Increased awareness of patient rights has resulted in a dramatic increase in medical negligence claims against the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. According to government figures, the number of claims made in the past five years has increased 5,697 to 8,655 per year, and has forced the NHS Litigation Authority to apply for additional funding from the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansbury.
Tom Fothergill, financial director of the NHS Litigation Authority, accepted that marketing by “No Win, No Fee” solicitors had contributed to the public body´s financial shortfall and had added a premium to legal costs. However, he quickly pointed out that legislation which linked the wages of claimants´ carers to earnings rather than inflation has also led to increased payouts.
With around 100 claims for medical negligence a year relating to birth injury compensation, and the average value of each claim close to 6 million pounds in the lifetime of the child, an improvement in the survival rates of brain damaged babies – who will require a lifetime of care – has also placed significant strain on the NHS Litigation Authority´s budget.
A further 185 million pounds is required by the NHS Litigation Authority to prevent it running out of money by the end of the financial year, an amount which has been approved by Mr Lansbury and health minister Lord Howe. Following the publication of the bail-out Lord Howe said “Following a review of claims, we have made additional funds available to the NHS Litigation Authority in order to make sure that those claimants who are entitled to compensation receive it in a timely way.”