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High litigation spend in the NHS blamed on poor levels of care

East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has revealed that basic mistakes being made in hospitals across the country are costing the NHS around £2.5 billion a year, with litigation cases accounting for more than half of this total. Mr Hunt has said that this number is an example of the 'shocking costs' poor care is having on the health organisation.

During a speech at Birmingham Children’s Hospital last month, Mr Hunt cited a report by financial analysts Frontier Economics, commissioned by the Department of Health, which found that problems such as medication errors, avoidable infections and litigations made up the majority of the £2.5 billion spend. The Health Secretary went on to argue that the NHS would be able to hire more nurses if staff demonstrated better levels of care, but this claim has angered staff bodies such as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), who said that under-staffed wards were to blame for the mistakes in the first place, and levels of care wouldn’t increase until they had enough staff to cover the number of patients.

Increase of the cost of litigation

The cost of litigation and clinical negligence claims are Mr Hunt’s greatest concern, and during his speech he suggested that by driving the cost of these claims down, hospitals could improve their overall performance on the same resources. According to figures from the NHS Litigation Authority, compensation payouts for clinical negligence claims have more than doubled in the past 6 years –from £592 million in 2005/2006 to £1.3 billion in 2012/2013. The cost of compensation is not just affecting the NHS in England, but it’s also being significantly felt by Welsh healthcare services. Earlier this year, NHS Wales reported that they had spent £117 million on clinical negligence claims over the past three years, with the total compensation costs almost doubling over that period of time.

To address these rising costs, Mr Hunt announced that a new poster campaign will be launched to warn staff of financial implications, should a basic medical error result in a clinical negligence claim. The government believe that this campaign will improve the standards of care throughout UK hospitals, however, considering 80% of NHS bodies were rated as ‘inadequate’ or ‘[requiring] improvement’ in a recent report published by the Care Quality Commission, concerns have been raised as to whether the UK Government has realistic expectations.

Increasing staff levels to reduce claims

While the RCN and other health organisations agree that changes need to be made to improve standards in NHS hospitals, they insist that the only way to reduce compensation claims and payouts is to increase staff levels. Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr Peter Carter, has said that falls and “preventable conditions” such as pressure ulcers happen because there isn't enough staff on a ward to provide adequate care for every patient, not because of staff negligence.

At Fonseca Law, we know claiming for clinical negligence can be a difficult process due to the complex nature of the law and the number of factors that you need to be able to prove. However, if you believe you have been injured as a result of medical negligence, please don’t hesitate to contact our experienced team of lawyers here at Fonseca Law today on 01495 303124, email us at enquiries@fonsecalaw.co.uk or pop into our offices in Ebbw Vale and we’ll be happy to discuss your claim.