Unrealistic expectations of what medical care can achieve are fostered by television series such as Holby City, leading patients to seek legal redress when miracles do not happen, it was claimed yesterday.

Patients and families are too quick to take legal action when things do not turn out as they were led to hope, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) annual conference was told.

NHS figures show there were 6,080 claims for clinical negligence in 2008-9 and 3,743 claims of non-clinical negligence, both up about 10 per cent on the year before. In 2006-7 the NHS spent £613m settling claims, rising to £661m in 2007-8 and £807m last year.

Nurses say they are spending so much time filling out paperwork to avoid being sued that it is taking them away from patients.

Marcia Turnham, a delegate from Cambridgeshire, told the RCN conference in Bournemouth that nurses were having to spend "more time recording care than giving care", and the compensation culture meant they "could feel under the microscope".

She said: "Every time a patient is admitted it can take a nurse 40 minutes to fill in the paperwork. That is time that a nurse could be spending with the patient."

She said the internet led more patients to seek details about their conditions and raised expectations.