Government urged to act on clinical negligence claims

Plans should be put in place to manage the costs for outstanding clinical negligence claims to aid NHS recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU), Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association made the call in a joint letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock.

The organisations are urging the government to address the costs posed by clinical negligence litigation with NHS England facing outstanding claims estimated at more than £84bn.

HM reported yesterday (23 February) that the Medical Protection Society is expecting a ‘significant number of claims, complaints and investigations’ into doctors working in private practice as a result of delayed referrals and treatment caused by the pandemic.

The MDU has also launched a fair compensation campaign 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‘The NHS went into the pandemic burdened by an outdated legal system for clinical negligence litigation,’ said Dr Christine Tomkins, MDU chief executive.

‘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.’