Early intervention in NHS negligence claims could save huge costs

Mon, 27 Jan 2020

A BBC report has warned the NHS faces paying out £4.3billion in legal fees to settle outstanding claims of clinical negligence, but a barrister from No5 Barristers’ Chambers, says that costs can be saved whilst maintaining proper compensation for those who suffer from medical accidents.

The figures revealed as a result of a Freedom of Information request suggest that the NHS receives more than 10,000 new compensation claims each year and estimates published in 2019 suggest the total cost of outstanding compensation claims at £83billion.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) is calling for an overhaul of the legal system with regard to compensation claims and the methods by which sums awarded are calculated.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers says the cost is driven by failures in patient safety. Charlotte Robinson-Jones, a member of the clinical negligence and personal injury groups at No5, says many patients do not intend to sue at the outset.

“In an ideal world the NHS wouldn't have to be making payments for negligence claims as there wouldn't be any medical accidents,” she said.

“My experience is that many patients simply want answers to their questions, an apology if things have gone wrong, and a reassurance that lessons have been learned and that the same won't happen to someone else.

“However, when someone suffers injury as a result of clinical negligence, they deserve to be properly compensated for their injuries and losses. The amount of compensation to which they’re entitled shouldn't be lower simply because the claim arises from medical negligence as opposed to, for example, a car accident or injury at work.

“Quite what the MDU means when it suggests changing the way compensation is calculated is unclear. In my view the problems include the clinical errors giving rise to claims occurring in the first place and then valid claims not being resolved promptly, not negligently injured patients being paid too much compensation.

“If patients’ questions are answered, they receive an apology and accept that lessons have been learned, some don't even seek compensation unless it's needed for their future care and support.

“Early NHS engagement and admissions where appropriate therefore save costs and, just as importantly, reduce patient distress. Surely that’s in everyone's best interests?"

To read more on this subject please visit: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51180944 & https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/4bn-budget-for-legal-fees-in-nhs-negligence-claims-totalling-83bn-dx3chhvxh

Charlotte Robinson-Jones is a member of the clinical negligence and personal injury groups at No5 Barristers’ Chambers. To view her profile visit: https://www.no5.com/people/barristers/charlotte-robinson-jones/

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