In April 2017 the organisation that deals with the handling and co-ordination of legal claims on behalf of the NHS, changed its name from The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) to NHS Resolution.

When announcing the change recently, Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary explained to Parliament that the change of name was part of a series of measures designed to ensure the NHS became one of the safest in the world and that in particular, the new name would reflect the aim to settle legal claims earlier.

Speaking to MPs, Jeremy Hunt said “The NHSLA will radically change its focus from simply defending claims to early settlement of cases, learning from mistakes, and the prevention of errors.”

In addition to the name change, NHS Resolution has published a 5 year strategy designed to deliver fair resolution and learning from mistakes. Amongst the goals, NHS Resolution plans to achieve the following:

  • To improve the experience for patients, families and healthcare staff, with support for candour and learning when things go wrong…which goes in hand with a claim for compensation;
  • Resolve concerns and disputes fairly and effectively;
  • Provide analysis and expert knowledge to the healthcare and Civil justice system, to drive improvement
  • Deliver in partnership, interventions and solutions that prevent harm, improve safety and save money.
  • Expand its role of sharing learning through the development of interventions to prevent future harm.

As a clinical negligence specialist, I welcome any measures that are designed to improve standards in our NHS and help settle claims quicker. More often than not, claims are not settled quickly by the NHSLA or their appointed solicitors, money which is often needed by an injured person to help with rehabilitation, care or equipment, following an injury.”

As part of the changes, specific focus is given to the way incidents are reported involving injury to babies during or immediately after birth. NHS Resolution has asked all Hospital Trusts to report all maternity incidents which occur after 1 April 2017, where there is a likelihood of severe brain injury to the child, with a view to providing an increased level of support to families when incidents occur.

Whilst I fully support the great work done by the NHS, sadly the number of babies injured at birth remains high and unacceptable. Having acted for families whose children have suffered brain hypoxia at birth, I have seen first hand the devastation it causes and the pressures placed on all family members. Whilst I welcome proposals to improve patient safety; the monitoring of birth injury incidents and an apparent willingness to learn from these tragic events, I fear that the lack of resources given to maternity units and various NHS departments will sadly result in continued incidents of negligence.

The recent development of the Duty of Candour imposed on health care organisations and, in particular the NHS, means that if a serious incident occurs, the NHS in obliged to inform the patient or in the case of a child, their Parents, of what has happened. The development of the Duty of Candour is designed to ensure more transparency between a patient and the medical staff.

I believe that more openness and transparency is needed. It is important to learn lessons from mistakes that take place and whilst the business plan and 5 year strategy of NHS resolution is welcomed, I suspect that a change in culture within the NHS, both in terms of safety and attitudes to resolution are needed. Those that deal with claims on behalf of the NHS need to understand that resolution and settlement of cases involves more that just a name change.

If you have been affected by an injury through medical negligence, either in hospital or by a GP, or if you require help and advice on getting answers from medical staff when things have gone wrong, contact our medical negligence team on 0845 287 0939 or send your enquiry online.