MDU backs MPs’ call for litigation reform

A House of Commons committee report into maternity safety recommends reforms.

Following the conclusions today of the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee’s report into maternity safety in England, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) welcomed proposals to reform the way compensation costs are calculated. MDU’s Dr Michael Devlin, head of professional standards and liaison, said:

“Today’s report must be a wake-up call not only to improve the safety of maternity services, but also to foster a just and learning culture in which incidents are thoroughly investigated and lessons learned and shared. All of those involved in the delivery of healthcare have a role to play in this.

“We are particularly pleased to see the Committee recommend the Department of Health and Social Care removes ‘the need to compensate on the basis of private healthcare provision where appropriate NHS care is available; and that compensation is standardised against the national average wage’. This means repealing Section 2(4) of the 1948 Law Reform Act. The MDU has long advocated for these reforms which would help to restore much needed balance to the system of clinical claims litigation.

“The scale of claims costs facing the NHS is truly astonishing. In 2019-20, NHS Resolution paid out £2.3bn in compensation for maternity claims alone, representing 40 percent of all clinical claims payments and just under 70% of the estimated annual cost of harm in NHS hospitals in England. While clinical negligence claims are not an indicator of poor medical standards, there is a need, as identified in the report, for litigation reform.

“Every example of negligence takes its toll on the patients and families involved, but the compensation being paid out puts enormous pressure on NHS funding, especially at a time when the NHS needs to recover from the pandemic.

“The government must now bring forward proposals for how it will get control of these unsustainable costs.”