Tozers’ medical law Partner Stuart Bramley writes –
“It makes refreshing change to read an article about the cost of clinical negligence claims that doesn’t seek to blame the lawyers, aside from Jeremy Hunt’s traditional description of ‘preying’ applied to those who fight for justice for those harmed by NHS errors. The figures set out in this Daily Mail article are far from refreshing, however – every reader who supports our Health Service will be alarmed to see the amounts paid out in claims. It is important to understand from the outset that this data almost entirely relates to successful claims – injured patients who cannot prove that their injuries have arisen from substandard treatment will not receive a penny and nor will their lawyers who will mainly run these cases on a ‘no win no fee’ basis. So the £2.4bn referred to here is paid for proven errors.
There are several reasons for the increase, including the reduction in the discount rate (the change to the deduction applied to compensation payments to reflect early receipt of money that the patient can then invest). There has also been a waste of money in respect of legal costs in cases being defended for too long before being settled. Figures provided by NHS Resolution show that the great majority of claims are only compromised after the patient’s legal team has been forced to start formal proceedings at court, with only a small fraction of admissions being made before that stage.
But to repeat an observation made above, none of this would be spent if there had not been a negligent error in the first place. The Mail highlights an apparent reluctance to learn, given the reported failure by some hospitals to provide relevant information on incidents where the patient actually died. This runs counter to the NHS ‘duty of candour’ and simply results in a situation where lessons cannot be learned if the mistake is not acknowledged. I hope this report leads to Trusts and GP surgeries being compelled to take mistakes seriously in every case.