Are negligence claims placing an increased ‘burdening NHS’?
The Medical Defence Union is concerned that medical negligence settlements worth billions of pounds are putting an “unsustainable” burden on the NHS.
The organisation responsible for insuring doctors says the value of settlements has soared in the recent past and that liabilities, which had reached £16.7 billion by 2011, are being increasingly driven up.
MDU chief executive Christine Tomkins has called for the system to be changed, saying that “claims inflation is far outstripping any other sort of inflation” and that the costs being incurred are too high to be sustained.
“We have a system where, ultimately, the cost of paying damages in these cases is really unsustainable. Mainly it is caused by the cost of long-term care for severely damaged patients and of course these patients do need that care.”
She said that the system, which was set up in 1948 when the NHS was formed, dictates that NHS negligence victims receive compensation to cover the cost of private care, and she believes there “must be a better way” to operate.
Although there is a need for change, as advocated by Christine Tomkins, some suggest that it should not come at the expense of the individual who has suffered injury. The changes should come from the NHS being given the correct level of funding to allow them to deliver a first rate service to patients and thus make fewer errors.
“We have seen the Government criticising 17 hospitals for not having adequate staffing levels. However, the Government, ultimately, holds the purse strings and thus it is they, with skilled NHS managers, who should identify the resources required to deliver a proper level of treatment and care to patients.