Medical compensation law ‘no longer fit for purpose’

Medical compensation law 'no longer fit for purpose'

The MDU has made a short animation to highlight unsustainable rises in compensation claims in medical negligence cases, which are increasing way ahead of society’s ability to pay.

Dr Michael Devlin, MDU head of professional standards and liaison explains the reason for making an animation about the MDU’s fair compensation campaign:

“Over £1.1billion was paid out by the NHS to compensate patients involved in medical negligence claims in 2014/15 which is enough to pay for 20,737 salaried GPs, or it could fund over eight million MRI scans, or 61,000 liver transplants. Damages awards in England are some of the highest in the world and claims costs are doubling in value every seven years.

“The reason for these increases are multifactorial, but there is no evidence that clinical standards have deteriorated in any way.

“It is astonishing, given all the pressure on NHS budgets that NHS negligence payouts of over £1bn per year do not feature at the top of the Government’s agenda. There is also low awareness among doctors, MPs and the public of the vast amounts being paid out by the NHS in compensation claims. We are working hard to change that and we hope that our short animation will explain why the law should be changed and how that can be done.  Fixed costs are a start but only legal reform will stop the spiralling costs.

“We urge everyone to watch the animation and then show their support for our campaign by writing to or tweeting their MPs."

Find out more about the MDU's 'Fair compensation' campaign here.

Video script:

Spiralling compensation claims are leading to billions of pounds of NHS money moving out of the public sector and into private hands.

The NHS expects to pay out as much as £28.3 billion in compensation for medical negligence in the future. The amount paid out during 2014/15 would have been enough to pay over 40,000 nurses or 29,000 junior doctors in their second year of training.

This is unsustainable. We, the Medical Defence Union, believe that personal injury law must be reformed to reduce the burden on the taxpayer.

Patients harmed as a result of medical negligence should be properly and fairly compensated.

But a law governing compensation payments dating from 1948, the same year the NHS was founded, is no longer fit for purpose.

It means that we are prevented from compensating patients on the basis that care will be provided by the NHS and local authority. Were organisations like the MDU and other personal injury defendants able to buy NHS and local authority care packages, NHS funds would be boosted to the benefit of all patients.

We are also calling for caps on the cost of care packages and the level of payouts.

Our highest payout to date is £9.2 million to a patient rendered tetraplegic following spinal surgery. These damages fund future care and accommodation provision in the private sector to a young person with a long life expectancy.

It would be fairer if health and social care packages for patients who are negligently damaged were defined and costed by an independent body. That standard package of care should then be applied irrespective of the cause of the injury.

For high earners, the current system can lead to millions of pounds in compensation for loss of future earnings.

We believe the maximum amount of compensation a person can receive should be capped at three times the national average salary, to avoid disproportionately large payouts.

Left unchecked, the MDU sees the bill for damages doubling every seven years. What would cost £9 million to settle today, could cost more than £18 million by 2021.

Don’t stand by and watch this happen. Personal injury law must be reformed.