NHS Litigation Reform – Inquiry Launched

NHS Litigation Reform – Inquiry Launched

A new Parliamentary inquiry has been launched to examine the case for the reform of NHS litigation.

The Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry is currently calling for evidence.  It said that £2.26bn was spent from the NHS budget to settle claims and pay legal costs arising from clinical negligence claims, representing a significant increase in costs.

On the UK Parliamentary website, the HSCC said  “A further £7.9 billion was spent on compensation from claims settled in previous years, meaning that over £10bn of money was spent on clinical negligence claims which could have been spent on patient care. The total potential liabilities arising from all negligence claims made up to the end of 2020/21 was £82.8bn, increasing by about £5.7 bn every year.”

Dr Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection said  “We welcome the new Health and Social Care Committee inquiry examining the high cost of clinical negligence claims and the case for legal reform.”

“It is important that there is reasonable compensation for patients harmed following negligence, but a balance must be struck. When the cost of clinical negligence increases, the cost of professional protection must also increase to reflect this - and we recognise the pressure this places on dental professionals.”

“We know that working in an increasingly litigious environment day in and day out is also challenging, and is taking its toll on dentists when they are striving to provide the best possible service and care to their patients during very difficult times.” 

“Dental Protection will be responding to the inquiry in order to ensure the impact of litigation on dentistry is not overlooked. A package of legal reforms to help tackle the rising cost of clinical negligence, and the challenging claims environment for dentists, is long overdue. This should include reforms that would stop lawyers charging disproportionate legal fees, as well as measures that would reduce the cumulative cost where minor injuries are sustained.”

“The Government committed to publishing a strategy to tackle rising clinical negligence costs in September 2018, and while we recognise it currently has more pressing priorities, we must not lose sight of this. We hope this inquiry will help to keep the issue high on the agenda.”

The inquiry will look into the impact of the current cost of litigation on the financial sustainability of the NHS and the provision of patient care.

The Committee is hoping to explore “What changes should be made to clinical negligence claims to enable a move away from a blame culture and towards a learning culture in the NHS.”

In 2018, Dental Protection urged the Government to protect dentists from the rising costs associated with dental negligence claims.

At the time the indemnity organisation called for a fixed recoverable cost scheme in order to stop lawyers charging disproportionate legal fees.

Dr Rattan said at the time  “It is not unusual for the costs awarded to claimant lawyers to be significantly higher than the damages paid to the patient – sometimes it can be two or three times higher. This situation is inequitable and unreasonable and we are working with the government to address this problem.”

“We also need action to ensure straightforward claims are dealt with in a more proportionate way and also to stop claims from being taken forward in the first place when only minor inconveniences have arisen.”

Recently, there has been mounting concern within the profession  after two high profile court cases opened the door to dental litigation firms pursuing dental practice owners for compensation, rather than associates.

In July, GDPUK reported that Dr Rattan himself was to fight a case in the High Court “As a matter of principle,” after the Court decided that as a practice owner, he was liable for treatment carried out by associate dentists at his former practice.

Evidence to the committee can be submitted here.

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