By: 10 July 2014

The NHS has reported an 18% rise in the number of claims being brought against it, which it says is partly down to an increase in unmerited clinical negligence cases.

According to the NHS Litigation Authority, there were 10,129 claims submitted through its doors in the year running up to March 2013, which rose to 11,945 in the year ending in March 2014. The Authority believes that a significant number of those filed in the past year were bought by new claimant solicitor firms entering the clinical negligence market.

In its annual account, the body said that it had been able to resolve 44% of claims that were funded by pre-1 April 2013 no win, no fee agreements, without payment, saving the NHS some £1.3 billion. It also said that it had challenged excessive costs charged by some claimant solicitors, which has saved an additional £75 million.

Chief executive Catherine Dixon said that expenditure on clinical claims in 2013/14 showed that, of the £1,193 billion spent on clinical negligence claims, 22% (£259 million) was spent on claimant solicitors, compared with only 8% (£92 million) on defence legal costs.

“It is our priority to ensure that when a patient has been harmed by the NHS they are, to the extent we are able, compensated for the harm they suffer,” said Dixon.

“However, we experienced a significant rise in the number of claims being brought against the NHS where the care provided was not negligent.”

She also said that the Authority was committed to supporting the NHS in its attempts to improve patient and staff safety by sharing learning from claims.

“We are supporting the recently launched Sign up to Safety Campaign by giving an incentive payment to NHS LA members when they submit a robust safety plan which will result in the reduction of harm and the reduction of claims,” she said.

“We also financially reward NHS Trusts with fewer less costly claims by ensuring that they pay less for their indemnity cover, thereby incentivising the reduction of harm and improving patient and staff safety.”