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Clinical Negligence Claims Rising In The UK

The BBC has recently highlighted the rise in clinical negligence claims in the UK, stating that the NHS receives more than 10,000 new yearly claims for compensation. Tilly Bailey & Irvine’s North East Solicitors investigate…

The NHS in England faces paying out £4.3bn in legal fees to settle outstanding claims of clinical negligence, with an approximate 10,000+ new claims for compensation reported “each year”.

APIL (The Association of Personal Injuries Lawyers) meanwhile believes that the cost is driven by failures in patient safety, while doctors represented by the Medical Defence Union called for a "fundamental" reform of the current system.

APIL’s Suzanne White was quoted by the BBC saying that the intention is NOT simply to sue the likes of the NHS: “What they want to do is find out what went wrong, why they have received these injuries... and to make sure it doesn't happen to other patients."

She added that although only 10% of claims relate to obstetrics, they account for 50% of compensation, as a child injured at birth often needs a lifetime of care.

Answers, not compensation

Sylvia Taylor, a Clinical Negligence legal expert at Tilly Bailey & Irvine Solicitors, echoed those sentiments, saying that people have previously been afraid to take action over life-affecting cases of clinical negligence.

Sylvia says finding answers to mistakes early will erase the risk of greater compensation: “It is good to see the side of those affected by clinical negligence represented by broadcasters most recently. It highlights that patient safety is not improving, which is the major concern of this report.

“People are sometimes reluctant to take their up their claims when it involves certain bodies such as the NHS – a hugely important system – but in many cases they eventually find out that they have no option but the try and get the answers they need when injuries and further complications occur, particularly with fatal cases. It’s getting peace of mind through those admitting mistakes, not compensation, that clients take action for.

“As solicitors, we then research the case to see if the matter should be taken up further. We find that many are small settlements and do create an alert to improve patient care, which is the advantage of simply admitting mistakes early. The claims that take up the legal fees in the UK are related to brain and birth injuries, usually settled with a lump sum payment plus annual periodical payments to cover costs such as care for life.”

A further piece in the Daily Telegraph quoted that former Tory health secretary Stephen Dorrell said the "real scandal" was the time trusts spent arguing legal cases rather than "admitting to failings", saying "you need to get to the decisions quicker."

All hospital trusts in England contribute to a central fund called the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts, administered by NHS Resolution, with the BBC also alleging that in 2019/20 hospitals will put £1.9bn of contributions towards.