Medical Negligence Costs the Economy How Much?


As the expenditure continues to grow when it comes to clinical and medical negligence the question of whether the UK can turn the corner often sees a negative response. A hot topic and one which has seen new legislation announced to make life harder for claimants, this is the time to improve standards and keep our economy safe from the growing bill.

Back in February 2012, it was announced that negligence claims were increasing by 10% year on year and would account for one seventh of the budget that year. Does this make us a claimant culture? Possibly. Are people making a quick quid on minor mistakes? Possibly at times but the problem with clinical negligence is that it tends to lead to bigger – potentially, lifelong – problems. Just how bad is it?

Payouts reach all-time high

As the sub-heading suggests, things are only getting worse. Penningtons Solicitors release an annual report that makes it easy to keep track of things and shows that in five years claims have jumped from 5,697 to 8,655. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that this is bad news, and the 30% from last year to this is the really worrying sign.

Seemingly, there is little that the powers that be can do in order to overturn this and the £729.1 million bill that the NHS and taxpayer are footing is hurting out economy massively. The media attention makes us all too aware of the options we it comes to suing, the future earnings and pension part of the payout is giving too much leverage to the victim and when you consider that legal fees went up by almost half from 2009/10 to 2010/2011 – where it was £235.3 million – it is a bottomless pit.

The fine line

We all make mistakes at work but unfortunately for doctors – and our economy – some are more serious than others. Working out costings with the wrong decimal point can seem disastrous but nothing like a problematic pregnancy. One case study saw Perry Evans begin life with serious brain damage and a ruptured gut after staff negligence. Also registered blind, it took his family 10 years to get the compensation – a whopping £5.8 million. He’s not the first and he won’t be the last to receive compensation for a tragic series of events.

Who’s to blame?

With the NHS now setting aside an alarming one-seventh of their budget our economy is losing billions on medical negligence. The GMC panels that decide doctor quality levels have been criticised for having the bar too low. No one really knows who is to blame and it’s not really worth pointing the fingers if we can be creating a better system. That said, if a doctor who seriously injured or killed more than 20 patients can get away with a six-month suspension then maybe we haven’t seen the worst yet.

Are there any positives?

With payouts doubling over the past three years and our ‘no win, no fee’ culture encouraging everyone to claim, there is little to get too excited in terms of the future. In late December, The Independent ran a story saying that the payouts are ‘bankrupting’ our NHS system. It is, in fact, a risk to our world renowned public service. This is, of course, not the fault of the victims but the doctors and the system. In a profession like that a 100% success rate is impossible so maybe it is a reform on what clarifies as negligence that is needed. But, with payouts as high as seven figures, it’s no wonder tax payers wince when their pay slip comes through.

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