Monday, June 25, 2018

How Are Medical Negligence Compensation Claims Changing?

During the country’s recent past, it has been notably commented on that a popular culture of compensation claims is developing in the UK.

In the heavily media-saturated world that we live in, it is hard to ignore the numerous adverts popping up on the radio, television and social media channels, promoting legal firms that work solely in that area and are living proof of the growth occurring in this sector.

Due to the steadily increasing number of cases that require legal aid for compensation, the Government recently began the process of seeking a review into the laws that currently uphold medical negligence issues.

This increasingly important review perfectly demonstrated the start of a complete refresh and overhaul of the systems in place, which will inevitably involve making changes to the legal definition of negligent actions. Not only that, but the way in which compensation claims are made and processed will require a refresh.

Here is a bite-sized breakdown of what you can expect to find when placing a compensation claim in the foreseeable future.

Governmental Review

Earlier this year Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary issued the need for the imminent review of the issues that are covered under the umbrella of medical negligence and malpractice.

This review followed the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, who was deregistered following the case of malpractice which lead to the death of a young boy who was in her care.

The news attracted wide-spread attention and concern was expressed by Hunt that the NHS is stretched-thin and as a direct result, its staff are buckling under the mounting pressure.

A number of factors are coming into play with this issue, including the extensive working hours, shortage of staff and the funding cuts that we are becoming all too used to seeing of late.

It has also been suggested that now, more than ever, the threat of such weighty consequences for medical staff is stopping them from seeking help when they are in need of it.

It is clear that there is fear amongst the current medical professionals and as a direct result of this, there is concern that medics will suffer alone, rather than facing the possible and very real chance of having their careers and livelihood removed from them.

The Numbers

There is a unification in the knowledge of the public at present that truly highlights the rising picture of compensation claims, backed-up by the cold hard facts found in an array of independent surveys.

Between the five-year period of 2008 to 2013, there was a dramatic increase in individuals seeking compensation in cases of medical negligence by 80%. This is complemented by the fact that between 2012 and 2013 there was a 20% rise recorded; with figures such as these it is evident that stringent rules need to be in place moving forward.

There has been particular concern raised within the NHS, after the release of new figures by the NHS Litigation Authority. This research demonstrated the findings from 2015-2016 was showing record highs of compensation awarded through medical negligence, which subsequently resulted in the NHS providing £1.4 billion to patients and families. The span of medical negligence can run across a wide spectrum of ages and situations, for example issues caused within childbirth. It is with circumstances such as these that the requirement for stringent laws, as well as fair studies of the situation becomes paramount.

It is also important to note that the previous years findings showed another £1 million in pay-outs, which cements the findings and the theory that medical negligence claims are on the up.

Impact on Claims

With such change and uncertainty, it is understandable that both organisations and the medical professionals within them are fearful for the UK’s future medical offerings, without detracting from the service they provide.

Rising costs of care are at the forefront of almost everyone’s minds at present, especially medical professionals, and this is then compounded by the ever-increasing amounts of compensation claims and pay-outs.

It is important to note here that these thoughts and fears are not to say that the abolishment of compensation is being condoned, but instead the realisation that changes need to be made to the relevant laws has come to the fore. These decisions currently lay with leaders of the British Medical Association, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and NHS Confederation.

The current reforms could lead to a change in laws that ensure the amount of money paid out to victims of medical negligence is set by varying boundaries, with more information made available regarding how to make a claim for medical negligence.

At present changes are being made to a wide variety of legislations across the compensation claims sector, for example those involving whiplash. Victims have found that the amount they are able to claim varies on the severity and incident and therefore the number awardable is capped. It is reforms such as these that may provide part of the answer to the issues seen within the NHS at present, while also setting a precedent for future medical negligence issues.

What Now?

With the cost of medical negligence claims set to at least double by 2023, the need for change is critical and while the combination of medical, legal and public bodies are in discussions, the time zone we are faced with is precarious at present.

For the legal side of things, it is important to begin making preparations for change. It looks increasingly likely that future claims will be capped, which will imminently affect the service that legal teams are able to offer to clients.

Keep an eye on the Government at present, as changes are in motion and only time will tell when it comes to the changes and reforms we will see and how they will impact those in need in the future.

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