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3 July 2012
Legal reform is urgently needed to address the huge cost of the clinical negligence compensation bill, said the Medical Defence Union (MDU), which indemnifies over half the UK's general practitioners and doctors in private practice.
Figures just released show the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) paid over £1.2bn in 2011-12 to compensate NHS patients for clinical negligence and pay legal costs - a rise from the previous year's figure of 863m.1
Commenting on the NHSLA's annual report, Dr Christine Tomkins, MDU chief executive, said the current situation was unsustainable. She said:
"NHS damages payouts have increased substantially in the last year and in our experience of settling cases on behalf of our GP and independent practitioner members, we have even seen compensation awards exceeding £5m. We have also seen claims in general practice rise significantly in number for each of the last two years.
"Large awards are usually a result of the cost of providing for future care or compensation for loss of earnings, or both. While patients should be compensated quickly and fairly when they have been negligently harmed, the massive cost to society cannot be overlooked. Awards are escalating much faster than price and wage inflation. Everyone has ultimately to bear the burden of paying for this. These rises in compensation are unaffordable and can't be allowed to continue, especially in the current economic climate, which affects us all.
"Many other countries such as the USA and Australia were forced to tackle the problem of unsustainably high compensation awards in the face of a compensation crisis. As illustrated by the figure of £1.2bn from the NHSLA, awards are getting higher and higher and we should not wait for a crisis. We need legal reform now."