The final quarter of 2017 continued to be an active one within the field of medical negligence. Consultations and Parliamentary reports continued to flow. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) produced a report on 1 December 2017 stating that the government was continuing to be complacent in relation to learning from mistakes from clinical negligence claims. There has been a quadruple increase in the cost of clinical negligence which PAC attribute to the failure to identify key re-occurring mistakes and learning from those mistakes. The committee advocated a shift from the current NHS "defensiveness" position to a learning from mistakes culture.

The day before release of the PAC report the Department of Health published its response to the Rapid Redress Scheme for avoidable birth injury consultation. The government’s response sets out more questions than it attempts to answer but it is pleasing that the government is taking time to analyse the evidence before rushing into implementing a Rapid Redress Scheme. This is a complex area with many issues, and competing interests, to be addressed. The government should not embark upon a knee-jerk reaction to introduce a scheme that is not fit for purpose simply in the desire to reduce the annual spend on birth injury claims.

As one respondent noted, the data coming from Sweden following their introduction of a similar rapid redress scheme in 2007 needs to be analysed further. Although Sweden is a very different system to that within England and Wales, there is a suggestion that the reduction in avoidable birth injury in Sweden may not be solely attributable to the rapid redress scheme. The scheme was introduced in conjunction with the clinical use of cooling for individuals who suffered brain injury interpartum. It is clear, therefore, that further analysis is required.

What is for certain, the changing times and endless publication of reports and consultations will continue well into 2018!

The Courts were quieter in the 4th quarter than in previous quarters of the year. That said, the decisions handed down have been significant. The key decisions during the past quarter are summarised here.