The increasing cost of clinical negligence claims

Posted by Patricia Wakeford, 27th June 2019
Data released by NHS resolution, as detailed in an article by The Daily Telegraph, notes that in 2018-2019 the cost of clinical negligence claims in England increased by £137 million to almost £2.4 billion. This includes compensation paid to patients who are the victim of clinical negligence claims as well as their legal costs.

Clinical Negligence lawyer, Patricia Wakeford comments. There is no doubt that this is a vast amount of money. However, the good news is that the number of claims is falling. Claims can take many years to reach a conclusion so present payments can relate to historical claims. You can read more here.

It is important to note that 10% of claims relate to poor maternity care. These are the most costly to the NHS, but also devastating to the families involved. Apparently, 188 claims in 2018-19 were due to cerebral palsy or brain damage caused by poor maternity care and the claim value was £1.86 billion. A brain damaged child will need care, equipment and therapy for life and this is costly. It is noted by the Medical Defence Union Chief Executive that this could have funded over 15 million MRI scans or 112,000 liver transplants. This is indeed something that we should all be concerned about.

A proven clinical negligence claim aims to put the patient back into the position they would have been in if they had not received negligent treatment. If there is a reduction in substandard treatment; there will be a reduction in patients bringing clinical negligence claims and consequently a reduction in costs. Having been a clinical negligence solicitor for many years; a significant number of my clients have wanted answers. Many said they would not have thought of bringing a claim if they had been provided with the information that they wanted. However, they felt that they were shut out by clinicians at the hospital when what they needed was an open discussion. The likelihood is; some of my clients would not even have considered contacting me if they had received an open and informative response from the hospital with a solution to help them to manage their situation. Many trusts are good at this; some less so.

How do we reduce these claims and the associated cost?

I was able to attend the Westminster Health Forum discussion on improving maternity services on 10 July. A link to an article about that day can be found here. I will not reiterate its content, but this was a day of collaboration where multiple organisations came together with the aim of improving services provided to those accessing maternity services.  This highlighted all the excellent initiatives that are in place to improve and provide the support that is required to women and their families if maternity services do not reach the expected standard.

This will take time, but plans have been developed and are progressing well. It was eye opening for me to see how much can be done in a short time when like-minded people come together to make improvements. I look forward to hearing of further developments.

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