Cash-Strapped NHS Deluged by Clinical Negligence Tide; Patients Now Regard Health like Any Service

Article excerpt

Byline: Madeleine Brindley

INCREASING numbers of dissatisfied patients are taking legal action against a cash-strapped NHS in Wales.

A leading clinical negligence solicitor told The Western Mail the nation had reached the 'worst possible situation' in respect to the number of claims for damages filed against the health service.

As the bill for compensation continues to rise, Yvonne Agnew of Cardiff-based Leo Abse and Cohen, said doctors had fallen off their pedestals and the taboo of suing health professionals has disappeared.

'For many years we would never have considered that doctors get it wrong.'

'But people have been shocked at the organ retention scandal, horrified at what went on in Bristol.

'Now we have the case of a wrong kidney being removed and the case of Professor Sir Roy Meadow.

'There is a dawning knowledge that doctors do get things wrong and on occasion they get it quite outrageously wrong.

'But they have been made more accountable to the public which has to be a good thing because with a more questioning public the less likely Alder Hey or Bristol will happen again.'

A report by Auditor General Sir John Bourn last year found that liabilities for clinical negligence claims included on the balance sheets of NHS bodies amounted to pounds 118m on March 31, 2002.

This excluded an estimated pounds 254m of disputed claims for alleged employer or medical negligence, where the likelihood of payment is 'possible' rather than 'probable.'

The National Assembly's audit committee has also raised serious concerns at the amount of NHS money being directed away from front-line services to compensation payment.

The rise in negligence cases has been blamed on the increasing litigious nature of society and on 'ambulance-chasing' legal firms. …