The head of the NHS Litigation Authority has denied that rocketing claims figures indicate increased negligence in the NHS. Catherine Dixon, the authority’s chief executive, spoke after this month’s damning Keogh review into death rates at hospitals across England. The report is expected to prompt a new rash of claims against the health service.

The authority’s annual report, published this week, reveals that the number of new clinical claims rose by 10.8% to 10,129 during 2012/13. The figure has increased by 66% in the past four years.

Spending on clinical claims continued to rise, increasing from £1.095bn in 2011/12 to £1.12bn last year.

The year 2012/13 was the last in which legal aid was widely available for most clinical negligence cases and before the Jackson reforms overhauled litigation funding. Dixon said last year she expected a surge in claims as solicitors tried to lodge them before the reforms came into force.

She said last week: ‘We have seen a significant rise in the number of claims suggesting negligent care has been delivered, when it has not. We will continue to robustly defend these claims on behalf of the NHS.

‘In spite of this significant rise in claims, we resolved claims and responded to them even more quickly. Although claimants’ solicitors’ costs went up, we were also able to keep defence costs low for the NHS, seeing them reduce as a percentage of the damages payable.’

The NHSLA said it has initiated a revised method for setting contributions from NHS trusts based on ‘outcomes-focused reward’. It will reward those safer organisations with fewer claims and penalise those with higher claims figures.

Chair Dame Joan Higgins added: ‘The NHSLA has sharpened its focus on preventing harm.’