National Health Service (NHS) statistics in the United Kingdom demonstrate an increase in clinical negligence claims over the past 30 years. Reasons for this include elements of a cultural shift in attitudes toward the medical profession and the growth of the legal services industry. This issue affects medical and surgical health providers worldwide.The authors analyzed 2117 NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) orthopedic surgery claims between 1995 and 2001 with respect to these clinical areas: emergency department, outpatient care, surgery (elective or trauma operations), and inpatient care. The authors focused on the costs of settling and defending claims, costs attributable to clinical areas, common causes of claims, and claims relating to elective or trauma surgery. Numbers of claims and legal costs increased most notably in surgery (elective and trauma) and in the emergency department. However, claims are being defended more robustly. The annual cost for a successful defense has remained relatively stable, showing a slight decline. The common causes of claims are postoperative complication; wrong, delayed, or failure of diagnosis; inadequate consent; and wrong-site surgery. Certain surgical specialties (eg, spine and lower-limb surgery) have the most claims made during elective surgery, whereas upper-limb surgery has the most claims made during trauma surgery.The authors recommend that individual trusts liaise with orthopedic surgeons to devise strategies to address areas highlighted in our study. Despite differences in health care systems worldwide, the underlying issues are common. With improved understanding, physicians can deliver the service they promise their patients.
Copyright 2012, SLACK Incorporated.