Jeremy Hunt has announced a major overhaul of the NHS Litigation Authority.
The health secretary intends to reduce the number of clinical negligence cases, while enabling the healthcare system to improve understanding as well.
A rebranding of the organisation will also take place, with NHS Resolution to be the new name of the authority from 1st April.
More resources will also be invested in ensuring that maternity-related cases are dealt with earlier.
Knowledge sharing and spreading best practice will also be considered particularly important, while the initiative will also help new interventions play a part in reducing the number of mistakes in healthcare.
The health secretary commented on the issue at the ‘Learning from Deaths’ conference hosted by NHS Improvement.
“The new plans for the NHS Litigation Authority to relaunch as NHS Resolution will mean there will be an enhanced focus on learning and prevention, not just litigation. This brings us closer to the NHS becoming the world’s largest learning organisation so when things do go wrong, lessons are learned quickly, shared across the system, and ultimately patient care is improved,” Hunt stated.
The level of NHS litigation is underlined by the fact that the authority dealt with over 15,000 such claims against the NHS in the most recent financial year.
This has necessitated an alternate approach, with a shift now taking place in order to diverge focus away from claim management.
Instead, the NHS authorities wish to instigate a more proactive culture, encouraging early interventions in order to support families.
A two-way process will also be important, enabling advice to be proffered in order to help the NHS learn from mistakes.
NHS Resolution will also employ a specialist early intervention team, with a modus operandi of addressing brain injuries at birth, with NHS Improvement also being consulted on the matter.
The changes are part of the government’s drive to halve the rates of stillbirth, neonatal and maternal deaths, and brain injuries suffered at birth by 2030.
It will bring together the litigation authority’s three operating arms – litigation management; the National Clinical Assessment Service, which tackles concerns about doctors practice; and the Family Health Services Appeal Unit.
Helen Vernon, chief executive of the litigation authority, suggested that the new approach will result in improved outcomes.
“This extends our role beyond the historic narrow remit of claims management. In those rare cases which involve brain damage at birth, we will work with the family, healthcare staff and the trust, right from the start, to ensure that we learn from what went wrong and share this rapidly across the NHS.”
Vernon also emphasised the importance of collaboration in this new organisation and initiative.
“Increased support to the NHS in delivering candour in practice and in sharing learning for improvement will be coupled with a fresh approach to resolution which reduces the need for costly and stressful court proceedings.”
The authority has seen the costs of clinical negligence claims rise to £1.5 billion annually and more than £56 billion is set aside for the cost of compensation claims to the NHS as a result.