The Impact of Medical Negligence on the Healthcare Market

Not only did 2019/20 see the highest number of medical negligence claims in five years in the UK, but the NHS was also facing the prospect of paying out £4.3 billion in legal fees to settle outstanding claims in the near and medium-term.


Of course, this is far from ideal for the publicly-funded National Health Service in these shores, which is already struggling with underfunding and the complications that have arisen as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic.


However, medical negligence also has a much wider impact on the healthcare sector as a whole, and we’ll explore this in further detail in the article below.


What is Medical Negligence?


The term ‘medical negligence’ refers to the “improper, unskilled or negligent treatment of a patient” by a medical practitioner, whether this is a doctor, a dentist, a surgeon or either a pharmacist.


As we’ve already touched on, an estimated £4.3 billion in legal fees has yet to be paid out by the NHS in relation to outstanding claims, while medical malpractice payouts have already totalled more than £3 billion since 2012 (averaging more than one payout every 43 minutes).


In this respect, the impact of medical negligence is most keenly felt by practitioners and their employees, who will be held responsible for proven malpractice cases and will face both financial sanctions and potential criminal charges.


Of course, patients are also keenly and demonstrably affected by individual instances of medical malpractice, with the extent of the impact correlating directly with the eventual payout in most of the cases.


How Else Does Medical Negligence Impact the Healthcare Industry?


If we extend beyond those involved in all the individual cases, we can begin to explore the wider impact of medical negligence in the healthcare sector and beyond.


For example, let’s say that news or rumours of malpractice or medical negligence spread like wildfire after a particular event has happened, creating a scenario where potential patients become nervous and even delay or interfere with important procedures.


This can automatically damage the critical relationship between patient and practitioner, while causing longer-term health issues for people who choose to delay crucial surgeries.


Interestingly, instances of malpractice can affect the cost of healthcare to patients. This has certainly been proven in nations like America, where there’s a demonstrable lack of publicly accessible healthcare and free services such as the NHS.


In this case, there’s a direct link between increased malpractice claims and the escalating cost of healthcare, which is subsequently passed on by private healthcare providers to insurers and their patients.


From a doctor’s perspective, the rising prevalence of negligence claims may also lead to the onset of so-called “defensive medicine”, which describes a mindset that orders additional tests and procedures that are largely unnecessary but requested to help protect against potential claims of negligence.


This can also increase the cost of healthcare in some instances, while it certainly places extra pressure on publicly-funded services across the globe.



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