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Medical compensation no longer fit for purpose

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) has called for reform of clinical negligence costing, claiming that if the current rise in costs continues then the public finances will not be able to cope.
The MDU, which represents practitioners in cases of clinical negligence, says that compensation payments are rising at the rate of 10 per cent per year. The NHS is thought to spend more than £1 billion per year on compensation, and a recent report by the NHS Litigation Authority suggested that liabilities for known and future claims would top £25 billion – the equivalent of £1,000 for every taxpayer in the country.
Dr Christine Tomkins, chief executive of the MDU, commented, “If it is sustained in the long term it stands to reason a point will be reached where society cannot afford it any longer. Unfortunately what happens is people wait until there’s a crisis – we should learn from other countries and try to provide a better system in an orderly way.”
However, this does not take into account “savings” that could be made in the way that the NHS deals with clinical negligence claims. In the past there has been a culture of silence, with practitioners remaining unwilling to admit fault. As a result, claims are often drawn out for many months or even years. This costs the NHS a huge amount of money in legal fees, and means that victims do not receive the money they need to get on with their lives despite having suffered serious harm.
Dr Michael Devlin, the MDU’s head of professional standards, said, “The reason for these increases are multifactorial, but there is no evidence that clinical standards have deteriorated in any way.” Instead, it seems that patients are becoming more willing to complain and seek redress, especially in the wake of several high-profile cases where a minority of hospitals have been shown to be routinely negligent.

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