The real costs of negligence claims – who pays

29 Jul, 2021

An article published on BBC News today has highlighted the amount of money that the NHS in England may need to pay as a result of medical negligence claims, which are currently still ongoing.

The estimate, which includes possible future settlements, could amount to £4.3bn in legal fees and place a heavy burden on the NHS to cover clinical negligence.

But what are the true cost of medical negligence claims and what impact have they had?

Medical negligence claims are a common occurrence that doctors are faced with. They are not always successful and usually involve a lot more for those filing a claim than simply seeking compensation. Often, costs covering special treatments and rehabilitation need to be considered and emotional factors can make things a lot harder to deal with. Some solicitors only require payment for medical negligence claims if the suit is successful, making it easier for patients to handle costs.

Which doctors could be liable and what are some examples of malpractice?

Mistakes can result in damages in many different situations and aside from doctors and surgeons, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and even psychologists may be liable. Reasons for malpractice suits can range from receiving the wrong medication or instructions from a doctor to releasing a patient too early from a doctor’s care.

The BBC figures show how many claims could potentially be settled. However, the numbers are slightly misleading, since a significant amount of the claims may not actually result in settlements. The NHS reported that in 2018/19 over 44% of claims did not lead to any compensation and did not need to be paid by the National Health Service. In this case, legal fees would not apply either, which may reduce the figures significantly.

How can doctor’s avoid making mistakes that could lead to damages?

Hofstra University, a private university based in Hempstead, New York, explains how practitioners could avoid lawsuits filed by patients. In an infographic on the university’s website the following advice is mentioned:

  • Communication is key. Listen and communicate with patients in a calm manner, without making assumptions.
  • Staying up to date with changes in the medical field.
  • Don’t ignore conflict. Whenever a patient raises a concern, make sure to address it and listen.
  • Ask for your patients consent. Misunderstandings can lead to unhappy patients, which is why it can help to ask for your patients consent as often as you feel is necessary.
  • Develop procedures. In order to make this process easier, develop specific guidelines and rules that are to be followed by doctors and staff in your office.
  • Follow up. Following up with patients is a simple way to find out if there are any further issues that may need to be addressed.

 

Its vital for both doctors and patients to be mindful when discussing a treatment or issue and to place importance on good communication. This will make it easier to avoid any damages and injuries.