Healthcare leaders call for action on clinical negligence claims costs to aid NHS pandemic recovery

Leading healthcare organisations have called on the prime minister to put in place a plan to manage the huge bill for outstanding clinical negligence claims to aid NHS recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leaders of the Medical Defence Union (MDU), Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association made the call in a joint letter to Boris Johnson, the prime minister and Matt Hancock, the health secretary.

The organisations are urging the government to address the unsustainable costs posed by clinical negligence litigation with the NHS in England facing outstanding claims estimated at over £84 billion. A recent Treasury report showed the provision for clinical negligence claims is now worth £3,600 for every household in England, compared to £700 per household 10 years ago. The Department for Health and Social Care has said it plans to publish a consultation on proposals for reform later this year.

Dr Christine Tomkins, MDU chief executive said:

"The healthcare landscape has been dramatically impacted by the pandemic. The NHS faces a huge backlog of cases. Every available NHS resource needs to be deployed toward patient care and supporting staff.

"The NHS went in to the pandemic burdened by an outdated legal system for clinical negligence litigation. As it emerges, we have asked the prime minister to urgently look to lessen that burden – and for the government to bring forward proposals for reform. This is needed now more than ever.

"This situation has arisen not because care is somehow less safe – quite the contrary – it is because we have a medical negligence system that is unfair and unsustainable and results in millions of pounds leaving the NHS – money that could otherwise be spent on more and better services for patients. A balance needs to be found that is fair and affordable."

The MDU's fair compensation campaign is calling for reforms including repeal of Section 2(4) of the 1948 Law Reform Act requiring patients treated by the NHS to be compensated for negligently caused damage on the basis that all their future care will be provided in the private sector.

The letter is signed by Dr Christine Tomkins (chief executive, MDU); Professor Helen Stokes Lampard (chair, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges) and Dr Claudia Paoloni (president, Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association).

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