A changing personal injury discount rate (PIDR) in Northern Ireland: MDU response

The MDU has responded to the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland's consultation on changes to how the personal injury discount rate (PIDR) is set.


The Northern Ireland Executive has concluded its public consultation on changes that it proposes making to the methodology for setting the PIDR.

The PIDR is used to calculate compensation settlements in clinical negligence cases. The ramifications of any change in the rate can be of profound consequence to NHS finances - especially for individual GPs and their own professional indemnity, which they have to purchase to meet the cost of such claims.

As we explain in our submission, we do not believe the methodology proposed by the Executive is the correct way forward.

Why is the PIDR significant?

We have experience of the disastrous effect on public services of a large drop in the PIDR. When the rate in England and Wales changed from 2.5% to -0.25% (at one point going as low as -0.75%), a claim that was valued at approximately £4.5m at the previous rate, actually settled for £10.6m.

Money spent on clinical negligence claims by the NHS is money diverted from the provision of NHS services for all patients. The percentage of claimants treated for free by the NHS and receiving compensation as a result of negligent NHS treatment is disproportionately small in relation to the far larger numbers of patients treated now and in the future by the NHS which funds will have to be diverted to pay claims, rather than providing vital services for patients.

GPs would also face higher indemnity costs to meet the increased cost of these claims.

The MDU is determined to convey this to government in the strongest terms, and stand up for GPs and all our members.

A different approach, based on evidence

In our response to the consultation, we urged the Executive to adopt a different methodology for setting the PIDR. As a starting point, we believe that government should urgently obtain evidence of what investment decisions are made by claimants in Northern Ireland. It doesn't currently have this information, so the PIDR is informed by unsubstantiated theories on investment behaviour. Given the huge ramifications compensation awards can have on NHS finances - and the direct financial burden on GPs - the methodology for determining a PIDR should not be made on the basis of speculation and outdated assumptions.

You can read our full response to the consultation here.

This page was correct at publication on 17/08/2020. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.