The government has admitted that NHS negligence premiums will nearly double to £713m in the next financial year.

The figure, released to the Conservatives in a parliamentary answer, is an increase from£396m paid by trusts in 2008-09.

The rise in litigation costs, reported by HSJ in December, was blamed by the NHS Litigation Authority on no-win-no-fee arrangements, payments being based on earnings rather than retail inflation, and increases in claims.


Shadow health minister Mark Simmonds said it would damage maternity services because£119m of the cost was for maternity related cases.

Mr Simmonds said: "We need a robust and fair way for patients who have received negligent treatment in an NHS hospital to get the compensation they deserve.

"Instead, we have an inefficient system which incurs vast legal costs for NHS trusts involved in legal battles."


He said Conservative proposals during the passage of the NHS Redress Bill in 2006 would have reduced the cost.

"Our proposals would have required an initial 'fact finding' phase, which would then allow more cases to be resolved without costly litigation," he said.

"But the government missed this opportunity and as a result hospitals will now have less money to spend on patient care."

The Department of Health said: "The premium collected in 2009-10 is substantially higher than previous years because of delayed settlement of more than 100 high value cases, as well as other factors, such as rising legal costs.

"We fully expect this figure to fall back to historical levels in 2010-11."