Duncan Lewis


Asylum, Detention/ Fast Track

Managed Migration, Public Law

A report says that rising culture of compensation was damaging the health and education sectors

Date: (10 September 2012)    |    

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According to a report by the think tank Centre for Policy Studies, Britain’s escalating compensation culture was bleeding the health and education services dry.
The report was critical about the increasing number of legal claims against the NHS and schools after accidents or mistakes was the reason behind the poor quality of services rather than improving the safety and accountability.
It said the litigation culture was ingrained in the national psyche as a distorted form of normal behaviour.
It had the undermining factor affecting the roles of doctors and teachers and was preventing them from doing their jobs properly it claimed.
A huge amount of time and money in the NHS and education was spent dealing with such claims.
The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA), which deals with legal action taken against the health service, estimates it now has liabilities of £16.8?billion, which is equivalent to 16 per cent of the annual healthcare budget.
The report says that it is a spectacular own goal as the money must eventually come from the taxpayer.
One of the report’s authors, Professor Frank Furedi, from the University of Kent, said demanding recompense for accidents was now perceived not only as a commonsense way of gaining financial compensation, but as a way of holding public services to account. This was taking its toll by bleeding the health and education sectors dry both in financial terms as well as their public sector ethos and professional role.

Prof Furedi added that the increasing fear of litigation was also extremely damaging to the professionalism of doctors, nurses and teachers. It erodes professional autonomy, throttled improvement, leadin to defensive practices in both hospitals and schools and encourages greater bureaucracy.

One GP who contributed to the study, who has practised in London for 25 years, said the compensation culture encouraged a ‘defensive form of practice’ where treatment was given not because of what was in the patients’ best interests, but to cover the doctor’s back.

He said doctors often referred patients to hospital for investigation just in case they sued if it turned out they had cancer and the diagnosis was delayed. This ends up costing the NHS more money because it means patients are often examined unnecessarily.

He also argued there was a ‘culture of complaint’ where patients wished for ‘less-than-perfect care’.

The problem was similarly acute in schools, according to the report. It reveals several cases where local councils have been forced to pay compensation to school pupils injured in its care, and says many schools will now not take pupils on trips in case they are sued if something goes wrong.

One council in Derbyshire paid out £40,000 after a pupil broke a leg on a school trip.

Tim Knox, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said the rise in the compensation culture was creating a climate in which professionals were giving more importance to save their backs rather than thinking what was best for their pupils or patients.