Increased awareness of patient rights has resulted in a dramatic increase in hospital medical negligence claims against the National Health Service (NHS). According to government figures, the number of claims made in the past five years has gone up from 5,697 to 8,655 per year, and has forced the NHS Litigation Authority to seek additional funding from the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansbury.
Tom Fothergill, financial director of the NHS Litigation Authority, admitted that marketing campaigns by “No Win, No Fee” solicitors had added to the public body´s financial shortfall and had added a premium to legal costs. However, he was also eager to point out that legislation which linked the wages of claimants´ carers to earnings rather than inflation has also led to increased amount of payouts.
With approximately 100 hospital medical negligence claims 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 needed by the NHS Litigation Authority to prevent it running out of money by the end of the fiscal year, a sum which has been approved by Mr Lansbury and health minister Lord Howe. Following the announcement of the bail-out Lord Howe revealed “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.”