NHS negligence claims hit new high
The NHS faced a record number of clinical negligence claims in the past year, it has been revealed.
There has been an 11% rise in the number of claims, the NHS Litigation Authority (NHS LA) said, with 10,129 in the 12 months up to March 2013, compared with 9,143 the previous year.
A spokeswoman for the authority said it was the highest number they had received in the 17 years the body has been in existence. A total of £1.258 billion was spent by the NHS LA in the past year, with £275 million of that paid to claimant solicitors.
Catherine Dixon, chief executive of the NHS LA, said the availability of no-win no-fee agreements had led to the increase.
She said: "It is our priority to ensure that when a patient has been harmed by the NHS that they are, to the extent we are able, compensated for the harm they suffered.
"We have, however, seen a significant rise in the number of claims suggesting negligent care has been delivered when it has not. We will continue to robustly defend these claims on behalf of the NHS.
"In spite of this significant rise in claims, we resolved claims and responded to them even more quickly. Although claimants' solicitors' costs went up, we were also able to keep defence costs low for the NHS, seeing them reduce as a percentage of the damages payable.
"The time taken to resolve clinical negligence claims also reduced to 1.25 years, which ensures that wherever possible we resolve claims for patients as quickly as possible."
The NHS has also had to pay out more money to successful claimants because no-win no-fee lawyers can charge up to 100% more of their usual costs from the defendant, she added, with reforms to the civil costs system that came into effect in April expected to reduce the costs of claimants' solicitor fees.
The authority has a total of £22.7 billion in provisions for clinical negligence claims, as of the end of March, which includes £9.5 billion relating to claims notified to the NHS but not yet resolved, and £13.2 billion relating to cases that may be brought in the future, they said.