Medical negligence payouts eating into the NHS budget
There is increasing concern amongst health industry experts that the rising costs of medical negligence compensation payouts are taking money away from essential NHS services. The more the NHS has to pay in medical negligence cases, the less it has to spend on patients, and now recent changes to the health services have led to concerns about how the NHS will be able to pay out compensation to medical negligence victims in the future.
The uncertainty centres on who will pay these often huge compensation payouts in the future. Radical government reforms to the NHS mean that Primary Care Trusts – who are presently responsible for making compensation payments to medical negligence victims – will be scrapped and their role taken over by individual GP practices. So will that mean that compensation payouts are taken out of the funding allocated to GPs for primary care, and will it mean a reduced service for patients?
In recent years a number of Primary Care Trusts have paid out substantial sums in cases of medical negligence. Costs per UK region per year can amount to tens of millions of pounds in payouts. There has been criticism of some payouts being excessive with some questioning the merits of compensation in certain cases, considering that the money might be better spent on treatment for patients.
NHS shares the risk across the country
Although low risk areas pay out less than high-risk areas, the NHS shares the cost through the NHS Litigation Authority, which all Primary Care Trusts pay into through annual premiums to cover against medical negligence compensation payouts. So although the payments for compensation don’t come directly from Primary Care Trust budgets, all the Trusts pay a certain amount in every year, which could otherwise have been used for their front line services. But the real burden falls on the taxpayer, who is ultimately paying for the NHS.
With the figure rising year on year for hospitals paying out record amounts of compensation, there are concerns about how the system could be reformed and better managed in the future. As yet the Department of Health have not confirmed where the money would come from or whom it would be assigned to after the NHS reforms.
Medical Negligence Compensation or treatment?
There are strong arguments on both sides of these issues. In cases of medical negligence there is a need to compensate a victim for their future care, rehabilitation, loss of earnings and other costs, yet others will argue that if the compensation amounts continue to rise, the quality of NHS services will suffer as there will be less money available to spend in other areas. However, it goes without saying that all medical negligence victims would gladly not suffer the injury in the first place.
If changes are made to reduce the compensation paid out to innocent medical negligence victims the only real beneficiaries will the the Government. More frightening is the fact that if the compensation claims are not made there is no pressure on each NHS Trust to improve the standards of service provided. If they are not externally monitored standards may drop sharply causing even more people to suffer with absolutely no recourse to legal action or compensation! This would not be a good change.