Trends in emergency department litigation within the NHS: a retrospective database analysis

Medico-Legal Journal, Ahead of Print.
The objectives of this study are to examine trends in litigation related to emergency department care within the NHS. The study is based on retrospective database analysis. NHS Resolution databases of litigation activity pertaining to Type I emergency departments within the NHS are used. The main outcome measures were number of claims, number of successful claims, costs associated with litigation and costs per claim, all in comparison to patterns of ED attendance numbers and inflation. The results showed that the annual cost of litigation relating to emergency department care within the NHS has increased from £25.5 million in 2005/6 to £161.9 million in 2017/18. Mean cost per claim has increased from £58,252 in 2005/6 to £168,966 in 2017/18. The number of claims received has increased significantly; the proportion of these which were successful has remained constant. Therefore, it was concluded that the costs of litigation are increasing disproportionately to inflation and attendance numbers. Multiple potential causes are discussed, with significant implications for clinical practice.

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