Litigation related to anaesthesia: an analysis of claims against the NHS in England 1995-2007

T M Cook, L Bland, R Mihai, S Scott
Anaesthesia 2009, 64 (7): 706-18
The distribution of medico-legal claims in English anaesthetic practice is unreported. We studied National Health Service Litigation Authority claims related to anaesthesia since 1995. All claims were reviewed by three clinicians and variously categorised, including by type of incident, claimed outcome and cost. Anaesthesia-related claims account for 2.5% of all claims and 2.4% of the value of all claims. Of 841 relevant claims 366 (44%) were related to regional anaesthesia, 245 (29%) obstetric anaesthesia, 164 (20%) inadequate anaesthesia, 95 (11%) dental damage, 71 (8%) airway (excluding dental damage), 63 (7%) drug related (excluding allergy), 31 (4%) drug allergy related, 31 (4%) positioning, 29 (3%) respiratory, 26 (3%) consent, 21 (2%) central venous cannulation and 18 (2%) peripheral venous cannulation. Defining which cases are, from a medico-legal viewpoint, 'high risk' is uncertain, but the clinical categories with the largest number of claims were regional anaesthesia, obstetric anaesthesia, inadequate anaesthesia, dental damage and airway, those with the highest overall cost were regional anaesthesia, obstetric anaesthesia, and airway and those with the highest mean cost per closed claim were respiratory, central venous cannulation and drug error excluding allergy. The data currently available have limitations but offer useful information. A closed claims analysis similar to that in the USA would improve the clinical usefulness of analysis.

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