There has been a lot of talk about the rising cost of clinical negligence: the increasing number of claims, and the increasing levels of awards. We also hear the rhetoric that the fear of litigation drives doctors to practise defensive medicine. But I hear members tell me that it is the dread of a complaint to the Medical Council, and the risk of a public hearing, trial by media and reputational damage that concern them much more than a claim.
That is not to disregard the stress of litigation – but, generally speaking, the fact that your indemnity arrangements will step in to meet the financial costs of a claim makes it a less personally traumatic experience than the sanctions you might face at, for example, the hands of your employer, regulator or even the police.
Although the cost of claims is far and away the largest call on members’ funds at MPS, they only represent about 20% of the cases we handle worldwide – the rest are complaints, inquests, disciplinary cases and other medicolegal challenges to a member’s professional practice. Our feature, "On deadly ground", illustrates just some of the wide-ranging problems that members contact us for advice on.
It is also possible for a single incident to take a member through a series of procedures. For example, a perinatal death might give rise to complaint, claim, inquiry, inquest, disciplinary and regulatory investigations. And doctors who rely solely on employers’ indemnity have no entitlement to ask for assistance with anything other than the claim for compensation – so you might want to have a word in the ear of a colleague who could unwittingly be leaving themselves exposed to a range of sanctions.
Finally, I hope you enjoy reading the case reports – in this edition we share learning from both settled claims and also some very successful defences.
As always, I welcome your feedback – whether in response to content within Casebook or to share your own experiences.
Dr Stephanie Bown – Editor-in-chief
MPS Director of Policy and Communications