A report by MPs published at the beginning of this year stated that the NHS was facing £15.7 billion in costs as a result of the rising number of clinical negligence claims. In recent years people have grown more aware of their legal position regarding such issues, and are less hesitant to seek the help of medical negligence solicitors. People who have suffered as a result of poor care from a GP or hospital are now more likely than ever to take this issue to the courts and receive a healthy compensation payout. However, the cost to the NHS, having increased by more than 10 per cent in a year, will undoubtedly have a significant economic impact.
There is a similar pattern in Wales, with NHS payments here doubling over the past three years, rising by £18 million. At first glance this may seem to indicate that more people are receiving the payouts they deserve, though the issue is not always that clear-cut. Many law firms offer attractive-sounding ‘no win no fee’ deals, encouraging more and more people to take less serious cases to court. Rather than subsequent payouts fully benefitting deserving victims, it is estimated that a third of this money goes directly to the lawyers. If you are thinking of pursuing a medical negligence claim it is therefore vital to select a trusted and professional legal firm.
Making a clinical negligence claim and receiving a payout is essential for those who have suffered significantly. The spiraling costs could be attributed to the rise in the number of cases involving babies who have suffered lifelong health problems following errors at birth. These include those with cerebral palsy who may once have received a lump sum, but who now benefit from annual payments. Improvements in healthcare and longer life expectancy also mean that the overall costs to the NHS are bound to rise year upon year.
It is not only increasing payments which contribute to the NHS’ costs, but the number of claimants who are filing cases. Last year, for example, saw the number of complaints increase by over 30 per cent compared with 2009/10. It may be argued that this is due to budget cuts to the NHS which will inevitably result in corners buying cut. It is estimated that we are now paying £500,000 more in negligence claims against the NHS than under the previous government, meaning a great deal of taxpayers’ money which goes to waste annually.
The NHS is already under strain from budget restrictions and lengthening patient lists, so any additional payments could easily affect the quality of service and patient care. For those who have suffered from lifelong disabling complications, regular payments are a necessity. However, people should not be tempted by attractive-sounding payout deals and view claims as a lottery win: this rising trend has financial implications for the UK as a whole.