Claims against NHS have risen threefold since 2008

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It has emerged that the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) paid out more than £1.4bn in medical negligence claims last year compared to £583m in 2008.

Analysis carried out by the BBC, has shown that some NHS Trusts have seen claims against them spiral in recent years. Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, saw its costs rise from £14,000 in 2011 to £981,000 in 2015, and Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust was responsible for payouts of £304,000 in 2015, compared to £12,000 in 2011.

The NHSLA said that claimant legal costs had risen 43% from £292m in 2014 to £418m in the past year.

Chief executive Helen Vernon told the BBC that the key to reducing the growing costs of claims was for the NHS to learn from mistakes and support changes to prevent harm in the first place.

“We want to reduce the need for expensive litigation. This means increasing the use of mediation in the NHS, early transparency, saying ‘sorry’ and demonstrating that lessons have been learned to prevent the incident happening again,” she said.

Neil Sugarman, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), told the BBC that the figures should have come as no surprise, “in view of almost daily publicity about poor treatment and avoidable harm”.

He said APIL had been talking to the government about ways to save money.

“This includes the NHSLA accepting failures when they happen and reducing costly delays in settling claims.

“It takes a lot of work to prove a claim against a Goliath organisation like the NHS, which holds all the cards and information about the incident, so delays and unnecessary denials are unhelpful and costly.

“The NHSLA is its own worst enemy for pushing up costs against itself by dragging out claims and defending cases needlessly, only then to settle at the door of the court.”

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Marek Handzel

Marek Handzel is the editor of Claims Magazine. Marek welcomes articles, letters, or feedback from readers and can be reached by emailing marek.handzel@barkerbrooks.co.uk