The NHS has put aside one seventh of its annual budget to pay personal injury compensation to victims of medical negligence. That’s money that should be going towards improving standards of patient care.
MPs have now said that a large proportion of the bill was caused by blunders during childbirth, which left babies with brain damage. Medical science has advanced and the victims of these blunders now live much longer, thereby increasing the cost of their long-term care.
However, a significant part of the increase is also blamed on personal injury solicitors encouraging patients to file no win no fee claims in the knowledge that they will not be liable for costs if their claim is unsuccessful. If the claimant wins, the NHS has to cover their legal fees as well. About 33% of the funds the NHS pays out in compensation is paid straight to lawyers.
Last year, the NHS received in excess of 8,500 claims for clinical negligence; an increase of 30% on the 2009/10 figure. Worryingly, the Treasury was unaware of this large increase.
Peter Walsh from the Action Against Medical Accidents commented that no win no fee lawyers are not helping the situation. If the Government goes ahead with its proposal to abolish legal aid for clinical negligence claimants the situation will only get worse.