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No-fault NHS compensation scheme proposed in Scotland

21 August 2012

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The Scottish government has launched a consultation into introducing a no-fault NHS compensation scheme.

Set up by the Health Secretary in 2009, the No-Fault Compensation Review Group, led by law and medical ethics expert Professor Sheila McLean, has recommended reforming the system of NHS compensation claims to one of no-fault compensation.

The proposed new system would still require proof that harm was caused by healthcare treatment but would remove the need to prove negligence.

Under the no-fault compensation scheme, patients who have suffered loss, injury or damage as a result of treatment could find themselves being compensated without having to resort to court action.

“We know that the vast majority of the care delivered in our NHS is of the highest quality, but it is important that people who have suffered as a result of clinical mistakes should have some form of redress,” said Michael Matheson, Scottish Minister for Public Health.

“It’s in no-one’s best interests to have that redress delayed because a compensation claim can take years to go through the courts and nor is it in anyone’s interests to have precious NHS resources spent on expensive legal fees.

“That is why we are considering the introduction of a no-fault compensation system. It is important that we seek wider views in order to help in our understanding of what the practical implications would be and to ensure that those affected receive appropriate redress without the need to go through a lengthy court process.

“This system would also help to ensure that, where issues do arise, health boards learn from them, and can promptly implement changes as a result.”

The Chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland, Dr Brian Keighley, said a no-fault NHS compensation scheme would offer a “less adversarial system” of compensating patients and would serve to end the practice of “defensive medicine” by addressing the “blame culture” that exists within the NHS.

No-fault medical compensation systems are already in place in countries such as Sweden, New Zealand, Finland, Denmark and Norway, and parts of the US.