Calls are being made for the government to clampdown on the rising cost of clinical negligence claims – as figures reveal the bill in Dorset has topped £21m over the last five years.

The National Audit Office said the eye-watering amounts of money involved are adding to the already crippling financial pressures faced by health trusts.

The figures from the NHS litigation authority show that while the number of successful claims against Dorset County Hospital has not changed much over the last decade – from 34 in 2006/7 to 29 in 2016/17 – the total cost of claims has risen from £1.09m to £5.2m per year over the same time period.

In the five years from 2012/13 to 2016/17, the total cost of claims through the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts (CNST) at Dorset County Hospital was £21,672,395. This covers damages paid out, defence costs and claimant costs.

The cost of non-clinical claims stands much lower, and has changed little in 10 years, from £150,770 in 2006/7 to £101,019.

Dorset Healthcare has also seen a sharp increase in clinical negligence claims. Figures were not available for 2006/7 but in 2007/8 the trust paid out a total of £85,532 through the CNST scheme. In 2016/17 this had more than doubled to £234,329.

The total over the last five years is £879,929.

Again, there is little change in non-clinical claims, from £103,514 in 2007/8 to £196,633 in 2016/17.

West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin said the rising costs are a ‘long-running problem’.

He added: “Balancing fairness to individual patients against fairness to the bulk of patients who want NHS funds to be spent on care rather than legal settlements, is not easy. My own view is that we should probably be trying to create some standard no-fault remedies that provide reasonable redress without putting both patients and medics through the mill of lengthy and often hugely stressful legal processes.”

But the National Audit Office said more needs to be done. It warned that, nationally, the cost of clinical negligence claims is rising at a faster rate year-on-year, than NHS funding, adding to the financial pressures already faced by many trusts, which can have an impact on patients’ access to services and quality of care.

Research by the group found that the increasing number of claims accounted for 45 per cent of the overall increase in costs, while rising payments for damages and claimant legal costs accounted for 33 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said:“The cost of clinical negligence in trusts is significant and rising fast, placing increasing financial pressure on an already stretched system.

“NHS Resolution and the Department are proposing measures to tackle this, but the expected savings are small compared with the predicted rise in overall


“At £60 billion, up from £51 billion last year, the provision for clinical negligence in trusts is one of the biggest liabilities in the government accounts, and one of the fastest growing.

“Fundamentally changing the biggest drivers of increasing cost will require significant activity in policy and legislation, areas beyond my scope.”

Dorset County Hospital said they are working to keep the cost of claims to a minimum.

A spokesperson said: “NHS Resolutions (formerly the NHS Litigation Authority) are currently focussing on the faster resolution of claims. We are working with them closely to achieve this by recommending cases for early resolution as they arise. Resolving claims earlier will result in a reduction in legal costs.”

A spokesperson from Dorset HealthCare, said: “The costs to trusts of the Clinical Negligence Scheme have risen nationally and we are working closely with NHS Resolution on all types of negligence related claims to resolve disputes in a fair and cost-effective way for all involved.”