Rise in NHS compensation bill

The cost of NHS compensation payouts is on the rise, with maternity blunders accounting for a huge sum, figures show.

In 2018/19, the cost of clinical claims in England increased by £137 million to £2.4bn, according to data released by NHS Resolution.

This includes the direct cost of compensation to patients in clinical claims (£1.4bn) plus legal costs.

NHS Resolution said provision for the liabilities arising from claims has also increased by £6.4 billion to £83.4 billion in 2018/19.

This includes compensation paid out together with NHS Resolution’s estimate of claims that it is likely to receive in the future from those incidents which have already occurred.

In 2018/19, NHS Resolution received 10,678 new clinical negligence claims, compared with 10,673 in 2017/18, an increase of just five claims (0.08%).

Some 10% of claims related to poor maternity care but data shows they are the most costly to the NHS.

The report said: “Overwhelmingly, the cost of clinical negligence is driven by maternity claims, which represent 10% of the number of clinical claims we received in 2018/19, but half of the value of claims received and 70% of the £83 billion provision reported as at 31 March 2019.”

In 2018/19, 188 claims related to cerebral palsy or brain damage caused by poor maternity care. They had a claims value of £1.86bn.

Dr Christine Tomkins, chief executive of the Medical Defence Union, said: “The cost of clinical negligence claims continues to spiral out of control and should deeply concern all of us who rely on NHS services.

“In 2018/19, NHS Resolution paid out £2.36 billion in compensating patients through its clinical negligence schemes.

“This could have funded over 15 million MRI scans or 112,000 liver transplants.

“While NHS Resolution reports that claims numbers have stabilised, it also states that compensation levels have risen by over 13%.

“High value claims settled often in excess of £20 million. Such sums would have been unthinkable until recently.

“Every example of negligence takes its toll on the patients and families involved, but the spiralling compensation being paid out puts an enormous strain on NHS funding affecting all of us, and a balance must be struck.

“The NHS and the care it provides is precious to us all and we must take urgent action to curb the sums being lost to frontline clinical care through out-of-control compensation payments.”