The NHS faces a “massive” increase in clinical negligence claims this year, the chief executive of the NHS Litigation Authority has told MPs.

Appearing before a Commons health committee inquiry on litigation last week, Stephen Walker said the number of claims received by the authority’s clinical negligence scheme for trusts so far this year was already up 30 per cent on the 6,652 total in 2009-10.

This increase marks a significant step change in clinical negligence claims received over preceding years - up from 6,088 in 2008-09 and 5,354 in 2007-08.

Mr Walker told the committee: “It’s getting worse this year… massively so. We’re looking at perhaps between 25 and 30 per cent increase this year in the year to date.”

He said the rise in claims coincided with an increase in “no win, no fee” - or conditional fee - claims and the maturing three years ago of the “after the event” insurance market, under which the claimant is protected from the risk of having to pay the NHS legal costs if they lose.

He said: “The timing is beyond the possibility of it being a coincidence, we think. As a mature market for after the event insurance developed and became available the numbers began to rise, and a significant proportion of our claims are now funded on conditional fee arrangements.”

Giving evidence earlier in the hearing, health service ombudsman Ann Abraham criticised the patchy state of information on patient complaints across the NHS.

She said it was unacceptable that one in seven foundation trusts did not return complaints data to the Information Centre last year - not currently a requirement of Monitor.