The annual cost of the clinical negligence for trusts has quadrupled over the last decade—from £0.4 billion in 2006–07 to £1.6 billion in 2016–17—taking already scarce resources away from frontline services and patients. Despite longstanding concerns about these predictable rising costs, the government has been disappointingly slow and complacent in its response. There seems to be a prevailing attitude of defensiveness in the NHS when things go wrong, and a reluctance to admit mistakes, which is likely to be leading to more clinical negligence claims. The lack of consistent data across the system means that the NHS still does not fully understand why some people suffering harm choose to make claims or the root causes of negligence, so it is not well placed to learn from its mistakes. It is important that patients suffering as a result of clinical negligence are compensated and that lessons are learned but the mix of stretching efficiency targets, increasing financial pressures and patients waiting longer for treatment carries the risk of clinical negligence claims spiralling out of control without effective action. The government needs to take bolder and more coordinated action to prevent this from happening.
29 November 2017