The NHS compensation scheme is "not fit for purpose" according to a report by MPs who say the system needs to be radically overhauled.
They say under the current scheme "lessons are rarely learned" and "accessing compensation is slow, adversarial, stressful, and often bitter".
Last year, the NHS spent more than £2bn in compensation to patients who had been harmed during treatment. That’s equivalent to the annual running cost of four average-sized hospitals.
The report warns the cost of compensation is set to double over the next decade to £4.6bn, with a quarter of costs going to lawyers.
Currently, legal action offers the only route for patients to fight for compensation. The report recommends removing the need to prove clinical negligence. Instead an administrative body would be responsible for investigating cases.
The Health and Social Care Committee report warns that "maintaining a costly and adversarial litigation system is evermore at odds with our understanding of how the NHS should respond to failures in care.
"We urgently need a system where the biggest priority is the prevention of future harm."
Jill Edwards had to fight for two decades to receive compensation after medical errors during birth left her daughter Kirsty with multiple disabilities.
She recalls a doctor coming to talk to her soon after the birth but says she was given no explanation for what had happened.
"I was told that my daughter was very poorly that she was down in special care.
"He said ‘if she does live to see the week out, she will be blind, deaf and dumb’. And he also added that ‘you don’t have to take her home if you don’t want to. There are places for babies like that to go’".
She kept asking why Kirsty was so ill but was made to feel she was to blame for what had happened.
"I always got told ‘it’s one of those things’. If I asked if it was anything to do with me, they sort of let me think it was something to do with me."
It was only when a GP suggested to her that Kirsty’s disabilities could be the result of medical errors during birth that Jill first contacted a lawyer. She began the attempt to take legal action in 1989, six years after Kirsty’s birth.
It wasn’t until Kirsty was 20 that the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust finally admitted responsibility.
Medical notes from the birth, that Jill had previously been told had been lost, detailed a series of errors.
"A letter was pushed across the table which was the letter of apology and literally just said ‘we’re really sorry about events that happened on the 30th of January’. And I thought ‘is that it? I’ve waited 20 years for that’," Jill said.
She then had to wait a further three years for compensation and was awarded £5.6m. But she says no-one can put a price on the damage done. "It wasn’t about the money, the compensation, it was about finding out what had gone on."
She describes the legal process as a "battlefield" and says it needs to be made easier for families.
In her case, she’s angry lessons weren’t learned. Since she received compensation, a recently published report by independent midwife Donna Ockenden revealed hundreds more babies died or suffered brain damage at the same NHS Trust.
Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, Jeremy Hunt, said "the system of compensating patients for negligence in the NHS is long overdue for reform.
"We’re urging the government to adopt our recommendations to reduce both the number of tragedies and the soaring costs to the NHS.
"Under the current system, patients have to fight for compensation, often a bitter, slow and stressful experience with a quarter of the enormous taxpayer-funded sums ending up in the pockets of lawyers.
"We need a better system that learns from mistakes, following the lead of countries like New Zealand and Sweden. We must move away from a culture of blame, to one that puts the prevention of future harms at its core."
But lawyers disagree. Guy Forster from the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), says patients who have been harmed would end up being "short-changed".
"Ultimately this will increase the numbers of people that are able to bring claims," he says.
"The only way we have any chance of funding that system is by reducing the damages payments for all."
A government spokesperson said: "The rising cost of clinical negligence is unsustainable and puts added pressure on public resources, which is why we are working across government to address this and will consult on the issue.
"We recently consulted on proposals to tackle disproportionately high legal fees for lower value clinical negligence claims and NHS Resolution is working to resolve claims more quickly, with better value for money.
"Patient safety is a top priority and we are continuing to take action to improve safety, training and learning."
© Sky News 2022