Linking acute trusts' litigation insurance premiums to infection standards has delivered improvements in patient safety, research suggests.

Since 2002, trusts have been given discounts if they meet infection risk management standards based on assessments every two years.

A team from Nottingham, Oxford and Surrey universities found good performance against the NHS Litigation Authority standards was linked to lower MRSA rates.

Improving patient safety

Nottingham University business school researcher Paul Fenn, the lead author, said: "The results reported in this paper are indeed consistent with the implementation of improved risk management procedures having a positive effect on patient safety in terms of a reduction in the number of infections.

"They show that negligence liability can be a powerful force for improvements in patient safety, even when they are filtered through liability insurance arrangements."

Insurance discounts

Trusts' contributions are reduced by 10, 20 or 30 per cent depending on which of three levels of management standards they reach.

Professor Fenn said the research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, could contribute to plans for a quicker way of resolving negligence claims worth less than£20,000.