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MPs urge radical reforms to negligence compensation system that costs NHS billions each year

28 April 2022

The Government should remove the need to prove clinical negligence from NHS compensation claims when things go wrong in a radical overhaul of a system which last year paid out £2.17 billion, say MPs.

In a wide-ranging Report on NHS litigation reform, the Health and Social Care Committee finds the current system for compensating injured patients in England ‘not fit for purpose’ and urges a radically different system to be adopted.

Reforms would introduce an administrative scheme which would establish entitlement to compensation on the basis that correct procedures were not followed and the system failed to perform rather than clinical negligence which relies on proving individual fault. The new system would prioritise learning from mistakes and would reduce costs.

Currently, litigation offers the only route by which those harmed can access compensation. MPs say in addition to being grossly expensive and adversarial, the existing system encourages individual blame instead of collective learning.

MPs also call for the scrapping of the expected future earnings link in claims for those under 18, a system that leads to ‘manifest unfairness’ with the child of a cleaner receiving less compensation than the child of a banker.

Chair's comment

Jeremy Hunt, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said:

“The system of compensating patients for negligence in the NHS is long overdue for reform. We’re urging the Government to adopt our recommendations to reduce both the number of tragedies and the soaring costs to the NHS.

“It is unsustainable for the NHS in England to pay out more than £2 billion in negligence payments every year – a sum equal to the cost of running four hospitals – a figure that will double in 10 years if left unchecked.

“Under the current system, patients have to fight for compensation, often a bitter, slow and stressful experience with a quarter of the enormous taxpayer-funded sums ending up in the pockets of lawyers.

“We need a better system that learns from mistakes, following the lead of countries like New Zealand and Sweden. We must move away from a culture of blame to one that puts the prevention of future harms at its core.”

Further information

Image: PA