Recent accounts published by the NHS Litigation Authority (NHS LA) have revealed that the health service has spent £1.2 billion on its medical negligence claim bill in the past year. The figure represents a significant surge in the amount compensation received by NHS patients and their families who initiated medical negligence claims for the same time period last year which saw the NHS paying out £863 million. Only a tiny proportion of this figure was for compensation claims of a non-clinical nature. Around £52.4 million was paid out to people for personal injuries such as falling and hurting themselves on wet floors when no warning sign was present. These claims could have made by staff and visitors in addition to patients.
The NHS LA was initially founded to allow for a separate body to handle medical negligence claim cases launched by patients who suffered as a result of mistakes made by NHS staff during medical treatment or procedures. The total number of claims which were made for the period of 2010 to 2011 was just over 13,000. This year a rise has been seen in the total number of claims launched, but the increase is a lot smaller than the £1.2 billion in medical negligence claim bill might suggest, with 13,760 claims being made. This indicates that considerably larger medical negligence claims were paid out this year over the previous year. In 2009 to 2010, a total of 10,720 medical negligence claims were made.
Tom Fothergill, director of finance for the NHS LA spoke out in the group’s defense stating that his department had been able to close more medical negligence compensation claims than ever before in spite of the increase over the past two years. The Medical Defense Union has spoken out on the subject too with Christine Tomkins, the current Chief Executive, voicing concerns over the unsustainability of the current situation. She said that the “NHS damages pay-outs’ have increased substantially in the last year and in our experience of settling cases on behalf of our GP and independent practitioner members, we have even seen compensation awards exceeding £5 million.” Tomkins went on to say that “We have also seen claims in general practice rise significantly in number for each of the last two years”
The pending reform for compensation law surrounding medical negligence claims is expected to be added to the government’s list of points to rectify in order to tackle the increasingly long list of factors contributing to the compensation culture we appear to have in the UK. Many experts, however, point out that if wrong has been done to the patients by the NHS medical experts, then compensation is owed.