Rising litigation does not mean falling standardsBMJ 2012; 345 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e5760 (Published 28 August 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5760
- Paul Nisselle, senior consultant, Educational Services, Medical Protection Society, 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PS, UK
The number of claims for compensation reported to the UK NHS Litigation Authority increased from 5426 in 2006-7 to 8665 in 2010-1, an astonishing increase of more than 60%.1 Complaints in the United Kingdom and elsewhere have also risen. What’s happened? Have standards of care fallen as a result, in part, of resource rationing? Have first world consumers simply become more assertive? Are rapacious lawyers creating an expanding litigation market?
Well, perhaps none of these conjectures are correct.
A recent review article in the New England Journal of Medicine said, “Health care’s share of the GDP [gross domestic product] quadrupled from 4.6% in 1950 to more than 17% in 2009; in most peer countries, the share is 9 to 11%.”2 The article also notes an expansion in health insurance; more federal government funding; fewer hospital inpatients; more outpatient services; a rise in female, specialist, and hospital based doctors; and the 6000 drugs and 4000 procedures that clinicians now have in their armoury.