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21.08.12

Medical negligence costs rise in Wales

The cost of medical negligence payouts by the NHS in Wales has almost doubled over the past three years, according to a Freedom of Information request.

Figures obtained by the BBC show the cost of negligence claims have risen by £18m and cost £38m in the 12 months to April 2012. In total, claims cost £84.3m over the last three years.

In 2011/12, the Welsh Government increased the risk pool – which reimburses health boards for claims exceeding £25,000 – by £15.8m. The total amount paid out by this pool in 2011/12 was £49.7m.

The increase could be due to a rise in ‘no-win, no-fee’ cases and increased life expectancy, the Government suggested. Critics of the cost have asserted financial pressure on staff and the costs of care also contributed.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: “Every year, thousands of patients receive high quality, safe and effective treatment, but in a modern health system – where increasingly complicated procedures are being undertaken – mistakes can still occur.

“When this happens, the NHS must investigate, and take action, where appropriate and provide assurances and feed back to patients.”

Welsh Conservative health spokesman Darren Millar AM said: “We’ve got an NHS that's facing mounting financial pressure. There's a big jump in the number of cases and the amount paid out which means there must be something wrong with the system.

“I think the increase of ‘no-win, no-fee’ solicitors has had a part to play, but also I think that staff are finding it difficult to do their jobs because of financial pressure.”

Desmond Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society of England and Wales said: “Conditional fees, or no win, no fee arrangements, currently provide the only method available to most victims of obtaining justice.

“If government is having to place more money in the Welsh Risk Pool, this implies that negligence in Welsh hospitals is increasing, that more people are aware of the right to claim compensation or that the financial impacts of negligence – the costs of care etc – have become even more serious.”

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