According to the NHSLA (National Health Service Litigation Service) Report of 2012/2013, clinical negligence claims have risen by 10.8 per cent. The number of claims made in 2011/2012 was 9,143 which have seen an increase of 986 claims in 2012/2013. However, the volumes of non-clinical claims have levelled off.
The NHSLA have recognised the recent increase in numbers of clinical negligence claims and have subsequently changed their assumptions and increased the size of their IBNR provisions as of March 2013. The report showed that the CNST (Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts) which deals with clinical negligence claims occurring after 1995 had experienced a 2 per cent rise in expenditure. Yet, claims arising from incidents occurring prior to 1 April 1995 have seen a decrease of 21.8 per cent in expenditure shown by the ELS (Existing Liabilities Scheme).
In order to manage the rising claims, the NHSLA have publicised that they aim to resolve as many claims as possible without litigation. The report states that they intend ‘to be innovative in our claims handling and to use alternative dispute resolution wherever possible’. Their objective of resolving cases before they reach trial will be achieved by either negotiating a fair settlement or by rejecting cases which are without legal merit. Thus, clinical negligence claims could be resolved much quicker and involving less stress.
The decline in non-clinical negligence claims could be a result of a review of civil costs conducted by Lord Justice Jackson. Following the findings of the review, the resulting reforms were implemented as part of the LASPO (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders) Act 2012. A key term in the act stated the illegality of paying an individual referral fee that involves the provision of legal services.
The Daily Express has reported that since last September, A&E units have seen 980,068 patients waiting longer than the Government’s four hour waiting time target. Between 2009 and 2010 this figure stood at 353,617. Additionally, 172,000 patients were kept on trolleys for between four and twelve hours which suggests a rise of almost 50 per cent. The increase in waiting times has been largely reflected in clinical negligence claims, and it is therefore important that amendments are made.
According to a Royal College of Nursing Survey (RCN), 89 per cent say the pressure has increased in the last six months due to rising number of patients and too few staff. The Telegraph has stated that the A&E departments are understaffed by nearly 10 per cent. A BBC 5 Live Freedom of Information request revealed how in 101 hospital trusts, there were 1,260 vacant posts. The matter is further worsened by figures showing that there were 21.7 million patients last year, a 50 per cent rise compared with a decade ago when there were 14 million annually.
As a result, the analysis suggests that 89 per cent of nurses working on acute and emergency care say that the A&E units are so busy that their patients are put in danger every day. In addition, a poll of 1,021 healthcare workers by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development also found that one in four doctors and surgeons has been pressured or bullied by managers to act in a way that could undermine patients.
It is likely that clinical negligence will see a further increase in claims related to the A&E services in order to prevent the same situation from reoccurring in the future.
The Daily Mail has reported on an alarming case of a senior nurse at NHS direct giving the wrong advice to a caller.
A 20 year old man suffering with Swine Flu and pneumonia was advised to simply take cough syrup from the chemist rather than visiting A&E. Sadly the man passed away on boxing day 2010.
According to the Daily Mail article the nurse has since been struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council over this and several other cases.
The incident raises concerns overt the quality of advice given by NHS Direct staff and also highlights the possibility of clinical negligence occurring over the telephone and not just in person.