Over £1.1 billion was paid out by the NHS to compensate patients involved in medical negligence claims and could have funded over eight million MRI scans, or 730,000 weight loss operations for obese patients, or 61,000 liver transplants the Medical Defence Union (MDU) said today Reacting to the publication of the NHS litigation authority's (NHSLA) accounts for 2014/15, which shows the amounts paid out in legal claims on behalf of NHS trusts in England, the MDU said the scale of compensation awards had reached eye-watering levels which could not be sustained for much longer.
| The money paid is no reflection on clinical standards, which remain high, but it reflects the unsustainable cost of private sector health and social care packages|
| Dr Michael Devlin|
Dr Michael Devlin, MDU head of professional standards and liaison, said:
"The cost of care is the main reason for the staggering negligence bill. The money paid is no reflection on clinical standards, which remain high, but it reflects the unsustainable cost of private sector health and social care packages. We have to stop money haemorrhaging out of the NHS in compensation awards. These figures only accentuate the need for a complete rethink of personal injury law."
"Multi million pound compensation awards are now commonplace, mainly because of the cost of providing future care for patients with severe long-term injuries. For example, the MDU paid £9.2m to compensate a patient rendered tetraplegic following spinal surgery. In one NHS case, a child who suffered severe brain damage as a result of negligence has been awarded compensation that could amount to £24 million over her lifetime. "
The news that the NHS paid out over one billion pounds in negligence compensation in the year to March 2015 is startling enough. More worrying is that the NHSLA estimates the money needed to settle all clinical negligence claims is 24 times this amount. We calculate that figure is likely to double within than seven years. While these amounts won't have to be paid out all at once, they will need to be paid eventually. The NHSLA estimates their known and estimated liabilities are £28.3 billion, and this figure has more than doubled since 2009 when it was £13.4 billion.
"Patients harmed as a result of medical negligence must be compensated so they can be properly cared for. But the increases we are seeing in clinical negligence claims inflation mean that compensation awards will become unaffordable. Legal reform cannot come soon enough, especially when the health service faces such tremendous financial pressures.
| ...the increases we are seeing in clinical negligence claims inflation mean that compensation awards will become unaffordable|
| Dr Michael Devlin|
"The heart of the problem is an outdated legal system. A law made the same year the NHS was founded, means that defending bodies like the MDU and NHSLA are expected to fund compensation awards in the independent sector. This cannot be fair when it means billions of pounds leaving NHS funds to provide independent sector care for just one person. The law must change."