Recent reports have shown that the NHS accounts for medical negligence compensation have sky-rocketed over the last year. The medical negligence bill has hit a new high of £1 billion in litigation claims for a 12-month period. Recently published figures reveal that claims launched against the NHS by its patients, or family members thereof, have led to the health service forking out a total of £1.2 billion in medical negligence compensation between 2011 and 2012. This colossal figure represents a significant increase in medical negligence payouts from the previous year which stands at around £863 million.
The figures were taken from the NHS Litigation Authority (NHS LA) account sheets which were published late last week. A small portion of the money represents claims of a non-clinical nature, including compensation for incidents such as people tripping on wet floors where no warning sign was present. However, these types of claims account for just £52.4 million of the staggering billion-pound bill and would have been made by staff and visitors in addition to patients.
The NHS LA has stated that the amount of medical negligence compensation being paid out for NHS mistakes has been increasing year on year for some time. In 2009 to 2010 there were 10,726 individual claims, a figure which jumped to 13,000 in the year 2010 to 2011. However, the number of individual claims has not increased significantly in 2011 to 2012, going up to just 13,761, a relatively minor increase which belies the massive jump in the total amount compensation paid out. Tom Fothergill, who is the Director of Finance at NHS LA said that they had been able to close more medical negligence claims than ever before but also that the effect of this sharp increase in medical negligence claims has made things difficult in recent years.
Christine Tompkins, who is the Chief Executive of the Medical Defence Union (MDU) has called for urgent legal reforms to address the huge medical negligence compensation bill. The call for this reform comes at a time when the UK legal system is already under close scrutiny from the personal injury perspective with considerable investigations under way by organisations such as the Law Society and the Transport Committee. Tompkins pointed out that many other countries, including Australia and the US were forced to tackle the problem of colossally high medical compensation bills when it was too late and that the UK should not delay any longer to allow a similar situation to occur. The reform will, no doubt, be added to the extensive list of parameters which must be assessed before we see the changes to the UK’s legal system implemented in Q2 next year.