State facing €1 billion bill for medical negligence claims

Cost of clinical claims estimated to rise

The Department of Health offices in Dublin. Departmental briefing documents, drawn up in June, state that independent actuarial projections forecast that the cost of settling clinical indemnity claims overall in 2014 will be in the region of €200 million. Photograph: Frank Miller

The Department of Health offices in Dublin. Departmental briefing documents, drawn up in June, state that independent actuarial projections forecast that the cost of settling clinical indemnity claims overall in 2014 will be in the region of €200 million. Photograph: Frank Miller

Mon, Jul 28, 2014, 01:05

The State is facing a potential financial liability of more than €1 billion to deal with medical negligence claims in public hospitals and HSE facilities.

Official Department of Health briefing material maintains that the number of clinical claims under active management by the State Claims Agency increased from 1,792 at the end of 2012 to 3,061 at the end of 2013.

“The estimated potential liability has similarly risen over the same period from €642 million to €1,037 million.”

The documents state that increased costs are also due to the fact that the courts will not agree to structured periodic payment orders until legislation is introduced – through the Department of Justice – for this purpose.

The State Claims Agency manages the State’s clinical indemnity scheme, which provides cover in respect of clinical negligence claims occurring in public hospitals and HSE facilities around the country.

Birth-related claims

The agency meets the cost of awards and expenses and is subsequently reimbursed from the HSE budget.

While 20 per cent of claims relate to obstetrics, this area represents 55 per cent of estimated liability due to high settlement costs associated with cerebral palsy and other serious birth-related claims.

The Department of Health briefing documents, drawn up in June and seen by The Irish Times, state that independent actuarial projections for the year forecast that the cost of settling clinical indemnity claims overall in 2014 will be in the region of €200 million.

The department’s documents also suggest that the bill for dealing with clinical negligence cases will get higher in the years ahead.

“The cost of clinical indemnity scheme claims will continue to rise over the next number of years.

“This is in line with the actuarial prediction that the claims portfolio is still immature and will not reach steady state, in terms of yearly cost, for a number of years.”