Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland Indicates Rise in GP Negligence Claims

The number of clinical negligence claims against GPs rose by 16.4% in 2015, according to the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS).

The medical defence organisation revealed that the number of claims for clinical negligence against its members across the UK rose by 22% in 2015 compared with the figures for 2014.

There was a 20.6% increase in claims against its hospital doctor members.

The MDDUS said the rising cost of indemnity for GPs was linked to the increase in claims and called on the government to push through plans to cut legal costs in clinical negligence cases as soon as possible.

Last year the Department of Health announced plans to impose a £100,000 cap on clinical negligence legal fees, but this has yet to be implemented.

Mr Kenny has written to health minister Lord Prior of Brampton saying that the absence of controls on legal costs in negligence cases was a key driver of increasing indemnity costs.

Lord Prior of Brampton is leading on the next steps following the recent GP Indemnity Review, which lead to NHS England providing £60m of funding over two years to offset the cost of rising GP indemnity.

In the letter Mr Kenny commented that there is huge potential for financial savings in this area.

“The scope for savings for both medical defence organisations and the NHSLA are considerable, especially for lower value claims. We all have many examples of where the amount paid in legal costs is significantly greater than the compensation payments made to the patient”.

Kenny outlined why this is such an attractive proposition.

“It is for that reason that the idea of a cap to overcome these perverse incentives of the current system is so attractive. Not only will it ensure far tighter management of costs at the level of the individual case, but it will have the right incentive effects in ensuring that only the strongest cases are selected and prepared in the most cost-effective manner”.

Several factors have been cited as contributing to the increase in negligence claims.

Overcrowding and underfunding has obviously made the job of GPs considerably more difficult.

Meanwhile, difficulty in recruiting new doctors to the profession has undoubtedly proved problematical, and language barriers experienced by GPs recruited from overseas can often lead to issues.

It has also been asserted that the rise in the number of private clinics is leading to the best talent in the NHS deserting the public sector.

This is not the first time that a significant escalation in negligence claims has been noted.

In total 16,006 patients or bereaved relatives lodged claims against the health service during 2012/13, compared with 8,876 five years previously; a rise of 18.4 per cent.


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