The Public Accounts Committee has reported recently that Health Bosses are creating a ‘prevailing attitude of defensiveness’ which in turn costs taxpayers millions of pounds every year.
MPs on the committee reported that the costs of clinical negligence claims had quadrupled in the last 10 years, from £400m in 2006/07 to £1.6bn in 2016/17.
They also found that the NHS showed a reluctance to admit to mistakes made and that a lack of investment was causing the costs of claims to rise. The MPs on that committee believe that the government needs to be stronger in tackling the issues within the NHS that cause medical negligence claims and that difficult targets and financial pressures on front line staff are only adding to the problem.
Meg Hillier, the committee chair stated: ‘I am concerned that funding available for NHS services and the costs of clinical negligence are locked in a vicious spiral – one that without urgent action will spin out of control’.
‘The NHS must move more quickly to share best practice in the handling of harmful incidents and complaints. This should be a fundamental part of what remains a disappointingly slow-moving shift towards openness and transparency.’
The committee has called on the Ministry of Justice and NHS Resolution (the legal arm of the NHS) to explain why claims now take so long to resolve (currently an average of 426 days compared to 300 days in 2010/2011). Of course, the longer the case takes to resolve the larger the costs bill will be for the taxpayer. Let’s not forget that drawn out cases also increase the wait for victims of clinical negligence to receive the compensation they are entitled to, to allow them to rebuild and move on with their lives.
One solution that has been proposed by MPs is to make mediation (an alternative to taking claims to court) mandatory in some claims. The current voluntary mediation service has settled only 71 cases in its first 10 months. Helen Vernon, the chief executive of NHS Resolution said in her evidence to the committee that claimant solicitors were resisting the voluntary scheme; however, this does appear to be supported by statistics.
In March 2016 the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt publicly announced that the defensiveness of NHS staff needed to be changed to a culture of where ‘we learn from our mistakes’. Unfortunately this culture has not been adopted according to the Public Accounts Committee.
Here at Jordans we understand the difficulties faced by claimants in these cases and we have the expertise to support and advise you throughout. If you have suffered an injury or illness due to clinical negligence then call 01924 457 171 to speak to our clinical negligence specialists.