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NHS Redress Act 2006

Summary and Background

3.In July 2000 the Government published The NHS Plan, A plan for investment, a plan for reform(1), which committed the NHS to a 10 year process of reform. In particular, the NHS Plan committed the Department of Health to looking at ways to improve the system for handling and responding to clinical negligence claims. The current system:

  • is perceived to be complex, unfair (as apparently similar cases may have different outcomes) and slow;

  • is costly both in terms of legal fees and in diverting clinical staff from clinical care;

  • has a negative effect on National Health Service (NHS) staff morale and on public confidence;

  • leads to patient dissatisfaction with the lack of explanations, apologies or reassurances that action has been taken to prevent the same incident happening to another patient; and

  • encourages defensiveness and secrecy in the NHS, which stands in the way of learning and improvement in the health service.

4.In August 2001, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) published Call for Ideas(2), a consultation document inviting patients, NHS staff, the public and other key stakeholders to give their views on how the NHS of the future should handle clinical negligence incidents. The CMO published his recommendations for reform in Making Amends(3), a consultation paper setting out proposals for reforming the approach to clinical negligence in the NHS, in June 2003. This Act gives effect to the proposal set out in recommendation 1 of that paper, namely to introduce an NHS Redress Scheme to provide investigations when things go wrong, remedial treatment, rehabilitation and care where needed, explanations and apologies, and financial compensation in certain circumstances.

5.The Act provides for the establishment of a scheme to enable the settlement, without the need to commence court proceedings, of certain claims which arise in connection with hospital services provided to patients as part of the health service in England, wherever those services are provided. The Act establishes the parameters of the cases to which any such scheme can apply, and which bodies can be members of a scheme, and gives the Secretary of State powers to set out in regulations the detailed rules that govern the scheme. Those powers include the power to place new duties on scheme members and the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection (known as the Healthcare Commission) to consider whether cases or complaints fall within a redress scheme and, if they do, to take appropriate action.

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