Fears Raised over Settlements of NHS Negligence Claims

The Chief Executive of the Medical Defence Union has raised fears that settlements of NHS negligence claims are spiralling out of control and becoming unsustainable.

Speaking on the BBC´s “Today” program, Christine Tomkins said that the value of claims against the NHS being currently settled is rising faster than society´s ability to pay for them. “Money is pouring out of the NHS to set up one-patient institutions” she claimed “when it could be retained in the NHS.”

Ms Tomkins stated that legislation first formulated in 1948 – the Law Reform (Personal Injuries) Act – disregards care provision available from the NHS for those who sustain a catastrophic injury and settlements of claims against the NHS are therefore calculated of how much it would cost to provide care for the injured victim privately.

On the program, she cited the case of Charlie Scott, who was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic hemiplegic atheloid cerebral palsy after being brain damaged at birth, and whose mother recently won a 14-year legal battle against the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Trust.

The settlement of £7.1 million, Ms Tomkins claimed, would be far lower if those calculating the value of compensation in NHS negligence claims could consider the care available on the NHS. According to Ms Tomkins, the NHS Litigation Authority has periodic payment liabilities of £18bn – enough to pay the annual running costs of a dozen large teaching hospitals.

Charlie Scott´s mother, Clare, was also invited onto the radio program. She acknowledged that some of the care and equipment from which Charlie will now benefit could be provided by the NHS, but told presenter Justin Webb that Charlie will no longer have to wait for social services assessments before being provided with the care he needs. Mrs Scott added that the size and structure of the settlement enables the security of 24-hour care for her son when she, or the NHS, would be unable to provide it.