Why claim?

It is reported that annually there are over a million incidents of medical negligence in the UK where patients are potentially entitled to compensation. The reality is though, less than 7,000 people go on to make a claim against the NHS.

In 2009 a Health Committee report to Parliament warned that too often NHS Boards pay more attention to governance, finances and targets rather than considering patient safety – some have never considered it at all.

Compensation culture – a media myth

There has been much talk of a growing "compensation culture" in the papers and on the radio and TV but there is little evidence to show that this is actually the case. The truth is that the number of claims brought against the NHS continues to fall year on year as have the number of medical negligence claims in the UK generally.

We firmly believe that it is wrong, and indeed immoral, to bring a cerebral palsy claim against the NHS that is not genuine. However, there is little evidence to suggest that is happening and our screening procedures ensure that once the facts are properly known only those cases that are genuine are brought forward as claims.

Bringing a claim will help other patients and their families

A major failing of the current system and the reason why many patients and their families come to us is that they have been unable to get to the facts of what caused the cerebral palsy. Compensation is rarely mentioned as the main reason for making a claim, other than in the most serious cases.

Following a detailed investigation we will try to explain exactly what has happened and the surrounding events. Where a mistake can be proved a decision can then be taken about whether or not a claim can be made and the likelihood of success.

Bringing a claim will ensure accountability of the medical agency responsible for the error. This will help prevent the same mistake from happening again. It will also secure the payment of compensation. This is important especially in more complex cases and where long term specialist care and assistance is required. This can be expensive and establishing a claim means that individuals and their families will not have to struggle financially to cope with the resulting disability.

Making a cerebral palsy claim will also encourage medical authorities to re-train their staff to prevent the occurrence of a similar mistake. This in turn will help prevent other patients and their families having the same experience.

The NHS is financially resilient

We are all proud of the NHS and the work that it does. Its reputation as one of the best run healthcare organisations in the world is well known. However, as with all professions the medical profession has a duty of care to the people it provides its services to. It also has financial provision in place to compensate them where it makes mistakes and the cost of claims is spread among all NHS agencies under the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts set up in 2005. The cost of claims therefore does not have to be met directly by the hospital or medical agency itself.

As a rule of thumb, most professional businesses set aside three percent of their turnover to cover negligence claims. The compensation paid by the NHS is considerably lower than this. The total NHS budget currently exceeds £100 billion. However, in 2007 it paid out just £600 million which amounts to just half of one per cent of that total or a fifth of the average for all professions.

This means that the total compensation paid by the NHS is a very small fraction of its budget and considerably less than would be expected given the number of potential claims and the media attention it receives. The fact is thatbringing a cerebral palsy claim against the NHS will not damage its financial position or ability to continue to provide what should be a first rate service.

The Chief Executive of the NHS Litigation Authority himself has said in the 2009 annual report that "contributions for our non-clinical schemes were maintained at (or near) previous levels and we celebrated their tenth anniversary still able to claim that annual contributions were lower than members told us they were paying for insurance in 1998-99". Click here to view the latest NHS annual reports and accounts.


Knowledgeable, organised, responsive, diligent, empathetic and human. I deal with many legal firms during the course of my work and have found the Court of Protection team at Boyes Turner to be, 'Simply the best'.


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