It is forcing the NHS to set aside soaring amounts for negligence claims – money that is desperately needed on the front line.”
It is believed that the rise of “no win, no fee” agreements has been another factor pushing up the number of people suing the NHS.
A change to the law in April 2013 might have been responsible for a rise in the number of claims in the period before the new law came in, but it is also likely to reduce the number of claims in the future. From April last year, the fee lawyers could charge was reduced from 100% to 25%.
The NHS Litigation Authority has also launched a new mediation service to resolve any claims “quickly and cost effectively”.
Its latest annual accounts said that maternity claims “represent the highest value and third highest number of clinical negligence claims reported to us”. It added: “The value of maternity claims can be very high (sometimes more than £6m) as the amount paid is for ongoing care, accommodation and specialist equipment needs. The NHS funds these settlements by way of a lump sum, followed by annual payments for life.
“This ensures that the child has financial security and that compensation that would otherwise be paid upfront is available for patient care.”