Legal claims against GPs up more than 20% in 2013

Legal claims against doctors rose 20% in 2013 - and higher still for GPs - as reforms to civil litigation rules came into force, medico-legal experts have revealed.

Consultation: GPs face rise in legal claims (Photo: JH Lancy)
Consultation: GPs face rise in legal claims (Photo: JH Lancy)

In the 2013 annual report from the Medical Defence Union (MDU), chairman Dr Peter Williams said medical claims ‘continued their inexorable rise’ in 2013.

Claims rose more than 20% for doctors, double the 10% rise for dentists, MDU data show.

For GPs, the rise in negligence claims outstripped the average across all doctors.

Rise in GP claims highest

Dr Williams said: ‘With more than 1m GP consultations taking place every day in the UK, it is perhaps not surprising that the rise in claims against GPs was sharper than for other specialties.’

The spike in claims is linked to legal changes to prevent ‘no win, no fee’ deals that saw some lawyers claim fees larger than compensation payments to patients, the MDU believes.

MDU chief executive Dr Christine Tomkins said: ‘2013 was the MDU's busiest year in our 128-year history. We answered over 33,000 calls from members to our 24-hour advice line and opened a record number of new claims files.

‘We fully support the legal costs reforms that came into effect in April 2013, but in the short term we have seen claimants’ solicitors rushing to notify claims under the old arrangements, prolonging the disproportionately high costs the legal changes are intended to address.’

Hope for downward trend

Dental claims began to tail off towards the end of 2013, the MDU says – a trend it hopes will spread to doctors.

‘We are hopeful that in the longer term the changes will see a reduction in the large sums paid to claimant's lawyers. There is some evidence that this is starting to happen,’ said Ms Tomkins.

‘Compensation payments are also spiralling and we are working at government level to effect changes to control claims inflation so damages payments are affordable, sustainable and fair for all parties.’

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