Clinical Negligence cases can be amongst the most demanding and distressing. Victims include children born with catastrophic brain injuries who will be dependant of care and assistance for the whole of their lives. We often read press reports of damages in millions of pounds. Whilst these might seem like lottery wins they normally cover the basic care that a victim will require for life.
It has been the case for many years that claimants are entitled to be paid the cost of private care. This is because they have the need for such care through no fault of their own and are entitled to have those needs met by their compensation rather than through the general NHS budget. The type of available care has improved over time. Victims live longer. There seems to be an increase in medical incidents. As a result of all of these factors the cost of care has increased.
The Medical Defence Union, an insurance company, have complained that the costs are unsustainable and are arguing that victims should rely on the NHS –
Their argument focuses on the cost to the NHS of having to pay out such huge amounts. But one suspects that they have their own agenda here. Like any other insurer they want to reduce the cost of claims.
But their argument is misconceived. If a person suffers a life changing injury through the fault of another then they are entitled to be compensated, including the cost of medical and other care for as long as necessary. This is not limited to medical cases. If a person becomes paraplegic following a car accident which is another motorist’s fault then their care is paid for by that driver’s insurer. If somebody loses a limb because it becomes trapped in an unguarded machine at work then the employer’s insurer pays.
Why should a victim be at a disadvantage just because their life has been ruined by a doctor? The principle has to apply across the board.
If the Medical Defence or the NHS Trusts want to see a real reduction in claims then they should focus on taking steps to reduce the risk of such incidents happening in the first place.
We must get away from this rhetoric of blaming victims for the cost of such claims. I have never acted for a victim who would not swap all the money in the world for a better, or any in some cases, quality of life.