MEDICAL negligence claims facing the NHS could drain the cash-starved service of up to pounds 2.8 billion, a report by a Commons committee warned today.
As the service struggled to cope with a winter beds crisis caused by flu, the Public Accounts Committee said the negligence cases could divert precious resources from patient care.
"We are appalled that there are at least 15,000 cases of clinical negligence on the NHS books, and that there may be far more," the committee warned.
"These cases represent a tragedy for the people involved.
"And the level of outstanding liabilities, which may be as high as pounds 2.8 billion is a significant drain on stretched health care resources."
In a wide-ranging report on NHS finances, the cross-party committee criticised the service's financial control and the level of fraud in the system.
The NHS had made "significant" savings in recent years, the committee said, but it added: "We found too much evidence that the service's financial affairs had not been handled well.
"They must do better than this, by developing their staff's skills or bringing in more external expertise. …