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Posted on 7th December 2018

Key Statistics for Clinical Negligence Claims Against the NHS

How Many NHS Medical Negligence Claims Are Made In A Year?

Recent statistics published by NHS Resolution have revealed that the number of medical negligence claims made in 2017/2018 was 10,673, compared with 10,686 made in 2016/2017. The number of claims against the NHS has been decreasing over the last four years when they peaked at 11,945 claims in 2013/2014.

In a change to previous years, 2017/2018 saw an increase in claims from A&E and casualty areas by 7% which will have resulted in more claims for surgery error compensation. In contrast, the NHS received 1,281 new orthopaedic surgery claims which demonstrate a 26% reduction over the past five years.

What Kind Of Medical Negligence Claims Are Made?

This year, the highest number of NHS claims were made about A&E / Casualty departments, which includes missed fractures emergency department, surgery error compensation and stroke misdiagnosis compensation.

These types of claims made up 13% of the total medical negligence claims made in 2017/2018. This is closely followed by orthopaedic surgery which makes up 12%, obstetrics which makes up 10%, and general surgery which is 9% of all NHS claims.

Although obstetrics only makes up 10% of the medical negligence claims made, it accounts for 48% of the total value of NHS claims made. Obstetrics refers to the branch of surgery and medicine concerned with childbirth and midwifery and includes NHS claims including stillbirth medical negligence and birth trauma claims. The number of maternity blunders made by the NHS in recent years has been linked with a failure to monitor babies’ heart rates.

How Much Are Medical Negligence Claims Worth?

In 2017/2018 damages paid out to patients who have suffered medical injury and negligence increased from £1,083 million in 2016/2017 to £1,632 million. This increase reflects a growing number of payments made for NHS claims originating from previous years.

The NHS negligence bill for mistakes made before 1995 has begun to rise for the first time in five years. A large number of these legacy claims include cerebral palsy compensation and other maternity errors that had life-changing results for patients.

In addition to the damages paid to patients from medical negligence claims, the NHS also paid £466.6 million in claimant legal costs in 2017/2018, which is a decrease of 6.4% on the previous year.

The total payments made by the NHS in respect of clinical schemes amounts to £2,227.5 million in the last year, which has increased by over 30% on the year prior.

How Many Medical Negligence Claims Are Settled In Court?

The vast majority of NHS claims that are received are settled out of court, with NHS Resolution reporting that 69.6% of all claims against NHS in 2017/2018 were resolved without formal court proceedings.

Less than a third of claims ended up in litigation, and fewer than 1% of medical negligence claims went to a full trial. Most cases that do result in full court proceedings end in judgment favour of the NHS. However, this is not always the case. NHS Resolution manage all claims that are resolved without the need for formal court proceedings by their own in-house teams, and negotiation between parties resolved the majority of these medical negligence claims. Some NHS claims result in the form of alternative dispute resolution, including formal mediation.

How Are These Medical Negligence Claims Determined?

In order to determine medical negligence, a three-stage test should be satisfied. There must be an established fault by a medical professional such as a doctor, surgeon or dentist. The claimant must decide on probabilities that medical negligence has occurred by the hospital or GP surgery.

Medical compensation is paid with the view that it will return the claimant to the position they would have been in had the medical injury or negligence not occurred, this includes costs such as loss of earnings. To determine of medical negligence has taken place, you need to consider:

A medical duty of care

When a patient is admitted to hospital or visits a GP or other medical professional, a duty of care relationship is created. This applies to every medical professional that they may come into contact with while in hospital, not just the admitting team, this includes anaesthetists, nurses and other medical assistants. In order to make a claim against NHS you must establish that a duty of care was in place.

A breach of duty

When a doctor’s practice has failed to meet an appropriate standard of care, then a breach of duty has occurred. A breach of duty may result in a medical injury that occurred because the medical professional has made an error and not kept up their duty of care.

Errors of judgement are not automatically considered a breach of duty, but if a doctor has not acted with a level of care that would be expected of them, then it can be considered a breach. To have a valid NHS claim, you must be able to establish that there was a breach of duty from a medical professional.

Harm and causation

For a medical negligence claim, you must be able to demonstrate that had the medical professionals’ action/inaction was the cause of your medical injury. This can be difficult when harm occurred in relation to an episode of medical care. The majority of medical negligence claims fail due to an inability to establish sufficient causation.

How Many People Are Affected By Medical Negligence?

While only a tiny proportion of individuals treated by the NHS result in a medical injury of malpractice, there are still around 500,000 patients harmed and 3,000 that died as a direct result of safety failings in the NHS. Roughly three million people a week use NHS services, around 0.4% of those ended up with incidents of harm and 0.003% resulted in a person’s death. That works out as a shocking eight patients dying a death as a result of medical negligence.

If you have been affected by medical negligence, then it is your right to seek answers and discover whether you may have a claim.

Further Information