Defendants in clinical negligence claims have called for radical reform to halt the ‘astonishing’ financial burden of claims against the NHS.
The Medical Defence Union said the total bill for hospital claims could cost each taxpayer at least £1,000 a year if inflation continues at the current pace.
The NHS Litigation Authority last week revealed it put aside £25.6bn in reserves for known and future claims, following an ‘unprecedented’ 18% rise in clinical negligence claims in 2013/14.
The organisation said claims rose from 10,129 in 2012/13 to 11,945 in 2013/14, primarily fuelled by former personal injury firms migrating to clinical negligence work.
The MDU, which provides indemnity to doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals, is demanding legal reforms to change the compensation system.
It is calling for repeal of the Law Reform (Personal Injury) Act 1948, which calculates the cost of future care on the basis it will be provided privately. The MDU said those paying compensation should be able to fund health and social care provided by the NHS and public bodies.
The union also wants a cap on the level of damages future care costs and loss of earnings awards, set at three times the national average salary.
Dr Christine Tomkins, chief executive of the MDU, said the highest current individual claim paid out on behalf of a surgeon was £9m: at current rates of inflation that will have doubled within seven years.
‘Clinical negligence claims inflation seems to be off the radar although it affects us all and it will be to our detriment if it is not addressed,’ said Tomkins.
The NHSLA annual report argued clinical negligence was attracting non-specialists who are bringing ‘poorly investigated claims’.
Chief executive Catherine Dixon said expenditure figures for 2013/14 showed that, of the £1.193bn spent on clinical negligence claims, 22% (£259m) was spent on claimant solicitors compared with 8% (£92m) on defence legal costs.