The Conservative Party have announced that the NHS are set to spend over £700 million on negligence payments next year. Next year’s payments of £713 million is nearly double this year’s bill of £396 million and will drain as much as a third of the additional funding hospitals will receive.
Shadow Health Minister Mark Simmonds stated that at the moment the “inefficient system” mounted in “vast legal costs” for NHS trusts.
The party added that funding which had been set aside to go to maternity services would now have to be used as payouts for negligence claims - that department itself costing £119 million in claims.
“We need a robust and fair way for patients who have received negligent treatment in an NHS hospital to get the compensation they deserve,” Mr Simmonds said.
“Instead, we have an inefficient system which incurs vast legal costs for NHS Trusts involved in legal battles.” He insisted that if the system had been based on their proposals during the NHS Redress Bill three years ago, a lot of money would have been saved without “costly litigation”.
“But the Government missed this opportunity and as a result hospitals will now have less money to spend on patient care,” Mr Simmonds said.
A spokesman for the Department of Health put the significantly higher bill down to a delay in settlements for over 100 high-vale cases and said there was “no black hole”.
“The anticipated increase in clinical negligence payments for 2009/10 has been fully funded,” he said.
“First, £100m has been included in the uplift applied to all tariff prices.
“Second, an additional £216 million has been targeted at specific tariff prices for services where clinical negligence claims are high - including obstetrics and gynaecology.
“The premium collected in 2009/10 is substantially higher than previous years because of delayed settlement of more than 100 high-value cases, as well as other factors such as rising legal costs.
“We fully expect this figure to fall back to historical levels in 2010/11.”