Following a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the BBC, it is being reported that NHS England will have to pay out an estimated £4.3 billion in legal fees for unsettled negligence claims.
The figure of £4.3 billion is inclusive of outstanding unsettled claims and a rough estimate of future claims. The FoI request also shows that there were over 10,000 new clinical negligence claims against the NHS in 2019.
Last year, an estimate of the total cost of outstanding compensation claims was published which amounted to £83 billion. NHS England’s total budget for 2018/19 was £129 billion.
Unsettled NHS claims – why are the costs so high?
The costs being reported are seen by many as being a result of failures in patient safety, a lack of funding for the NHS and patients finding it hard to get answers regarding the injuries they have sustained whilst under NHS care.
Often those who have suffered negligent medical treatment are left with no other option than taking legal action against the NHS through NHS Resolution. As mentioned above, this is generally because patients, or loved ones of family members who have sadly passed away, find it incredibly difficult to get answers from the treating NHS representatives as to what has happened. In a high number of cases, patients want answers and to know that the same thing will not happen to others.
In the past, many people were left with no way of getting answers after receiving negligent medical treatment and they just had to just accept the injuries with no explanation or reassurance offered. This is no longer the case and people have a legal right to get answers to difficult questions they may have about their care.
NHS Resolution (previously known as The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA)) was set-up in 1995 with the purpose of working with the NHS on managing issues within the service, handling complaints/negligence claims from patients and implementing improvements for patient care. It is the legal body which represents the NHS in clinical negligence claims.
However, despite having NHS Resolution in place, patients are still being left with no option other than to pursue legal action as they are not receiving any answers from the NHS regarding their injuries.
As Suzanne White from the Association of Personal Injuries Lawyers commented:
“What they want to do is find out what went wrong, why they have received these injuries… and to make sure it doesn’t happen to other patients.”
In addition, the costs of claims can be high as a large number of cases involve patients who are injured during the birth process and the resulting neurological injuries mean that such patients require significant life-long care provisions.
Mediation and greater transparency
Following the FoI request from the BBC, a spokesperson for NHS Resolution commented that it was attempting to reduce its costs through mediation and also recommended that medical professionals were more transparent when there were issues with the medical treatment provided to patients:
“Over 70% of the claims brought against the NHS are resolved without going to court…
“It is of course vitally important that we learn from harm in order to improve patient safety.”
How Nelsons can help
At Nelsons, we can provide advice and review all types of negligence claims against the NHS. We advise claimants as early as possible if there is no chance of a favourable outcome for them regarding their case. This enables all parties to save time and money, and to avoid prolonging the distress felt by potential claimants.
If, however, the claim has good prospects of success, we will use our skills and expertise to find the fastest and most cost effective outcome. We are well used to advising clients on alternative methods of resolution, including mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
If you have any questions in relation to the subjects discussed in this article, please contact Carolle or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.