The Rise in Health Negligence Payouts

Are we wasting a portion of our taxes on the mistakes of doctors and health professionals? The figures most certainly seem to suggest so. News that the cost of medical negligence payouts by the NHS has almost doubled over the last three years in Wales, follows similar stories from throughout the United Kingdom of such bills rising significantly. This article will look at the figures and finances and ask whether a large part of our taxes are being used to pay for the carelessness of doctors.

In Wales

We’ll start by looking at today’s news. In Wales, the cost of medical negligence payouts has risen by £18million over the past three years. Furthermore it has been revealed that the cost of medical failures cost taxpayers in Wales £38million over the last year.

Thus the Welsh risk pool has been increased by £16million – with taxpayers’ money of course – to cover the rise in both claims and their cost, which has totalled £84.3million since 2009.

In Colchester

Meanwhile, the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust was discovered to have had to pay over £5million in clinical negligence bills. To put this into context, this is around £4million more than the figure paid in 2009/10.

In Suffolk

West Suffolk Hospital paid a staggering £4.6million in fees last year, which is a good £3million more than the amount paid in 2010/11 and even more than the £700,000 paid in the year before that.

Maternity Wards

Perhaps the most telling and disturbing statistic of the increase in medical negligence bills however, can be found in the revelation that the bill for mistakes in maternity wards has nearly doubled within the last 12 months to over £420million!

A still significant £234.8million was paid out in the financial year of 2010/11; however the last financial year saw a whopping £422.9million paid out in the form of legal fees and compensation for obstetric claims in maternity wards throughout Britain.

Britain’s health authorities believe the rise in bills to be down to the increase in “no win no fee” medical negligence solicitors. This most certainly has had some sort of an impact, but not enough to justify the sharpness of the increases.

From an economic aspect such large sums of money could have instead been put to great use through improving education in Britain, aiding our police force, developing deprived areas and even rejuvenating a hospital of the NHS! Instead however, it’s been used to pay off the negligence of health staffs.

8 thoughts on “The Rise in Health Negligence Payouts”

  1. Good points.  The mistakes have always happened, though.  It’s just that Jane and Joe Public no longer accept that ‘Doctor knows Best’ and have access to knowledge and are confident enough to question when things go wrong.

    So although it is costing us a lot at the moment, perhaps we will get a better service?  Whether the mistakes are caused by carelessness, ignorance or lack of resources, there will be some form of investigation.  The Powers That Be cannot ignore it. 

  2. My take on this would be that the number of negligence cases has really increased. Give the pressures on the NHS and the people who work for it, I am not surprised – a lot of it is honest mistake that come with tiredness and pressure. Some of it is that the disilusionment of the medics translates in perfectory care.

    @AverageJoe: Joe, though in the UK the litigation culture is gradually taking hold it is nothing as strong as in the US.

  3. I don’t agree with the characterisation of negligence as “mistakes”.  It is negligence (either on the part of the individual, or more likely on the part of the institution for failing to have appropriate checks, or for ensuring that medics don’t operate when they are too tired, etc).  The payouts are appropriate both as recompense to the victims and as an incentive to the hospital to stop it happening again.

    The problem here arises because the negligence arises within state-run institutions.

    People in the UK get a bit mixed up about private sector involvement in the NHS.  A big chunk of the NHS (namely, all general practitioners) are private enterprises.  Always have been and still are.  But most hospitals are still run as monolithic state bureaucracies.

    If hospitals were run by private enterprises (though still free at the point of use to consumers) then they would feel the pain of negligence lawsuits and modify their procedures and behaviour.  In contrast, the state bureaucracy hospitals have no incentive to change.  They can just carry on regardless.  After all, it’s only taxpayers money, isnt it?

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