Cuts to staffing and training budgets have been described as a “false economy” and “short sighted” after new figures showed the spiralling cost of lawsuits against the NHS.
The NHS Litigation Authority’s annual report showed that the number of clinical negligence claims brought against the NHS rose by 32 per cent in 2010-11, to 8,655. The NHS paid out £863m to claimants last year, up from £787m the year before.
Chris Cox, legal director at the Royal College of Nursing, said the figures were no reflection on the safety of NHS care, and warned that there would be a rise in clinical negligence cases if staffing numbers and skill levels were cut back. “It’s short-sighted to think it is too costly an exercise to maintain this level of staffing”, he told Nursing Times.
He said nurses could help minimise the risk of claims by keeping their skills and knowledge up to date, being open with patients about the risks associated with their treatment, and reporting any shortcomings in the care environment.
At the end of 2010-11, the NHS Litigation Authority was making contributions to 930 claimants requiring ongoing support, and has set aside £2.4bn for future payments.
Many of these cases are associated with complications during birth. Royal College of Midwives education and research manager Sue Macdonald added it was a “false economy” not to invest in sufficient staff numbers or continuous professional development.