There has been recent news stories surrounding the rising cost of clinical negligence claims.
It has been suggested that the solution is to change the way compensation is calculated. However, damages for injuries in England and Wales are not generous, for example, the award for a bereaved spouse of someone who dies as a result of negligence is set at only £12,980. The “million pound” cases that often appear in the headlines are usually made up of substantial future care costs where someone has been severely injured and requires 24 hour care for the rest of their life.
People affected by clinical negligence are entitled to compensation to rebuild their lives. Changing the law to reduce compensation for injured people would affect some of the most vulnerable and looks at the problem from the wrong end, treating a symptom rather than the cause.
To reduce the cost of compensation on the NHS there must be fewer clinical mistakes. This could be addressed with more staffing, training and analysis of incidents and claims so that the same or similar mistakes are prevented. Fewer clinical errors would result in a decrease in the number of claims brought and therefore a reduction in the cost to the NHS.
In addition, where there has been a mistake the NHS should accept fault quickly and openly and a swift, negotiated settlement will follow. This would save money and ensure a quick and adequate compensation for the injured party. Sadly this is often not the case, as we see many valid claims which are defended by the NHS for several months or years before settlement is reached.
Finally, solicitors’ fees have already been limited by legislation which came into effect in 2012. This includes cost budgeting in litigated cases where the Judge decides what is reasonable for us to spend in pursuing the case and has resulted in a decrease in the costs claimable at the resolution of a claim. A fixed costs system is also on the horizon which will see a further reduction in legal costs.
Despite the reduction in legal fees, the compensation cost to the NHS continues to rise. This is far more likely due to an increase in clinical mistakes. It would be unfair to limit compensation to the innocent, injured parties, who have already suffered as a result of a clinical mistake, rather than have the NHS tackle the root cause of the problem.
To speak to one of our Clinical Negligence Team, contact Joanna on 0117 904 5980.