Media report for 'The Social Cost of Litigation'

On Monday 10th September 2012, the Centre for Policy Studies published The Social Cost of Litigation’ by Professor Furedi and Jennie Bristow of the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.

Media Impact:

Tim Knox featured as the lead interview on BBC West Midlands and the paper was also discussed on BBC Kent and BBC Tees. In addition the Press Association article was picked up by over 50 local newspapers.


Professor Furedi commented:

Demanding recompense for accidents is now perceived, not only as a common-sense way of gaining financial compensation, but as a way of holding public services to account.

‘But taken together, the combination of an engrained compensation culture and litigation avoidance is bleeding the health and education services dry: both financially, and in terms of their public sector ethos and professional role.’

The research shows that as of March 2011, the NHS Litigation Authority estimated its potential liabilities at £16.8 billion, of which £16.6 billion related to clinical negligence claims.

However, of the 63,800 claims for medical negligence made since 2001, only about 2,000 (3.2%) have had damages approved or set by the Court. A further 28,700 were settled out of court.

Professor Furedi said:

‘The increasing fear of litigation is also extremely damaging to the professionalism of doctors, nurses and teachers: it erodes professional autonomy, stifles innovation, leads to defensive practices in both hospitals and schools and encourages greater bureaucracy. ‘Best practice’ is now defined as having checked all the boxes in a quality assurance form rather than doing what is best of the patient or pupil.

‘If we want to put a brake on the culture of litigation and litigation avoidance in Britain, we need to look beyond ambulance-chasers and greedy lawyers to the cultural conditions that have allowed litigious sentiments to flourish as common sense. In particular, we need to challenge the expectation that professional ‘best practice’ in the public sector should be measured by the absence of complaints or litigation.’

Tim Knox, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, commented:

‘This rise in the compensation culture has huge – if largely hidden – costs. In particular, it has created a climate in which professionals will prioritise litigation avoidance above what is best for their pupils or patients. So many schools have reduced the extra-curricular activities that enrich children’s experience while at school, from school trips to outdoor play, while doctors are incentivised to follow ‘best practice’ rather than follow their professional judgement. It is time for policy makers to separate compensation in the public sector from tort law. They also need to consider how a scheme of no-fault liability can be devised to deal with those who have suffered harm.’

Date Added: Thursday 13th September 2012