The MDU’s announcement that it will no longer cover spinal procedures in private hospitals could have catastrophic consequences for the health sector, according to Fletchers Solicitors.
As insurance premiums are skyrocketing, the MDU has said that the rising cost of claims has forced it to stop insuring spinal surgeries.
However, Christian Beadell, a senior solicitor at Fletchers Solicitors, has said that the move is motivated by a belief that it’s cheaper to withdraw cover for doctors than to address training and practice issues that would increase patient safety.
“With the previous speculation that the MDU could also refuse to cover minor surgical procedures, we are seeing a drive by indemnity insurers to limit the scope of their liability and there is now a real argument that this could stop some doctors from being able to deliver healthcare,” said Beadell.
“If they cannot find another provider to insure them, they will be forced to self-insure or even completely stop carrying out certain procedures. In the case of private spinal injury surgery this could have a disastrous effect on the NHS, as the burden of providing these procedures will be passed back onto the public healthcare services and hospitals, placing more pressure on a service that is at its limits.”
Beadell said that the MDU’s recent announcement should also be seen in the context of the paper issued by the Medical Protection Society – Clinical Negligence Costs, – Striking A Balance, which supports urgent legal reforms to reduce the cost burden on the NHS from clinical negligence claims.
“Some of those reforms proposed fundamental changes to principles of Tort Law to reduce the burden of compensation claims. For example, it was suggested that where care is required due to negligence, this could be capped and that some higher earners who are no longer able to work should not receive compensation equal to their actual loss,” explained Beadell.
He said that such proposals would “fly in the face” of the basic principle that the law exists to ensure that a victim of negligence should be put in the position that he/she was in before the negligence occurred, and should be vigorously opposed.
“The paper did not consider the impact on the indemnity scheme for the NHS (the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts) of the withdrawal of cover for treatments in the private sector,” he said.
“What we are therefore seeing is a concerted effort by indemnity insurers to reduce their liability in both the private and public sector, with the focus being placed upon minimising the financial consequences of negligence, rather than focusing upon the root causes.
“Any legal reforms that prevent patients from receiving full and fair compensation for their injury will only be to the detriment of the patients.”