CMO calls for reform of clinical negligence system

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has today called for a "fundamental reform" of the way clinical negligence cases are handled.

In his report, 'Making Amends', Professor Sir Liam Donaldson sets out plans for a new NHS Redress Scheme to speed up explanation, compensation and apology procedures.

The report's 19 conclusions will go out for consultation, and contains proposals to offer care and compensation under certain circumstances without the necessity to go to court.

Under the proposals, a national body, building on the work of the existing NHS Litigation Authority, will administer the NHS Redress Scheme to provide investigations – when things go wrong; where remedial treatment, rehabilitation and care are needed; and where explanations and apologies and financial compensation are appropriate.

The scheme will also include care and compensation for severely neurologically impaired babies, including those with severe cerebral palsy if their impairment was birth-related and they fulfil other eligibility criteria.

Sir Liam said: "Patients deserve to receive high-quality healthcare from their NHS. And for the vast majority of the millions of people treated every year, the NHS provides excellent, effective healthcare. However, patients occasionally do not receive the treatment they should, and mistakes are sometimes made. Patients deserve to be told what has happened when things go wrong, and to be compensated if appropriate."

The CMO went on to say that often the legal costs of investigating matters often arise to more than the eventual compensation.

He added: "For many, it is not the size of any compensation that matters so much as an apology, an explanation and, vitally, evidence that something is being done to minimise the risk of a similar problem happening in the future."

Under the proposals, the Redress Scheme will initially be applied to NHS hospitals. If it is successful, the Department of Health will look at how it can be extended to cover primary care.

The report follows a period of consultation on proposals set out in August 2001. Following further detailed consultation - necessary because of the legal complexities involved - the proposals will be written into a definitive statement of policy later this year.


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