Worrying increase in clinical negligence liabilities putting public finances under strain, warns MDU

Government figures reveal that clinical negligence liabilities have risen to £86 billion.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) says it is extremely worrying that the amount of money earmarked to cover the cost of clinical negligence claims against the NHS in the UK has risen to £86 billion.

The astonishing figure, just published in the Whole of Government Accounts for the year to March 2020 has increased more than fourfold in the last decade from £17.5bn in 2011. NHS claims liabilities are second only to nuclear decommissioning provisions in the accounts, showing the challenges public finances are set to face in future.

Dr Michael Devlin, MDU head of standards and liaison, said:

"The scale of the burden that the cost of clinical negligence has on the public purse cannot be overstated. A Treasury report shows, the provision for clinical negligence claims in England is now worth £3,600 for every household, compared to £700 per household 10 years ago. With taxpayers' funds under immense strain, it has never been more important to ensure that every penny possible of NHS funds goes towards the care and treatment of patients.

"The House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee has published a report looking at NHS litigation reform that includes evidence of a system on the brink of disaster. Among its conclusions was that, 'The system for compensating injured patients in England is not fit for purpose. It is grossly expensive, adversarial, and promotes individual blame instead of collective learning.'

"The scale of the increase in the cost of clinical negligence over the past decade does not reflect deteriorating clinical standards. But the fact remains that the current system is time-consuming and stressful for claimants and defendants alike and enormously costly to the NHS.

"The government must not kick this can further down the road. It is vital that the Select Committee's warning is heeded and that the government quickly moves ahead with the legal reforms that are necessary."

The MDU's Fair Compensation campaign has more details of the changes needed.

This page was correct at publication on 07/06/2022. 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.