NHS under strain from rocketing clinical negligence costs

Urgent action is needed to tackle the enormous strain being placed on the NHS by the unaffordable rise in costs of clinical negligence claims, the Medical Defence Union said today.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) responded to the publication of NHS Resolution’s annual report for 2018/19 which shows that NHS Resolution’s balance sheet provisions have reached a record high of £83.4 billion, an increase of £6.4 billion on the previous year.

Dr Christine Tomkins, MDU chief executive said:

“The cost of clinical negligence claims continues to spiral out of control and should deeply concern all of us who rely on NHS services. In 2018/19 NHS Resolution paid out £2.36 billion in compensating patients through its clinical negligence schemes. This could have funded over fifteen million MRI scans or 112,000 liver transplants.

“While NHS Resolution reports that claims numbers have stabilised, it also states that compensation levels have risen by over 13%. High value claims settled often in excess of £20 million. Such sums would have been unthinkable until recently.

“Every example of negligence takes its toll on the patients and families involved, but the spiralling compensation being paid out puts an enormous strain on NHS funding affecting all of us, and a balance must be struck. 

“The NHS and the care it provides is precious to us all and we must take urgent action to curb the sums being lost to front line clinical care through out of control compensation payments. This requires urgent tort reform.”

The MDU’s fair compensation campaign includes a six-point reform plan which includes repealing Section 2(4) of the 1948 Law Reform Act requiring patients treated by the NHS to be compensated for negligently caused damage on the basis that all their future care will be provided in the private sector.


The MDU is a not-for-profit organisation wholly dedicated to our members’ interests. Our team is led and staffed by doctors with real-life experience of the pressures and challenges faced in practice.

We offer our members expert guidance, personal support and robust defence in addressing medico-legal issues, complaints and claims. Our customised services range from legal assistance to indemnity to appropriate CPD.


Dawn Boyall, Jessica Hammonds or Thenuka Mahendrarasa in the MDU’s press office

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