Analysis of the NHS Litigation Authority’s (NHSLA) financial accounts for 2014/15 indicate that the NHS has earmarked over £20 billion for potentially botched operations.
The health service is forced to make millions of pounds worth of damage to patients inadvertently harmed by medics every year.
Yet even those with a working knowledge of the health service would be surprised by the vast number discovered by analysis.
It has been found that the £28.3 billion figure figure consists of £12.3 billion for outstanding claims, and £16 billion for claims expected to be brought against the NHS over the next five years and beyond.
This represents a 70% increase compared to the sum that was projected back in March 2011.
Critics of the way that the NHS operates will point to the fact that this figure is almost entirely equal to £30 billion worth of savings that the NHS has been told to target.
Considering the vast scale of the financial figures involved, it is perhaps not surprising that several organisations have been motivated to comment.
In particular, the Patients Association suggested that the huge £28 billion figure that has been set aside for clinical negligence expenditure indicated that hospital trusts across the UK have failed to learn from previous mistakes.
And Heidi Alexander MP, Labour’s shadow health secretary, also commented strongly on the issue, asserting that the £28 million figure “should ring alarm bells in the Department of Health”.
Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow health minister Justin Madders MP said the figures “provide further evidence about how patient care has gone downhill under this Tory government”.
Helen Vernon, chief executive of the NHSLA, attempted put a positive spin on the issue.
“Care in the NHS is very safe. However, occasionally things go wrong. When they do, the NHS LA’s role is to make sure that patients receive fair compensation and to help the NHS to learn from the event so that it does not happen again in the future. Sometimes, where a patient needs long term care, these costs can be very high.”
Vernon also explained why the figure associated with clinical negligence is so high, and suggested that the reports on the matter are somewhat misleading.
“The ‘provision’ of £28.3bn held for these cases represents an estimate of the cost of incidents going back to when the NHS was first formed which have yet to become claims for compensation as well as agreements to pay the costs of care for life on settlements which may stretch decades into the future.”
Nonetheless, many people will read these reports with alarm, considering that it has already been reported that the NHS will face a deficit of £2 billion by the end of this year.
With major logistical issues and staffing arguments taking place over junior doctors’ contracts and nurses’ bursaries, the last thing the government and indeed the NHS needs is another storm over clinical mistakes.