Medical negligence payouts hit record high

Miles Briggs

The number of patients compensated by the NHS for medical negligence rose to a record high last year, it has emerged.

The 251 cases in 2015/16 is almost double the tally from five years ago, and an increase of 38 from the previous year.

Scottish Conservative public health spokesman Miles Briggs uncovered the information following a parliamentary question to the Scottish government.

The Lothians MSP said ministers had to explain why there has been such a rise, and if this was due to an increasing frequency of actual negligence, or a growing compensation culture.

Health secretary Shona Robison explained in her response that the year of payment didn’t necessarily mean the case had occurred during that period, with some taking several years to settle.

Mr Briggs said: “It’s right that when someone has suffered as a result of clinical negligence they should be compensated.

“But the increase in these payments is extremely worrying.

“Either the NHS is becoming more negligent or simply quicker to address failings with a pay-off, and neither of those outcomes are positive.

“The NHS can’t simply sweep incidents of clinical negligence under the carpet with a compensation deal.

“Lessons have to be learned and those responsible held accountable, otherwise these payments will just continue to increase in number.

“It is also clear that this increase in the number of clinical negligence payments will be impacting already hard-pressed NHS budgets.”

Speaking to Scottish Legal News, Sue Grant, partner and head of clinical negligence at Digby Brown Solicitors, said: “There is no one reason why the figures have increased and it would be necessary to analyse the figures in much more depth in order to obtain a meaningful picture.

“It is not clear, for example, if the number of claims includes fatal claims where several family members may have claims arising from the one event.

“In general terms, awards of compensation have increased over the years as the methodology of assessing loss has become more sophisticated. It is wrong to suggest that patients are jumping on some kind of compensation bandwagon. Medical negligence claims remain amongst the most complex claims to pursue and compensation is paid only in deserving cases, usually only with specialist legal input.”

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