The minister for health has declared that he aims to reduce the cost of medical negligence to the UK by reducing the number of claims made each year.
The UK’s Secretary for Health-Jeremy Hunt-has released a statement saying that he wants to reduce health service negligence claims by having those responsible for medical errors acknowledge their mistakes and apologise to patients.
The comments were delivered in a press interview regarding the new guidelines that were sent to every hospital in England and Wales. These guidelines recommended that doctors and nurses “say sorry” in circumstances where there had been a failure in the duty of care. Mr Hunt has suggested that medical professionals in the health service are reluctant to apologise because of their fear of litigation.
Catherine Dixon-chief executive of the NHS Litigation Authority-agreed with the Secretary of Health’s views. She stated that: “Saying sorry is the human and moral thing to do. We won´t say that we are not going to cover you [in the settlement of health service negligence claims] because you’ve said sorry. We are not like a car insurer who will withhold a claim because an apology has been given. Saying sorry is not an admission of legal liability”.
Mr Hunt cited the University of Michigan as an example of how the suggestions work. The University is one of the safest medical centres in the United States, and has seen the number of medical negligence claims for compensation halve in the past decade after adopting the practice of “apologising and learning when you are wrong, explaining and vigorously defending when we are right, and viewing court as a last resort”.
The Health Secretary tweeted that the University of Michigan´s approach was an “interesting example of how being open and saying sorry could slash the litigation bill. [We] want to see similar results in the NHS”. He also stated that half the health service negligence claims received by the NHS Litigation Authority were “without merit”.
Recently released figures show that the number of health service negligence claims received so far this year is expected to increase by a quarter to 12,000, and that around 20 percent of the health service’s annual budget of £22 billion is being set aside to pay compensation to thousands of people who have suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to poor medical care received.