By: 6 October 2014
I’m sorry about that –  The effects of medical negligence claims

Over the past five years, medical negligence claims lodged against NHS staff have risen by 80% and the bill for pay-outs is nearing one-fifth of the total NHS budget. Whereas obstetricians get the largest amount of claims lodged against them at 35% of the total number of claims, orthopaedic surgeons are second in the firing line at 10%. In an area of medicine as complex as orthopaedic surgery, accidents are bound to happen, albeit rarely. Unfortunately, it takes just a few highly publicised cases of gross neglect and a couple of jaw-dropping settlements for the public attitudes to start changing, putting a strain not only on the NHS and the taxpayers, but on the medical professionals too.

It is not a coincidence that ever since the austerity measures and budget cuts were implemented during the double-dip recession in 2009, there has been a steady rise in claims. Ward closures and staffing shortages have left smaller numbers of clinical staff to deal with an ever-increasing number of patients, in turn leading to more rushed decisions, accidental omissions in protocol and mistakes that may have been avoided had the staffing levels been adequate. Medical negligence cases, such as the ones lodged in the wake of the Mid-Staffordshire or East Lancashire scandals, are well-founded and it is fair for patients to expect to be compensated for ongoing treatment and loss of future income due to the lasting effects of a medical mistake. However, it is the increasing numbers of largely unwarranted claims being put forth that exacerbate the underlying burden on medical professionals.

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Sue Craven
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