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Dental Protection: Legal reform to tackle rising cost of clinical negligence is long overdue

23 June 2017

Dental Protection has called on the Government to implement a package of legal reforms to help tackle the rising cost of clinical negligence, and the challenging claims environment for dentists.

Dental Protection said a dentist in the UK is nearly twice as likely to receive a claim for clinical negligence compared to just ten years ago, and a full time dentist can now expect to receive two claims over a typical career.

In a survey of over 1500 dentists, 94 percent said they feel it has become easier to bring a claim for clinical negligence than ever before and 90 percent said they are increasingly fearful of being sued. 87 percent said they support changes to the legal system to tackle the rising cost of clinical negligence.  

The legal reforms recommended by Dental Protection include*:

  • A fixed recoverable costs scheme for clinical negligence claims up to a value of £250,000 - to stop lawyers charging disproportionate legal fees.
  • An increase in the small claims track threshold for clinical negligence claims up to £5,000 - so more low level, straightforward claims are routinely managed within the small claims track and the cost of these claims are reduced.
  • A minimum threshold for cash compensation relating to claims for minor injuries – to reduce the cumulative cost of damage pay-outs where only very minor injuries are sustained.

Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection said: “It is important that there is reasonable compensation for patients harmed following clinical negligence, but a balance must be struck. The rising cost of clinical negligence is impacting on dentists – when the cost of clinical negligence increases, the cost of professional protection must also increase to reflect this - and we recognise the pressure this places on our members.

“We know that working in an increasingly litigious environment day in and day out is also challenging, and is taking its toll on dentists when they are striving to provide the best possible service and care to their patients.  Our data shows that a full time dentist in the UK can now expect to receive two claims over a typical career.

“Dental Protection believes that a package of legal reforms to help tackle the rising cost of clinical negligence, and the challenging claims environment for dentists, is long overdue. We are calling on the Government to take urgent action.”

END

Notes to editors

For further information contact: E: rajiv.pattni@medicalprotection.org T: 0207 640 5183.

*Full list of reforms recommended by Dental Protection:

  • An increase in the small claims track threshold for clinical negligence claims  up £5,000– so more low level, straightforward claims are routinely managed within the small claims track and the cost of these claims are reduced
  • The introduction of an ultimate 10 year limit between the date of an adverse incident and when a claim can be made (with judicial discretion in certain cases) – to reduce the number of claims that are delayed and inflate due to loss of records, medical staff retiring/dying or having little recollection of the facts.
  • A minimum threshold for cash compensation relating to claims for minor injuries – to reduce the cumulative cost of damage pay-outs where only very minor injuries are sustained.
  • Changes to provisions meaning the patient would need to seek the courts approval to withdraw from a claim less than 28 days before a trial – to save on the considerable costs that are incurred when a claimant discontinues a case at the last minute at the expense of the defendant
  • A fixed recoverable costs scheme for clinical negligence claims up to a value of £250,000 - to stop lawyers charging disproportionate legal fees.

The survey statistics referenced are from a survey of 1595 dentists in the UK, conducted by the Medical Protection Society in February 2017.

About Dental Protection

Dental Protection is a registered trademark and a trading name of The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”). MPS is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support together with the right to request indemnity for complaints or claims arising from professional practice.   

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.

MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.