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Nurse negligence claims more costly

Negligence claims brought against nurses are becoming more costly and more serious, it has been reported.

Legal costs have trebled in the past five years, according to the bimonthly journal Nursing in Practice (NiP).

The cost of legal action brought against the Royal College of Nursing's (RCN) practice nurse members rose by nearly £2 million last year to reach around £5 million, NiP said.

RCN legal costs have more than doubled since 2007 (£2.15 million) and more than trebled since 2006 (£1.48 million), it added.

Chris Cox, a legal director at the RCN, told the journal that the rise came from an increase in "significant" claims exceeding £1 million. He said: "We saw the first million-pound claim against an RCN member in 2008/2009 and the volume of such significant claims has been rising ever since.

"We had a handful of legal claims exceeding a million pounds during 2010/2011 - the highest number we've ever had. This has made a huge difference to the overall figures."

The jump in legal costs has contributed to the RCN's decision to remove its indemnity cover for practice nurses, the journal said.

From January next year, GP employers will be forced to accept "vicarious liability" for the actions of nurses, taking legal and financial responsibility for any negligent claims, it added.

As well as the rise in costs, the past decade has also seen an increase in the seriousness of legal claims brought against nurses working in a general practice setting, the journal said.

Gail Adams, head of nursing at Unison, told the journal: "It is a nurse's responsibility to stand up to GPs that ask them to work outside of their competency level. Nurses need to protect their own interests as well as those of their patients."

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