HEAL UoS

Clinical Negligence and the NHS

In 2011, NHS on November 15, 2011 at 1:45 pm

In June 2011 the Health Select Committee published a report on Complaints and Litigation in the NHS. It supported the continuation of fault-based compensation, concluding that that ‘the existing clinical negligence framework based on qualifying liability in tort offers patients the best opportunity possible for establishing the facts of their case, apportioning responsibility for errors, and being appropriately compensated’ (Para 157). However, it was very critical of claims management firms, which it thought pushed people into litigation rather than using complaints procedures and unduly contributed to the rising costs of clinical negligence (Para 172). The Government’s response to the report indicates that the Ministry of Justice is working closely with the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) to agree a scheme that will enable a speedier resolution of lower value clinical negligence cases and aims to reduce costs (Para 147). It also notes that the Jackson reforms of civil litigation, being implemented through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, will have a significant effect in this area (Para 19). The Ministry of Justice is now consulting on the regulation of claims management firms.

The two volumes of evidence to the Select Committee contain a considerable amount of information on concerns about this area of law and practice. The previous parliamentary report by the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee on the (non)existence of a compensation culture is also relevant. The publication of the industry review of the NHSLA is still awaited, as is the implementation of the NHS Redress Act 2006 despite the initial policy announcements from the Department of Health. It does seem clear from the Annual Report of the NHSLA for 2011 that there is a significant increase in both the number of clinical negligence claims received by the NHS and also the money paid out in compensation and legal expenses.

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