Several news organisations, including The Independent, have reported on an Associated Press article which states the NHS paid out £1.2 billion in legal costs and compensation between 2011 and 2012.
The figures are shown in the recently released NHS Litigation Authority’s (NHS LA) annual accounts, and are up from £863 million in the previous year.
The accounts show there were 10,726 claims from 2009 to 2010, 13,001 from 2010 to 2011, and 13,761 in 2011 to 2012.
‘Non-clinical claims’ – those in which people slipped, tripped or fell – amounted to £52.4 million.
While a personal injury claim such as the above would only be successful if the claimant was deemed to be not at fault (ie due to slipping on a wet floor which wasn’t clearly signed), it is an indication of the litigious times we live in when people are willing to sue a hospital or GP for slipping over.
Tom Fothergill, director of finance at NHS LA told the Press Association: “The financial year 2011 to 2012 has seen further increases in claims activity at every level of the NHS LA’s work. We were able to close more claims than ever before, but the combined effect of sharply increased claims in recent years and a continuation of the growth in new claims received this year still resulted in there being more than 5% more claims open at the end of the year.”
Representatives from the Medical Defence Union (MDU) are urging for legal reforms to address the increasing bills.
Dr Christine Tomkins, MDU chief executive, told the Press Association: “NHS damages payouts have increased substantially in the last year and in our experience of settling cases on behalf of our GP and independent practitioner members, we have even seen compensation awards exceeding £5 million. We have also seen claims in general practice rise significantly in number for each of the last two years.
“Large awards are usually a result of the cost of providing for future care or compensation for loss of earnings, or both. While patients should be compensated quickly and fairly when they have been negligently harmed, the massive cost to society cannot be overlooked.”
With recent reports of solicitors taking larger percentages of compensation than their clients, Dr Tomkins’ comments don’t appear to be entirely misguided, however there does definitely need to be an avenue for mistreated or misdiagnosed patients to receive compensation for negligent care.