The NHS has set aside £1.3 billion to deal with compensation claims arising from the pandemic this year with claims for treatment delays, cancellations and expected misdiagnosis.
An annual report by NHS Resolution, which deals with patient disputes, shows the health service anticipates it will need to pay out more than £1bn this financial year to settle claims stemming from poor service during Covid.
The sum is more than double that of the previous year, with the report stating that the “main driver” of the increase “is the indirect impacts of Covid-19 from delays, cancellations and misdiagnoses reflecting longer waiting lists.”
Since April, England and Wales have experienced more than 28,000 excess non-covid related deathswith heart problems, diabetes and cancer deaths rising significantly.
On Monday, Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary became the first government figure to openly acknowledge the problem.
“We must also be transparent, coming out of Covid, around excess deaths,” he said at the Spectator Health Summit.
“We know from the data that there are more people between the ages of 50 and 64 with cardiovascular problems. Is he result of delays In that age group, seeing the family doctor due to the pandemic, and in some cases not receiving statins for hypertensive patients on time. When added to the delays in ambulance times, we see this reflected in the excess deaths.”
Experts believe that many of these deaths are because people were not promptly diagnosed or treated, as the NHS effectively shut down in 2020 for conditions other than covid.
Some warned that the medical malpractice figure could be even higher than anticipated.
critical weather conditions
Professor Gordon Wishart, Medical Director of Check4Cancer and visiting professor of surgical oncology at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “The negative impact of Covid restrictions at other critical times conditions like cancer and cardiovascular disease has been predicted since April 2020, with significant harm expected in many patients due to delays in diagnosis and treatment.
“The fact that the NHR Resolution has set aside £1.3bn for future clinical malpractice claims is a recognition that the unintended consequences of the Covid restrictions will continue for some time to come and that these claims are likely to be successful.
“Given the current scale of excess deaths from many conditions including cancer and cardiovascular disease, £1.3bn may not be enough.
The law firms told The Telegraph they were already being contacted by the families of patients who had lost loved ones due to delayed diagnosis or treatment.
Jackie Linehan, legal director of clinical malpractice specialists Enable Law, represents the family of a man who was told he needed urgent cardiac surgery in April 2020.
But despite guidance from the Royal College of Surgeons that such operations could only be safely postponed for four weeks, his surgery was postponed until the end of the year, and he died in June 2020.
“Cases like the one mentioned above are shocking and incredibly difficult for those close to the patient to accept,” said Ms Linehan.
“We anticipate that the number of claims related to preventable deaths and injuries will increase due to delays in treatment throughout 2020 and 2021.
“Many people are just realizing the Consequences of not being seen long before.”
In the NHS resolution report, the body said it was making an IBNR (incurred but not reported) provision of £1.3bn “for new Covid-19 risks and potential claims” in 2021/22.
IBNR is a reserve account used for claims or events that have occurred but have not yet been reported. The previous year, the NHS set aside £500m for pandemic-related claims.
The report said it expected £300m of general compensation payments to be cut due to “lower activity” in the NHS in 2020/2021.
Hundreds more people dying
Last week the Telegraph reported how excess cancer deaths were rising with hundreds more people dying each month than expected in England.
The international law firm RPC said patients who have had to wait for referrals and cancer treatment could seek six-figure compensation payments, warning that upcoming strikes could increase the financial burden on the NHS.
Partner Sian Morgan said: “We know that fewer patients were receiving cancer treatment during the pandemic, either because cancer screening was so disrupted, cases were not prioritized, or because there was reluctance on the part of some to seek medical advice during confinement.
“The backlog of cancer cases facing the NHS now is worrying, especially as the usual winter pressures on services are upon us, likely to be exacerbated by strikes by nursing staff.
“Receiving timely treatment is essential to affect the prognosis and life expectancy in many types of cancerand those who have had to wait for medical intervention may well seek compensation by filing malpractice lawsuits.”
The analysis suggests that at least 22,000 fewer patients have undergone cancer treatment than expected since the start of the pandemic.
‘The cancer community warned of this’
Professor Pat Price, UK’s head of Radiotherapy and co-founder of the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign, has called on the government to urgently publish its cancer plan.
“The cancer community has been warning about the dire consequences of delay for some time,” he said.
“The backlog has resulted in delayed diagnoses, record waiting lists for life-saving treatments, and a frontline workforce on its knees.
“It is heartbreaking to hear stories of continued delays in diagnosis and treatmentand seeing crucial cancer treatment services, such as radiation therapy, being overlooked.”
Dr Charles Levinson, DoctorCall’s chief medical officer, added: “Many people feel let down by a tunnel vision approach on a virus, the negative effects of which will be felt for decades to come judging by appalling levels of non-covid excess. deaths and these anticipated figures. Financial compensation will only go so far.”
NHS Resolution said provisions of £470 million had been made for direct claims relating to Covid treatment, an increase of £120 million.
A further £610m had been allocated for indirect claims relating to delays and misdiagnosis, up from £310m the previous year. The remaining amount was for other reasons, such as the administration of vaccines.
“These estimates are based on very limited claims data given the time lag between incidents that occur and claims that are received in clinical malpractice cases, and therefore actual experience may differ significantly,” a spokesperson said.