Paul Rumley considers the recent government announcement proposing a new ‘rapid resolution’ scheme for compensating babies who suffer injuries around the time of their birth.
By Paul Rumley
On Monday 17th October 2016 I was somewhat surprised by the announcement from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for a new “Rapid Resolution and Redress Scheme” for birth injury cases, intended to settle claims more quickly and to allow medical staff to speak openly about maternity care failings and to learn from mistakes. But will it work?
The scheme has been announced on the back of apparent increases in costs of birth injury claims, however the stated aims of the new scheme which is voluntary are:
The Department of Health would be better off focusing upon how to reduce negligence in the NHS to increase patient safety and so reduce claims – the fact that these claims remain stubbornly high, in a £100 billion plus per annum taxpayer-funded NHS, is the real scandal here.
The first thing is that any initiative should be based upon objective and correct facts and figures. Unfortunately, this announcement is based upon figures from the Government’s own NHS Litigation Authority, which is being rather disingenuous about how they present the figures for the costs of medical negligence claims.
Even if that is to be left aside, the question remains why this proposal and why now? The fact that the Government wishes to impose fixed fees for medical negligence claims, and thereby limit its own exposure to claims, cannot be a coincidence.
The lack of detail for such an important announcement, is also telling – experience dictates that if the Government makes policy announcements, and fills in the detail later, it can be a recipe for disaster.
That brain damaged children need to be compensated as quickly as possible, is not going to be disputed by anyone. However an inadequately funded scheme, which does not provide full and appropriate compensation to that child, is never going to get off the ground. It probably misses the real issue in any event – if the NHS can simply focus upon increasing patient safety and so reduce claims, they reduce their financial exposure both to payments of compensation and lawyers’ costs. That really is the one thing everyone can agree to support.