The NHS faces a compensation time bomb and urgent reform is needed to make compensation levels affordable for taxpayers, according to the Medical Defence Union (MDU).
The warning has come from the MDU after the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) reported that its provisions for hospital clinical negligence claims have almost doubled since last year to £56.4 billion, reaching record levels.
The NHSLA has also reported a staggering annual increase of 27% (£319m) in compensation payments and legal costs which went from £1,169.5 million to £1,488.5 million.
MDU chief executive, Dr Christine Tomkins said that the report should dispel any doubt that there was a compensation crisis that affects “every English taxpayer”.
“[The] report underlines what the MDU has been saying for some time,” said Tomkins.
“The NHS is sitting on a time bomb of future claims and legal reform is the only way to address it and to keep money within the NHS for treatment of patients.”
“Of course the NHS must do all it can to prevent negligence, but this is not a problem caused by clinical standards, which remain very high. It is the result mainly of economic pressure and an outdated legal system meaning compensation must be calculated on the basis of private, rather than NHS care,” she said.
Tomkins said that the MDU hoped the figures provided by the NHSLA would provide a wake up call for the Government to take the only sensible option and overhaul personal injury law.
“The NHS is haemorrhaging money on claims which it should be able to retain so that all patients benefit. Patients must be compensated but in a fairer, more affordable way,” she added.