As of January 2020, the NHS in England was faced with the prospect of paying out £4.3 billion in legal fees, which are owed in response to successful claims of medical negligence.
Of course, this is one of many funding challenges that the NHS faces, but it’s also being exacerbated by the fact that the organisation receives more than 10,000 new compensation claims each and every year.
In this post, we’ll appraise the true cost of medical negligence claims in further detail, while asking what impact this has across the board.
The True Cost of Medical Negligence
Interestingly, this headline number is at odds with the wider image portrayed by the NHS Resolution’s annual reports, which suggested that the fees of claimant lawyers fell by £31.8 million in the year ending April 2018.
What’s more, this sum fell by a further £24.3 million in April 2019, while the NHS’s own legal costs have increased by an estimated £13.9 million during the same period.
But what context does this provide for the BBC’s headline figure of £4.3 billion in potential compensation payouts? Well, it’s likely that this number relates to the ongoing cost of all current medical negligence claims, regardless of whether or not the NHS is likely to successfully defend them.
According to further NHS Resolution figures, more than 44% of claims resolved in 2018/19 resulted in no damages being paid to the claimant, so it’s arguable that nearly half of the £4.3 billion resource won’t end up being paid out.
So, although the remaining sum would still be damaging to an NHS that’s starved of resources, the situation isn’t necessarily as bleak as it may first seem.
The Human Cost of Medical Negligence
Of course, perhaps the biggest cost of medical negligence is human, especially when you consider the adverse physical and mental effects of misdiagnosis, malpractice and surgical errors.
Remember, in the worst case scenario, incidents of medical negligence can cause disability and even death, creating a significant emotional burden in addition to the financial impact of lost earnings.
When dealing with medical negligence cases, it’s important to seek out legal advice and assistance at the earliest opportunity, ideally in the form of a free consultation that appraises whether or not you have a viable claim.
This way, you can avoid pursuing potentially futile cases that are unlikely to be successful, while also creating a viable plan of action and minimising delays in instances where you do proceed with no-win, no-fee litigation.