The Covid-19 pandemic has led to multiple negligence claims against the NHS
"We expect lower claim numbers from lower clinical activity, particularly for non maternity activity, and estimate that this will reduce the provision by £0.4 billion." NHS Resolution annual report, 2021
The NHS is expecting to receive compensation claims of more than £800m relating to its handling of Covid-19, HSJ has reported.
That figure includes £665m of claims related to clinical negligence in the trust provider sector, and £44m against NHS general practice. NHS Resolution, which handles clinical negligence proceedings on behalf of the NHS, apparently expects another £146m in litigation from staff, residents and relatives of care home residents, as well as users of other health and care services.
The bill of £855m is identified in NHS Resolution’s report for 2020-21.
NHS Resolution said that its teams had considered the “direct impacts that might arise from new activities related to responding to the pandemic – for example in relation to testing, diagnosis, treating and caring for Covid-19 patients and administering vaccines”. They also considered the “indirect impacts on core (non-Covid-19) NHS activity and hence the claims that might normally arise” and “the indirect impacts across all other factors that might influence claim costs – for example in relation to lags between incidents, claims and settlement or the economic impact.”
Some of the cases are likely to be related to the late diagnosis of cancer during the pandemic as a result of screening programmes being cancelled, the reduction in referrals and the reduced capacity to treat those who were referred.
The clinical negligence scheme specifically relating to Covid-19 was created under the Coronavirus Act 2020. It provides cover for mistakes “that may arise when healthcare workers and others are working as part of the coronavirus response, or undertaking NHS work to backfill others”.
It also covers “new and alternative ways of working, including new contracts being put in place for the NHS response to coronavirus, such as those with the independent sector and organisations supporting testing arrangements”. During the most intense pressure on hospitals, many staff were redeployed to clinical areas they were unfamiliar with or not trained for.
The £855m compensation may be offset by a reduction in claims because of the reduced amount of elective work carried out last year, NHS Resolution believes: “We expect lower claim numbers from lower clinical activity, particularly for non maternity activity, and estimate that this will reduce the provision by £0.4 billion.”
NHS Resolution has also estimated £2m in payouts could be made under the Coronavirus Temporary Indemnity Scheme, which introduced in April 2020 and designed to cover “the safe transfer of people who are being discharged from hospitals to care homes and who are infectious with Covid-19”.
Hundreds of applications for compensation have already been made by families of NHS and care staff who died during the pandemic, and their claims are expected to total £40m.