The National Audit Office (NAO) has today published its study ‘Managing the costs of clinical negligence in trusts’ focusing on work undertaken by the Department of Health and NHS Resolution (formerly the NHS Litigation Authority). The study can be found here: NAO VFM study.

The cost of clinical negligence in trusts is significant and rising fast. The study concludes that NHS Resolution has taken effective action to control costs and has achieved significant savings for the taxpayer from contesting unmeritorious or excessive claims and legal charges.

The NAO summarises what NHS Resolution is doing to take further action to tackle the biggest drivers of cost increases within its control, and highlights the publication of its five year strategy in April 2017 which set out its plans on safety and learning and in engaging with NHS trusts in the management of claims. This includes the introduction from April 2017 of an ‘early notification’ scheme for babies born with cerebral palsy, encouraging trusts to report these cases early and providing support to trusts in engaging with affected families.

The study finds that some of the biggest factors influencing costs fall within the remit of more than one government department or are largely outside the health system’s control. These include developments in the legal market and the increasing level of damages awarded for high value claims. The study also notes that NHS Resolution and the Department of Health, working with others, including the Ministry of Justice, have identified many of the factors contributing to the rising costs of clinical negligence.

The NAO concludes with a recommendation for a cross-government strategy on the cost of clinical negligence for trusts which identifies the balance to be struck between providing patients with access to justice and access to health services.

This is a useful and balanced report containing valuable insights into the challenge of rising clinical negligence costs.