Clinical negligence in ophthalmology: fifteen years of national health service litigation authority data

Rashmi G Mathew, Veronica Ferguson, Melanie Hingorani
Ophthalmology 2013, 120 (4): 859-64

OBJECTIVE: To categorize and understand the reasons behind ophthalmic clinical negligence claims in the National Health Service and how such claims can be avoided.

DESIGN: Retrospective analyses of all ophthalmic clinical negligence claims between 1995 and 2009 were carried out. Data were obtained from the National Health Service Litigation Authority through the Freedom of Information Act. Claims were classified according to ophthalmic subspecialty, mean payment per subspecialty, severity, paid-to-closed ratio, and cost.

PARTICIPANTS: One thousand two hundred fifty-three ophthalmology-related claims occurring from 1995 through 2009. Of these, 963 claims were closed over the 15-year period. Eighty-four were excluded because of insufficient case data.

INTERVENTION: Retrospective analysis of all public sector ophthalmology litigation claims over a 15-year period in England.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Subspecialty pertaining to claim, mean payment per claim, and severity of outcome of clinical incident.

RESULTS: Nine hundred sixty-three claims were closed over a 15-year period, of which 67% resulted in payment. The total cost of claims was £32.1 million ($50.3 million), with a mean payment per claim of £33 300 ($52 300). The specialties with the highest mean payment per claim were neuro-ophthalmology and pediatric ophthalmology. Cataract subspecialty had the highest number of claims, accounting for 34% of all claims.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, the number of litigation claims in ophthalmology is low, relative to the high volume of outpatient and surgical workload.

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