Medical negligence claims against the NHS have soared by over 20% in a year, new official figures show.
The £22.7 billion put aside to pay out compensation to thousands of people harmed by poor care accounts for almost a fifth of the health service’s annual budget.
The claims for compensation figure has almost doubled in five years, according to the latest statistics from the NHS Litigation Authority.
This follows a spectacular jump in the number of patients taking legal action against hospitals and care homes.
Experts this week said the scale of the liabilities facing the NHS following a succession of hospital scandals is “jaw-dropping” with English damages now among the highest in the world.
Biggest pay outs linked to harmed babies
Over 16,000 patients went through the claims process during 2012/13, compared with about 13,500 in the period before.
The biggest individual pay outs are linked to NHS faults which have led to babies becoming brain damaged.
Advances in medical science mean that these children live much longer, raising care costs. Loss of earnings awards can also be high if the person harmed cannot work, with claims of over £5 million made for the highest earners.
Dr Christine Tomkins, chief executive of the Medical Defence Union (MDU), which represents doctors accused of errors, said the present system is unsustainable and the legal system needs to be reformed.
She called the size of the NHS’s liabilities “jaw dropping” and added: “English damages awards in personal injury cases are now among the highest in the world.”