Sharp rise in negligence payouts by NHS

COMPENSATION payouts and legal costs for clinical negligence covered by the NHS in England increased by more than a quarter last year, reaching almost £1.5 billion.

New figures from the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) show that in 2015/16 total payments relating to their clinical schemes increased by £319 million (27 per cent) – from £1,169.5 million to £1,488.5 million.

While new clinical negligence claims in 2015/16 fell in number by almost five per cent to just under 11,000, damages paid to patients jumped 23 per cent from £774 million to more than £950 million. Claimants’ legal costs saw another huge increase – rising by 43 per cent, from £292 million in 2014/15 to £418 million last year.

Last year NHSLA received 15,137 new claims for compensation against the NHS in England and handled 993 referrals about the performance of doctors, dentists and pharmacists within the NHS.

Among the biggest increases was its provisions for hospital clinical negligence claims which have almost doubled since last year to £56.4 billion. A large portion of that rise, the report explained, was caused by a change in the long-term discount rate set by HM Treasury which added an extra £25.5 billion to the amount needed.

The report said that clinical negligence costs remained a key issue last year, with contributors to the scheme (mainly NHS providers) seeing contributions to settle claims rise by 35 per cent in 2015/16 with a further increase of 17 per cent in 2016/17.

Commenting on the report, NHS LA Chief Executive Helen Vernon said: “The key to reducing the growing costs of claims is learning from what goes wrong and supporting changes to prevent harm in the first place.

“We want to reduce the need for expensive litigation. This means increasing the use of mediation in the NHS, early transparency, saying ‘sorry’ and demonstrating that lessons have been learned to prevent the incident happening again.”

Link: NHS Litigation Authority - Annual report and accounts 2015/16

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