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Why the NHS should pay compensation for medical negligence claims.
By Naomi Todd
It has recently been widely reported that the NHS is spending millions of pounds every year in medical negligence compensation for claims for injuries suffered due to negligent medical treatment. But are these pay outs justified and should we expect the NHS to pay compensation for medical negligence claims?
The London Evening Standard recently reported that the NHS pays out £470,000 a day for medical negligence claims in London alone.
The total paid in damages to patients last year amounted to £172 million, a rise from £166 million the previous year. This figure obtained from the NHS Litigation Authority, who manage all claims against NHS Trusts, represents payouts for medical negligence claims, including cases where solicitors are acting for claimants who have been left severely injured, or have even died, due to negligent errors and failures to diagnose and/or treat serious illness.
More than half of this medical negligence compensation was for obstetric or birth injury claims and in the last financial year, London hospitals and healthcare trusts settled £89 million in obstetrics claims, including cases where babies ended up severely disabled, with lifelong care needs, due to negligence at the time of their birth.
The National Audit Office reported in November 2013, that the NHS spends an average of nearly £700 on medical negligence cover for every live birth in England. The review by the National Audit Office said last year this cost nearly £500 million.
As an example, more than half of labour wards are not meeting the standard recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. As a result, medical negligence claims for maternity have risen by 80% in the last five years.
There is a shortage of midwives and the National Audit Office report, published on 8 November 2013, has shown an urgent need to improve maternity services. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president, Dr David Richmond, stated that the National Audit Office report raised valid concerns, and pressure on maternity services is growing, placing stress on clinicians, managers and patients alike.
Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the NCT, the childbirth and parenting charity, said:
“Midwives are being overworked, maternity units are understaffed and as a result parents are suffering.”
In addition, an NCT report said 88% of women had not met the midwife who cared for them during labour and birth before they had gone into labour, and 60% of women failed to receive enough postnatal support.
When Claimants are left severely injured and in need of costly care due to negligence, they should and must be compensated for those injuries which should not have occurred.
Effectively, a successful medical negligence claim will compensate a Claimant for the loss of a life that many of us take for granted.
Compensation will include the cost of care for the remainder of a Claimant’s life, any therapies required to improve cognitive or physical functioning, and aids and equipment such as wheelchairs and adaptations to the home. These things are extremely expensive and would not otherwise have been needed by the Claimant, in the absence of the negligence.
In reality, the high award of damages is to provide the Claimant with an opportunity to live as independent and fulfilling a life as possible, to restore them as much as possible to how they would have been, had it not been for the negligence.
In addition, many of our clients often tell us that one of the reasons for their bringing a claim is that they cannot get adequate care or treatment from the state, and therefore obtaining compensation is necessary to ensure they receive the support they need.
In summary, patients have a right to expect an acceptable level of care when they receive medical treatment and where there has been a failure of care and the patient has suffered avoidable injuries as a result, the law should quite properly provide a right to compensation.
If you think you might be entitled to compensation due to medical negligence, then please contact a member of our team for advice.