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NHS clinical negligence – the colossal cost of litigation

Niall Dickson

In response to the publication of the NAO’s report on the costs of clinical negligence in Trusts, Niall Dickson, Chief EWxecutive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, responds.

We cannot go on like this with the NHS spending more and more on litigation. Over the last 10 years the cost of clinical negligence to Trusts has quadrupled from £0.4 bn in 2006/7 to £1.6 bn in 2016/17. We share the NAO’s concern that the Government lacks a coherent strategy to support measures to tackle these rising costs. The NAO finds that there is no evidence of poorer patient safety.

Earlier this year we pointed out that we now have fewer claims but are paying more to claimant’s lawyers in legal fees. We do accept that there are too many mistakes and that more needs to be done to learn lessons when things go wrong. The Getting It Right First Time programme will certainly help with that. But this rising tide of litigation is draining the NHS of resources and must be urgently addressed.

And indeed this has actually been made worse following the decision by the last Lord Chancellor to change the way compensation claims are calculated which is about to make the costs even higher. The Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that this decision alone will cost the public sector an extra £1.2bn a year. It seems madness that we are now paying out sums greater than almost any other country in the world, when we have a universal, government funded system of healthcare.

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