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National Audit Office report on cost in clinical negligence cases

The National Audit Office (NAO) has recently published its report into the financial implications of clinical negligence claims on the NHS, and the factors behind the well-publicised increase.

It is all too easy to point the finger at people becoming increasingly litigious, or the legal profession encouraging a claims culture. Instead, what the report has done is identify conduct by the NHS Resolution which contributes to these costs. It include things like delays in settling cases and its failure to consistently share lessons learned after cases have been brought to their attention.

The independent organisation which represents medical accident victims (AVMA) feels that the report has missed the opportunity to challenge why those failures have occurred. AVMA have said “the focus needs to be on patient’s safety, learning lessons and preventing harm”. They point out that the remit given to the NAO was too narrow, it was simply to “examine amongst other things, what is causing the rising cost of clinical negligence claims”.

The core conclusions identify the following key factors:

  1. Increases in the average Claimant damages and legal costs and to a higher volume of claims.

  2. The relationship between patient care, patient attitudes and clinical negligence claims are poorly understood and NHS Resolution and Trusts have not “systematically commissioned insights on what motivates people to make a claim”.

At Morgan Jones Pett Solicitors we handle clinical negligence claims for patients who will so often say that all they are looking for is an acknowledgement that something had gone wrong, and an apology. Even with the duty of candor this rarely happens.

The report concludes that NHS Resolution should work with: i. The Ministry of Justice amongst others to set out a co-ordinated strategy to manage the growth in the cost of clinical negligence cases;

ii. Trusts and Claimant legal firms to build its capability to analyse and prove greater insights on the causes of clinical negligence claims;

iii. Its members and other bodies to promote better and more consistent data for complaints, incidents and negligent claims across the system.

iv. NHS Protect, Solicitors Regulation Authority and other regulators to exchange information and risks identified by its claims operators and feedback on actions taken as a result.

Clearly we should support all of these things and welcome working with NHS Resolution and any other interested parties to try and reduce the level of claims.

Let us take it from here.

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