The Medical Protection Society (MPS) has launched a campaign to bring down the cost of indemnity for GP members by reducing the overall NHS litigation bill.
MPS said this comes as almost nine-in-ten health professionals are concerned that if the cost of clinical negligence claims continues to increase at the same rate as currently, this will ‘threaten the sustainability of the NHS’.
It notes that NHS clinical negligence costs have increased by 72% over last five years, on the back of a rising number of claims brought by patients, with costs on course to reach £2.6bn a year by 2022.
To illustrate the cost of litigation against the NHS, MPS points out that last year’s £1.5bn bill alone could pay for the training of 6,500 new doctors.
And it says the annual bill to the NHS will be £1.2bn a year higher going forward, following the discount rate reduction announced by the Lord Chancellor in March, leading to a steep rise in payouts for patients with life-long care needs.
As an example, it says that a clinical negligence claim of £1m before 20 March – compromising £700,000 of future care costs and £300,000 of other costs – would now cost £2.3m. A similar £5m claim would increase to £12.8m.
In response, the MPS said it ‘would strongly urge the Lord Chancellor to reform the methodology on which the rate is based’.
MPS further urges the Government to introduce a range of legal reforms to bring down costs, including introducing fixed recoverable costs for claims up £250,000 to stop lawyers charging disproportionate legal fees.
It also sets out a number of proposals to reduce the risk of claims, including commissioning research to better understand drivers behind clinical negligence and raising awareness among medical professionals of conditions which come with a high-value claims risk (including cauda equina syndrome, meningitis/encephalitis, missed cancers, peripheral ischaemia and chronic disease management).
According to MPS CEO Simon Kayll the organisation has been left with no choice but to impose the ‘significant’ increases to indemnity costs in recent yeas, because it has ‘an obligation to ensure that we collect sufficient subscription income to meet the expected future costs of claims against our members’.
But he added: ‘The Lord Chancellor’s decision to reduce the Personal Injury Discount Rate to minus 0.75% is going to make this situation even worse. This significant decision will cost the public purse an extra £1.2bn each year as the cost of claims will be substantially larger as a result.
‘I know that increases in the cost of membership subscriptions are unwelcome, and have a significant impact on some. At MPS we share our members’ concerns and want to work with the Government and others to help stem these spiralling negligence claims costs.’
The nine legal reforms proposed by MPS
- setting a limit on future care costs, in the form of a tariff for annual costs, dependent on injuries, with an overall cap;
- consider a minimum threshold for cash compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity in clinical negligence claims;
- regulate ‘after the event insurance’ which currently can mean the defendant (the NHS) has to pay unlimited costs for claimants’ expert witnesses;
- consider ways of reducing expert fees;
- introduce a ten-year limit on the period between the date of an adverse clinical event and when a claim can be made;
- send a larger proportion of low-value claims through the simpler ‘small claims track’, setting the limit at £5,000;
- strengthen the rules for when a claimant can abandon their claim close to the court date at the expense of the NHS;
- fixed recoverable costs for claims up £250,000 to stop lawyers charging disproportionate legal fees.