Health chiefs pay out record £1.2bn for clinical negligence

The NHS has paid out a record £1bn in litigation claims in one year, it has emerged.

A surge in the number of claims made by NHS patients or their families led to the health service paying out £1.2bn for its clinical negligence compensation bill between 2011 and 2012.

The payouts, which represent legal costs and compensation payouts, is a huge rise on the previous year when the bill was £863m, the NHS Litigation Authority’s (NHS LA) annual accounts show.

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The bill for “non-clinical claims”, which include payouts for people falling and hurting themselves on wet floors where there was no sign, was £52.4m.

Such claims could have been made by patients, staff or visitors.

The NHS LA, which was created to deal with claims from patients harmed while undergoing treatment as well as from staff and visitors, said the figure represents a surge in the number of claims between 2010 and 2011 – which were paid out this year.

In 2009 to 2010, there were 10,726 individual claims, but this jumped to 13,001 in 2010 to 2011. In 2011 to 2012 this figure increased further to 13,761, indicating that the compensation payouts for next year could rise higher.

Tom Fothergill, director of finance at NHS LA, said: “We were able to close more claims than ever before, but the combined effect of sharply increased claims in recent years and a continuation of the growth in new claims received this year still resulted in there being more than five per cent more claims open at the end of the year.”

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) called for urgent legal reform to address the huge bill.

Dr Christine Tomkins, MDU chief executive, said the current situation is unsustainable.