Has the NHS paid out nearly £20 million in compensation to staff?

Published: 5th Mar 2012

"NHS staff are claiming nearly £20million a year in taxpayer-funded compensation for injuries such as bruises, twisted ankles and blisters.

The number of employees seeking damages for accidents they insist were the fault of the Health Service has jumped by almost a third in just five years."

Daily Mail, 5 March 2012

With NHS bureaucracy the centre of attention as the Health and Social Care Bill makes its way through Parliament, the Daily Mail this morning reported that as much as £20 million was being lost by the NHS to compensation claims from its own staff.

The paper argues that the increase in pay-outs is a symptom of increasing use of "no-win no-fee" arrangements, which themselves encourage "frivolous" claims.

Analysis

The Mail cites Freedom of Information requests to the NHS Litigation Authority, which handles compensation claims against the NHS. Full Fact contacted the NHSLA, who told us that the original figures had been provided by the Department of Health.

According to the Department of Health, the NHSLA paid out £18,295,185 in compensation under employer's liability claims in 2010/11, confirming the Daily Mail's approximation. While this is an increase on 2009/10, it is a decrease from 2008/09, when £21,035,827 was paid out, and is actually below the five-year average.

However the number of new claims received by the NHSLA has risen each year, with 3,187 received in 2010/11 compared to 2,353 in 2006/07. This is an increase of 35 per cent over the last five years, which again tallies with the Daily Mail's assertion.

The Mail also claim that "a report from MPs found the NHS was now paying out £15.7 billion a year for medical accidents". Full Fact have covered this claim in the past, and it should be stressed that the figure refers to the projected value of future claims and money set aside to deal with these, and does not refer to the actual amount paid out.

Conclusion

The Daily Mail's claim that the number of claims has increased by a third in five years is accurate, as is the claim that "nearly £20 million" has been awarded in compensation to NHS staff. While there has been a year-on-year rise in pay-outs, the 2010/11 figures are just below average for the five year period covered by the FoI data.

However, the paper should be more cautious about its use of figures for the total cost of claims made against the NHS, as the figure cited by them (£15.7 billion) is a projection.


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