MPs want a major reform of NHS clinical negligence claims in England

Topics covered: clinical negligence, Department of Health and Social Care, government

MPs in England want to reform the current system for clinical negligence claims against the NHS which they believe is failing. It is their view that the current system does not encourage a culture where there is learning from mistakes made in the NHS. The current claims system is expensive with costs predicted to double in the next 10 years, whilst perpetuating a blame culture.

Why do MPs want to reform?

MPs want to reform clinical negligence claims through the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee on the basis that the system is too adversarial, leading to bitter and lengthy legal claims on behalf of patients. This is demonstrated by more than £2bn a year being paid out on claims, with an estimated 25% going to legal fees. Additionally, the average length of time for these settlements was over 11 years. The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee chairman Jeremy Hunt, stated that the system was no longer fit for purpose and reform was long overdue. He said:

“Under the current system, patients have to fight for compensation, often a bitter, low and stressful experience with a quarter of taxpayer-funded sums ending up in the pockets of lawyers. We must move away from a culture of blame to one that puts the prevention of future harms at its core.”

How do MPs want to reform the system?

MPs have called for an independent body to be set up, with the purpose of arbitrating on clinical negligence cases, with the need to prove an individual at fault to be removed. The proposals, would see a mandatory inclusion for cases to use alternative dispute resolutions through an independent body before proceeding to courts. The Government said it was looking to alter the current litigation systems and it will consider recommendations. The Department of Health and Social care said

“The rising cost of clinical negligence is unsustainable.”

What is the reaction?

Patient group Action Against Medical Accidents has accused MPs of “headline grabbing” for believing the well-established and current system of law could be discarded so easily. The Action Against Medical Accident Group has said that it agrees that there needs to be a quicker, more efficient system. However, the group believes this will only be achieved through a “fundamental cultural change” with a willingness of the NHS to begin to admit when something has gone wrong.



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