Medical blunders could leave the NHS with a 6bn bill

Media 2004

THE NHS is preparing to hand out almost 6billion to victims of medical blunders.

The soaring cost of negligence now threatens to swallow up to a tenth of the entire health service budget.

Alarming figures revealed by the National Audit Office yesterday show the NHS faces a 5.89billion bill in cases it expects to lose. Further claims could add another 3.2billion compensation.

Health chiefs and ministers blame the growing 'compensation culture' in Britain. But patient groups say they are a signal that the NHS should stop blunders being made in the first place.

And while NHS staff are being encouraged to own up to mistakes as part of a 'no blame' culture, campaigners say patients are often driven to sue because of cover-ups.

The number of clinical negligence cases pending against the NHS has risen by more than a third between 2002 to 2003, from 7,628 to 12,173.

The NAO report said: The cost of clinical negligence claims is a significant drain on resources available for patient care.'

Simon Williams, of the Patients' Association, said: 'It is right that when something goes wrong, patients should be given compensation.

'However, there are a lot of people who are chancing it.

'When you go to a hospital it is amazing to see the number of adverts for legal firms.'