The social cost of litigation

Document type
Furedi, Frank; Bristow, Jennie
Centre for Policy Studies
Date of publication
1 September 2012
Health Services, Education and Skills
Social welfare
Material type

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The financial and social costs of litigation to the health and education services have been a growing cause for concern, prompting a number of official investigations, policy proposals and legislative attempts designed to halt the growth of ‘a US-style litigation culture’ in the UK. Demanding recompense for accidents is now perceived, not only as a common-sense way of gaining financial compensation, but as a way of holding public services to account. Far from increasing safety and accountability, today’s culture of litigation has resulted in significant costs to the quality of services, the experiences of those who use them, and the role of professionals. The increasing fear of litigation is extremely damaging to the professionalism of doctors, nurses and teachers: it erodes professional autonomy, stifles innovation, leads to defensive practices in both hospitals and schools and encourages greater bureaucracy. ‘Best practice’ is now defined as having checked all the boxes in a quality assurance form rather than doing what is best of the patient or pupil.