Experts back NHS compensation claim reforms for Scotland

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A PANEL of independent experts has backed plans to reform the system of NHS compensation claims in Scotland.

The No-Fault Compensation Review Group, headed by medical law and ethics professor Sheila McLean, was set up by ministers in 2009.

The body has recommended a change to the system which would mean patients who have suffered loss, injury or damage as a result of their treatment receive compensation without having to take the NHS to court.

The new arrangement would still require proof that harm was caused but would remove the need to prove negligence.

The review group's report suggests a no-fault system would allow for fair and adequate compensation while being speedier and more time- and cost-effective than the current one.

A similar scheme is used in Sweden, New Zealand and several other countries.

The British Medical Association (BMA) welcomed the findings, saying no-fault compensation will end the "blame culture" within the NHS.

Scottish secretary Martin Woodrow said: "The BMA believes that no-fault compensation offers a less adversarial system of resolving the process for compensating patients for clinical errors.

"A system of no-fault compensation with maximum financial limits would benefit both doctors and patients, speeding up the process and reducing the legal expenses incurred by the current system.

"More importantly, however, it would address the blame culture within the NHS which discourages doctors from reporting accidents and would end the practice of defensive medicine."

Mr Woodrow said it was important that any new scheme did not significantly increase costs to the NHS and take money away from patient care.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said it was important that victims of medical mistakes have some form of redress but that it was in "no-one's best interests" to have to endure delays as the case goes through the courts or see taxpayers' money spent on expensive legal fees.

Ms Sturgeon said: "No-fault compensation would be a sensible way to ensure people who have been affected are compensated without tying up either patients or the health service in years of litigation.

"It's very encouraging that the review group's report has recommended this system.

"I'm grateful to them for their hard work over the last 18 months. The next step now is to investigate thoroughly how such a scheme would work in practice - including further analysis of any cost implications - both for the benefit of individual patients and the good of the health service as a whole."