Clinical negligence claims data: a decade of increases, but no solutions

Vicki Swanton’s recent blog towards the end of January took a broad look at a range of factors at work in influencing the increasing cost of clinical negligence claims and outlined some of the initiatives underway to address this. Further data on the rising burden of clinical negligence in England emerged earlier this week in the written Parliamentary answer set out below.

Health Minister Nadine Dorries MP was asked in Parliament what estimate has been made of NHS clinical negligence liability over the last 10 years? On 11 February she provided data on total provisions which have been made by NHS Resolution for accrued clinical negligence liabilities.

We took the information in her response and mapped it, below, against claims activity as reported to the Compensation Recovery Unit. A like-for-like year-on-year comparison is not possible as CRU data is at a national level and the NHSR provisions are for England only. Further, and perhaps more importantly, the provisions are for all outstanding claims of any vintage and include an allowance for IBNR.

chart

Even with those caveats, the clear sense of the chart is of rapidly increasing claims provisions set against flat-lining and even falling annual claims activity. It is evident that claims provisions have risen by a factor of nearly five, from just £14.9 billion in 2009/10 to £83.1 billion at the end of the most recent financial year.

By a very odd coincidence the latest £83.1bn total figure is broadly on a par with the estimated cost, at 2019 prices, of HS2 of £87.8bn (as quoted in The Times on 12 February 2020).

In her response, the Minister described the increases in clinical negligence cost as “eating into resources available for front-line care” and “unsustainable … despite our substantial safety programmes”. Agreed – but what are the solutions?

On those, Ms Dorries talked rather vaguely of “working extensively” across government to address “a complicated issue”. But given the scale of the financial liabilities, the pace at which they are growing and given the obvious areas to tackle – which Vicki pointed out in her piece – it really is regrettable that there was absolutely no hint of a timescale for delivering any possible solutions, other than the meaningless Whitehall formulation “in due course”.


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Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Government Affairs alistair.kinley@blmlaw.com

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