Public Accounts Committee Releases Report On Rising Medical Negligence Claims


The Law Of… Tackling Overstretched Finances

As the Public Accounts Committee releases a report considering the increase in clinical negligence claims and their spiralling costs, Medical Negligence claims Partner, Sarah Grogan, examines its findings.

Surgeon checking medical negligence report

The Rising Costs Of Medical Negligence Claims

The report was compiled by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee in response to the significant rise in medical negligence cases brought against the NHS. The annual cost of such claims is said to have quadrupled to £1.6billion over the past decade.

One key takeaway from the report linked this increase in claims to a defensive culture within the NHS, along with a reluctance to admit mistakes.

The Causes Of Increasing Medical Negligence Claims

The Committee found that causes for the escalation in medical negligence cases included:

  • Mounting financial pressure upon the NHS, affecting both waiting times and the quality of care
  • Complacency and slowness on behalf of the government in its response to failing patient safety
  • The lack of transparency and a predominately defensive culture within the NHS, limiting the opportunity to learn lessons
  • An Increase in time to resolve cases, affecting patient experience and driving costs up further
  • Government failure to assess impact of legal reform, increasing access to justice and, in turn, the volume of claims.

Anybody reading the report would be right to voice concerns regarding its conclusions about the current system. There are, however, a number of urgent recommendations for improving things going forward.

The Public Accounts Committee's Recommendations

The report stressed that both the government and NHS Resolution, the body responsible for handling claims on behalf of the health service, must:

  • Take swift and coordinated action to reduce patient harm, particularly where maternity is concerned
  • Work with trusts to identify and spread best practice in handling complaints and harmful incidents, including apologising and providing patient support following medical errors
  • Consistently classify incidents, complaints and claims and clarify why cases are taking longer to resolve and how this is being addressed.

The report also urged that trusts prioritise resources on patients more at risk of harm from increased waiting times.

A Welcome And Balanced Analysis

The threat to patient safety that an overstretched service poses was recently highlighted by what happened at Portsmouth's Queen Alexandra Hospital. The Care Quality Commission found  that instances of lung cancer had been missed due to junior doctors, who were lacking the necessary qualifications, being asked to review chest x-rays.

Sarah comments:

"The cost of medical negligence claims puts additional pressure on already compromised finances and affects the NHS's ability to provide good quality care."

"The challenge lies in achieving a system that ensures those who have suffered as a result of medical negligence are able to receive the justice they are entitled to, so they can start to rebuild their lives, while remaining affordable to society."

"As well as recognising the funding issues, the report from the Public Accounts Committee highlights the part the NHS must play in improving patient safety. It also points out that a more open approach to dealing with mistakes and reducing costs should be embraced."

"Overall, the report provides a welcome and balanced analysis of the current problems and the challenges that lie ahead. It will be interesting to see what the response to it from the parties concerned will be."

The full report can be read here.

If you have suffered medical negligence and believe you have a claim, contact Simpson Millar today.

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