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NHS negligence bill quadruples in a decade

The Government needs to take a stronger and more integrated approach across the health and justice systems if it is to rein in the increasing cost of clinical negligence claims, according to the National Audit Office.

Over the past ten years, spending on the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts has quadrupled from £0.4 billion in 2006-07 to £1.6 billion in 2016-17, while the number of successful clinical negligence claims where damages were awarded has more than doubled, from 2,800 to 7,300.

The fastest percentage rise has been in claimant legal costs, which has risen from £77 million to £487 million over the same time period. This is mainly due to an increase in both the number of low- and medium-value claims of less than £250,000 and their average cost. In 2016-17, the claimant’s legal costs exceeded the damages awarded in 61 per cent of claims settled.

At £60 billion, the provision for clinical negligence in NHS trusts is one of the biggest liabilities in the government accounts, and one of the fastest growing, says the National Audit Office.

The Department of Health and NHS Resolution have taken action to contain the rising cost of claims, saving £144 million in 2015-16 by challenging claimants’ legal costs. A number of further schemes are proposed: however, even if successful, these will only save some £90 million a year by 2020-21, while spending on the CNST is expected to double to £3.2 billion.

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