Covid pandemic highlights urgent need for legal reform, warns MDU 

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) says a new report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, provides a further stark warning on the unsustainable cost of clinical negligence. 

It is urging the Government to commit to action.

The publication of the Whole of Government Accounts highlights some of the challenges public finances are set to face in the future. 

Principal among them is the provision of taxpayer money for the £85bn liabilities associated with clinical negligence. 

The report says that due to its size and nature, it is one of the Government’s liabilities that ‘represents significant risks to the UK finances’. It goes on to say that ‘the Government will be further exposed to liabilities arising from its response to Covid-19 that will require strategic management.’

Dr Christine Tomkins

Dr Christine Tomkins, MDU chief executive, said: ‘As Covid-19 continues to wreak its effects on public health and the economy, taxpayers’ funds are under immense strain. It has never been more important to ensure that every penny possible of NHS funds goes towards the care and treatment of patients. 

‘The report by the Public Accounts Committee reaffirms the scale of the burden that the cost of clinical negligence has on the public purse. A Treasury report also shows the provision for clinical negligence claims is now worth £3,600 for every household in England, compared to £700 per household ten years ago.

‘The system driving this cannot remain unreformed any longer. The MDU has campaigned for many years for legal reform to address the rising cost of clinical negligence. The Government must act now and bring forward proposals. 

The MDU said the scale of the increase in the cost of clinical negligence over the past decade did not reflect any deterioration in clinical standards. 

It views the medical negligence system as unfair and unsustainable, resulting in millions of pounds leaving the NHS – money that could otherwise be spent on more and better services. 

Dr Tomkins added: ‘The Government needs to take action now. It cannot wait until claims begin to arrive in a few years’ time, when it will be too late. The MDU is calling on the government to introduce a specific exemption for the NHS from Covid-19 clinical negligence claims, alongside a complete overhaul of the whole clinical negligence system.’