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NHS Resolution research explores claimant motivation

Date published:

NHS Resolution has published research on the factors which lead patients to consider a claim for compensation when something goes wrong in their healthcare. Undertaken in partnership with The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), the research considered the experience reported by 728 patients who agreed to participate in a survey, including 20 who volunteered for a subsequent in depth telephone interview with the BIT team.

A key finding of the research was that the response following an incident and the handling of any complaint made at the time featured highly in decisions to make a claim for compensation. This validates NHS Resolution’s advice, ‘Saying Sorry’ in that transparency and candour with patients who have suffered avoidable harm are critical.

Detailed examination of the response to incidents which subsequently turned into claims for compensation found:

  • Almost two thirds (63%) of respondents felt that no explanation for why an incident occurred was given to them. The majority of those that did receive an explanation waited ten days or more to receive it following the incident.
  • Less than one third (31%) felt they received an apology. A minority of those that did receive an apology rated the apology highly.
  • The majority (71%) of respondents did not think that their healthcare provider undertook any actions to investigate the incident in the first instance.
  • Of those who did report that their healthcare provider investigated the incident, around half (49%) of respondents were invited to a meeting to discuss the findings, while the remainder (51%) were not.
  • Only 6% of respondents felt that actions were taken that would prevent the same incident happening again.
  • Of those who did not make a complaint, the majority (72%) report not knowing how to make a complaint.
  • The majority (69-75%) rated the response to their complaint as ‘poor or very poor’ in terms of accuracy, empathy, speed of the response and level of detail.
  • In approximately three quarters of cases considered, the incident took place before the introduction of the Statutory Duty of Candour which set out specific requirements for an open and transparent response when things go wrong with care and treatment.

This research confirms that claims for compensation can sometimes be made in the search of answers, which could have been provided when the incident occurred. Being open with patients when they suffer avoidable harm and taking tangible steps to learn from what happened are essential. We would like to thank the patients who spared the time to contribute to this valuable research, which will help us to build on our work with the NHS to improve the response when things go wrong.

Helen Vernon, Chief Executive at NHS Resolution

The report Behavioural insights into patient motivation to make a claim for clinical negligence is now available. The research was supported by Weightmans solicitors, a member of NHS Resolution’s legal panel.