NHS ‘failing to learn lessons’ of litigation claims

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The medical profession is failing to learn lessons from costly litigation claims, according to a leading clinical negligence lawyer.

Writing in the latest issue of Clinical Risk, Irwin Mitchell partner Ian Christian says information from legal actions is not filtering back through the NHS.

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The repeated mistakes are a significant factor in the £813m cost of claims dealt with every year by the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA), he said.

Christian said: ‘It is extremely frustrating, as a clinical negligence professional, to be faced by clients and their families who have been harmed by medical errors which you have seen happen before.

‘One of the driving factors of most patients who make a claim is to ensure it does not happen to anyone else.’

Christian called for more analysis of trends, and deeper studies into whether the same mistakes are being made by a particular surgeon or NHS Trust.

The NHSLA admits there is the potential to improve communication, but said there was already considerable work going on to prevent repeated medical mistakes.

In particular, solicitors on the clinical panel now provide a separate risk management report on all new clinical claims where they are instructed.

Trusts are expected to read each report and consider whether any further action is needed to improve patient safety.

What the body needs, according to Harvey Marcovitch, editor-in-chief of Clinical Risk, is a significant injection of funding from central government to work through a wealth of information about cases.

He added: ‘My plea is for the government to properly fund the Authority so it has the staff and resources to make that data available – in a useful form – to clinicians and managers.’

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