In response to an earlier piece on the Herald’s misrepresentation of Greater Glasgow and Clyde setting aside funds to defend cases of alleged failures in childbirth cases.
It’s my view that ‘whataboutery’ is a very different thing from pointing to relevant evidence from elsewhere in order to obtain context and/or perspective. When a ‘big’ number is used it is reasonable – indeed logical – to seek to ascertain whether the number is indeed ‘big’, and by implication ‘bad’, relative to an appropriate comparator.
In a peer reviewed paper in the British Medical Journal in 2020 entitled ‘Clinical negligence costs: taking action to safeguard NHS sustainability’, we learn this about NHS England:
‘The NHS paid £2.4BN (€2.8BN; $3.1BN) IN CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS IN 2018-19, according to NHS Resolution (formerly the NHS Litigation Authority). This sum equates to about 2% OF THE ENTIRE BUDGET FOR THE NHS IN ENGLAND (roughly £115bn).
‘But even these startling figures do not provide the full picture, since NHS Resolution also has to account for claims likely to be received in the future. NOW STANDING AT £83.4BN, THE AMOUNT “SET ASIDE” FOR SUCH CLAIMS IS AMONG THE MOST SUBSTANTIAL PUBLIC SECTOR FINANCIAL LIABILITIES FACED BY THE UK GOVERNMENT, SECOND ONLY TO NUCLEAR DECOMMISSIONING (£131BN).’ (my emphasis)
NHS Resolution is an arm’s length body of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). One of its functions is dealing with claims for compensation on behalf of the NHS in England. It manages seven different clinical negligence schemes on behalf of NHS England
From its website we learn this: ‘Obstetric incidents can be catastrophic and life-changing, with related claims representing THE CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE SCHEME FOR TRUSTS’ (CNST) BIGGEST AREA OF SPEND. Of the clinical negligence claims notified to us in 2020/21, OBSTETRICS CLAIMS REPRESENTED 11 PER CENT (1,190) OF CLINICAL CLAIMS BY NUMBER, BUT ACCOUNTED FOR 59 PER CENT OF THE TOTAL VALUE OF NEW CLAIMS; ALMOST £4.2 BILLION.’
The House of Lords Library on 29 November, 2021 published a briefing entitled ‘Negligence in the NHS: liability costs’. An easily found document, it includes this:
‘The cost of CNST clinical negligence claims incurred as a result of incidents in 2020/21 was £7.9 billion. NHS Resolution has said that 60% of this cost related to maternity services (£4.8 billion as at 31 March 2021).’
And it notes: ‘EVERY BABY BORN IN THE NHS IN ENGLAND NOW INCURS INDEMNITY COSTS OF £1100. With roughly 600 000 births annually, the NHS PAYS ROUGHLY £12.7M A WEEK FOR THE COSTS OF OBSTETRIC HARM. The rise in costs is widely regarded as unsustainable. Spending on clinical negligence is increasing much faster than funding for the NHS, TRIPLING IN THE DECADE FROM 2009. That means that the proportion of scarce NHS resources going to litigation instead of care is worsening.’
Data for NHS Scotland can found on the website of CNORIS, the Clinical Negligence and Other Risks Indemnity Scheme and NHS National Services Scotland (NSS). It’s tempting to place the Herald’s piece in the relevant NHS Scotland context too but this btl contribution is already too long!