Opinion Former Article

Urgent action needed to curb compensation payouts says MDU

Responding to the publication of NHS Resolution’s annual report for 2017/18 which shows that NHS Resolution’s balance sheet provisions have almost trebled to £77 billion in four years, Dr Christine Tomkins, Medical Defence Union (MDU) chief executive said:

“The cost of clinical negligence claims continues to spiral out of control and it is no surprise that, while NHS Resolution has seen claims numbers stabilise, in 2017/8 it paid out a record £2.23 billion compensating patients through its clinical negligence schemes. NHS Resolution’s total liabilities are estimated at £77 billion, up from £65 billion last year, with the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts accounting for 93% of that provision.

“NHS Resolution Chair Ian Dilks attributes £4.5bn of the additional liabilities to the fall in the personal injury discount rate (PIDR) from March 2017. The MDU has seen the dramatic effect of the 3.25% PIDR decrease on GP claims too. NHS Resolution has already made individual compensation awards worth well over £20 million, a sum which would have been unthinkable until quite recently.

“These increases in claims payments are nothing to do with the quality of clinical care, which remains high. They are a result of a hostile legal climate. Awards of this size, paid from NHS funds, are damaging for everyone who uses the NHS and cannot be sustained if we want the NHS to survive.

“The government is listening. Following criticism from both the National Audit Office and the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee the Department of Health and Social Care convened a working group to look at the how to manage the cost of clinical negligence to the NHS. But what we now need, in the interest of all users of the NHS, is urgent legal reform.

“One of the topics on the table is repeal of S2(4) of the Law Reform (Personal Injuries) Act 1948 which still requires all clinical negligence defendants to fund compensation on the basis it will be used for private, not NHS care, even though there is no guarantee that is how the money will be spent. The MDU has been campaigning for this legal change and others such as fixing claimant’s legal fees and reforming the personal injury discount rate.

“It would be a fitting birthday present for the NHS if balance could be restored to a system which is so out of kilter, it is putting the NHS under unbearable strain.”

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