According to the BBC, NHS England is facing £4.3billion in legal fees to settle outstanding medical negligence cases.
John McQuater partner and head of litigation at Atherton Godfrey was a guest on the Mike Graham Show on Talk Radio today (21 January), discussing the news along with the fact that the NHS receives 10,000 new claims for compensation each year.
John, speaking as a representative of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, commented: “The figures need to be taken in context, but it’s about accountability and trying to put that right.
Many of our clients say they don’t want it to happen to anyone else. But it would appear that lessons are not being learned.
One of the problems is claims not being responded to appropriately – this is where you will inevitably see costs rise.
As lawyers, we don’t want cases to run on any longer than they have to. And of course, clinicians have the right to defend themselves. But there are cases where there is clear blame and these should have been admitted and settled much earlier. Early resolution is better for patients and better for the NHS.
It’s important to note that we’re not talking about inevitable risks to patients here. We’re talking about failures in patient safety – avoidable errors.
As for the amount of compensation, the level of damages is calibrated by the courts. It’s meant to put the claimant back in the position they were in before the incident; recovering lost earnings for example.
We see all types of medical negligence – right across the board. The less common ones are birth injuries, but these are the ones that attract the higher levels of compensation.
The key to reducing the litigation costs is accountability. Setting and meeting relevant standards and learning from cases where these standards have not been met. These are, after all, standards that the medical profession have set themselves.”
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