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National claims database belongs to NHS as a whole

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7269.1157 (Published 04 November 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:1157
  1. Kieran Walshe, senior research fellow (k.m.j.walshe{at}bham.ac.uk)
  1. Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2RT

    EDITOR—Fenn et al provide a useful analysis of the growing costs of clinical negligence to the NHS.1 They might, however, not have had to restrict their research to data from Oxfordshire's local database of clinical negligence if the NHS was making proper use of data from its national database of claims.

    Since its establishment in 1995, the NHS litigation authority has been responsible for managing both the clinical negligence scheme for trusts, which deals with all claims against most NHS trusts from 1995 onwards, and the existing liabilities scheme, which deals with all claims against NHS trusts and health authorities that originate before that date.

    As a result, the litigation authority has a computerised database of thousands of clinical negligence claims, with almost complete coverage of England from 1995 to the present day and with excellent, albeit not complete, data before 1995. Sadly, the litigation authority has chosen to make little or no use of this database of clinical claims. We have the data, but we just do not use them at present to examine the causes of clinical negligence and help prevent their recurrence.

    The NHS litigation authority's database could also be of direct use to NHS trusts. At present they have no way to check the past litigation record relating to individual clinicians. The database could be used for this purpose, but when it was set up the litigation authority effectively disabled the database by choosing not to collect on computer any data that would identify individual clinicians, even though it has that information in its paper records. With hindsight, this was a serious mistake and should now be put right. It would be straightforward for the litigation authority to start to collect data identifying the clinician for all new cases of clinical negligence immediately and simple to extract such information from its paper records for all past cases.

    In the future, the NHS litigation authority's national database of clinical negligence claims could be an invaluable resource. It should be open to researchers and NHS organisations to use the database, within some carefully established rules of confidentiality and data access. This database belongs not to the NHS litigation authority but to the NHS as a whole.

    References

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