The Secretary of State for Health – Jeremy Hunt – has commented that he aims to cut hospital negligence compensation payments by “Saying Sorry”.
Mr Hunt´s comments were made in an interview announcing new guidelines for medical professionals when an error has occurred in a patient´s treatment. The guidelines have been sent to every hospital in England and Wales and recommend that medical professionals “say sorry” when there had been a failure in the duty of care that has resulted in a patient suffering an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition.
The Secretary of State for Health suggested that medical professionals in the health service are often reluctant to apologise because of the fear of litigation, and his opinion was echoed by the Chief Executive of the NHS Litigation Authority – Catherine Dixon – who said:
“Saying sorry is the human and moral thing to do. We won´t say that we are not going to cover you because you´ve said sorry. We are not like a car insurer who will withhold a claim because an apology has been given. Saying sorry is not an admission of legal liability”.
Mr Hunt used the University Hospital of Michigan as an example of how the approach works. Having adopted the guidelines of “apologising and learning when you are wrong, explaining and vigorously defending when we are right, and viewing court as a last resort”, the University Hospital of Michigan is now one of the safest medical centres in the United States, and has halved the amount of hospital negligence compensation payments it was making a decade ago.
The Health Secretary´s concern over hospital negligence compensation payments comes after figures revealed the number of claims against the NHS is expected to increase by 25 percent over the next twelve months to 12,000; and that around 20 percent of the NHS´s annual budget (approximately £22 billion) would have to be put aside to meet the state´s liability for medical negligence in UK hospitals.