'Litigation culture' is making Britain less safe, says report

 

When a child falls over and cuts themselves in the playground, headteachers brace themselves for a writ from the parents.  If a medical test for cancer is delayed, the standard response from patients is to sue.

But  instead of making Britain a safer place - the expressed intention of most litigants  - the "litigation culture" is instead making it less safe, according to a report published today.

The threat of litigation is undermining professionalism, reducing transparency and increasing the financial burden on public services such as health and education while increasing discomfort, inconvenience and anxiety for those who use them. 

 Sociologist Frank Furedi and writer Jennie Bristow say in the report, published by the Centre for Policy Studies, that too many legal cases are being brought without realistic hope of success.

Of 63,800 legal claims against the NHS since 2001, 2000 - 3.2 per cent -had damages approved or settled by a court and 28,700 were settled out of court. In 2010/11 alone, almost 3,000 cases were closed without any damages being paid, incurring £10.9 million in legal costs

In March 2011, the NHS Litigation Authority estimated it faced potential liabilities of £16.8 billion, much of it in legal costs. In January 2012, the Government had to bail out the organisation with an extra £185 million to cover the cost of legal claims and fees.

Countless hours of paperwork and procedures are now spent by professionals in litigation avoidance, the authors say, to defend organisations against claims.

 They quote the head of a Sussex nursery school, worried about receiving  a bad Ofsted report, who said: "I hate the culture of creating policies in fear of getting sued. I want to have a health and safety  policy to keep the children healthy and safe, not to cover my back."

Professor Furedi said: "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. "

"The increasing fear of litigation is 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 for the parent or pupil."

The authors say that reining in "ambulance chasers and greedy lawyers" will only deal with the symptoms of the problem. A change of culture is necessary which sees best practice measured in terms of innovation in teaching or medical care, rather than the absence of complaints or litigation.

 They call for a no-fault scheme to compensate those who have suffered harm as a result of accident or injury. However, previous efforts have foundered.

Efforts to reform the medical negligence scheme by the Government's former chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson in a report in 2003 came to nothing when agreement could not be reached on how to implement his proposed no fault scheme without massively increased  costs.

Victims of medical errors  with a high chance of winning heavy damages in court were not prepared to sacrifice part of their pay-outs to create a fairer system for those harmed in accidents where there was no one to blame. 

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

    £120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

    Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

    £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness