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Clinical negligence and the blame, name, shame game

24 February 2022
Volume 31 · Issue 4


John Tingle, Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, discusses some recent reports on reform of the clinical negligence compensation system

Whenever the reform of our current tort-based clinical negligence compensation system is discussed the concept of blame and fault is raised. The idea that these are not helpful in developing a patient safety culture seems to permeate discussions. We can see this in reports on patient safety, health quality and litigation going back several years. The arguments can be seen most recently in evidence presented to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) (2022).

It is easy to agree with statements that we should encourage a no-blame culture in the NHS to greater facilitate openness, transparency and candour by healthcare staff. To develop a no-blame culture, it is argued, will lead to less defensive practices, better communication to patients of what has gone wrong with treatment, and better reporting of errors. Healthcare staff will feel less threatened by the prospect of being sued in an adversarial court setting:

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