Medical Negligence Claims – A burden on NHS’s Health-care budget


The content analyses the financial burden of medical negligence claims on NHS. It is an overview of some recent facts and figures to apprehend how much compensation cost is being paid by NHS every year.

Since the 1957 when first time medical negligence laws were laid down in United Kingdom, the National Health Service in the country has to follow the requisites of providing standard medical care in all health care institutions. Normally, Bolam test is used over the process to decide whether a case holds the basis for claiming medical negligence compensation. This test expects the medical standards to be in full accordance of the opinions given by a responsible body. The first part of the Bolam test is about defining a ‘duty of care’ between patient and the doctor. This duty of medical care is taken in UK laws for granted. The next part of the process is to about establishing if the duty of medical care has been breached or not. The third step must prove that there is a direct connection between medical negligence and injuries claimed, and the fourth and last test is to see how remote is caused harms.

According to Bolam assessment, if a medical practitioner successfully meets the standards defined by a responsible authority of ‘medical opinion’, he cannot be said negligent in his duties. If a doctor earnestly acted in keeping with the best possible practices of the time, then it is wrong to say that he has committed some medical negligence. But in case where National Health Service fails in meeting the standard care requirements, it actually opens the doors for being prosecuted for malpractice cases.

As per a currently issued warning to the National Health Service from the ‘National Audit Office’, UK is paying a huge amount of about 4.4 billion pounds per year for clinical and medical negligence compensation. Alone in the previous year, the annual legal payouts of National Health Service has increased by 0.5 billion pounds. The litigation department of NHS has to face more than 20000 negligence claims in a year. Usually, it takes about 2 years in settling a medical negligence case.However, these statistics could be misleading in that it just provides an estimate of outstanding litigation against NHS. About 40 per cent cases would get settled before reaching the court – only a small proportion will successfully be paid out.

Now we take a look at a set of statistics that reveal the real cost incurred by NHS in the time between 2007 and 2008 for legal payouts against medical negligence claims.The total amount paid was 550,000,000 pounds of which 384,000,000 pounds were given as compensation money while the rest of the amount was used to pay the defense and plaintiff legal expenses. This total cost makes about less than 1 per cent in total annual budget of National Health Service. The expense incurred on the recovery treatment of those patients who got infections during their stay at a hospital makes almost double of the cost paid for medical negligence claims against NHS.

If we talk about top level of claims made against National Health Service in the year 2010, there were 39 per cent surgery related claims, 20 per cent gynecology claims, and 17 per cent misdiagnosis claims.



Although the total cost of medical negligence claims is just a minimal portion of NHS’s annual budget, the concerns are quite serious about these figures. The UK government is taking step to stop the legal funding for negligence cases; the reforms and restrictions are also in place to define the fee given to ‘no win no fee’ solicitors. It is hoped that these measures would help to dramatically decrease the number of medical negligence claims filed against National Health Service in future. It would be too early to judge its implications on claimants, however.